When Shohei Ohtani agreed to play for the Dodgers, everyone won — well, almost everyone.
The best player in baseball will spend the next 10 years playing for one of the sport’s signature franchises, positioning him to be featured in the postseason year after year after year.
The Dodgers won.
About the only losers here were the Angels, but what’s new about that?
This was a grand slam for everyone involved, Ohtani now moving to a stage worthy of his talents.
Ohtani envisioned himself pitching for the Dodgers when he was at Hanamaki Higashi High. He looked as if he would sign with them until the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Japanese league offered him a chance to be a two-way player.
Eleven years later, the Dodgers finally got their man, only now he’s a hitter and a pitcher, as well as a two-time MVP.
Because he’s recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, Ohtani won’t take the mound next season. The Dodgers might not have high-end pitching, but they always have plenty of depth, which will spare Ohtani the concern of having to rush back. Their ability to win regular-season games will free him from his self-imposed pressure to play every day, which could extend his career. The Dodgers can convince Ohtani that he should take an occasional day off by reminding him they need him in October. The Angels never had that luxury.
October baseball is why Ohtani chose the Dodgers. October is when baseball transforms from a regional sport to a national attraction, and that’s the kind of platform for which Ohtani was made.
Baseball isn’t a sport in which players can necessarily perform on command, but that’s basically what he did in the World Baseball Classic.
He was expected to perform. He was the player in the Japanese lineup most feared by opponents. He didn’t just live up to the expectations. He surpassed them.
He was Michael Jordan.
He was Tiger Woods.
Now, with the Dodgers, he’ll have the opportunity to play on such a stage every season. He wins. The Dodgers win. Baseball wins.
Six years ago, before he came to the United States, Ohtani outlined his goals in a news conference in Tokyo. He said he wanted to become the No. 1 player in the world. He also said that to earn that title, he felt he had to win a World Series. By signing with the Dodgers, he moved closer to realizing that ambition.