SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports & # 39; Steve Gardner discusses the main landing sites for the two-way star Ohtani, the player called the Japanese Babe Ruth.
USA TODAY Sports
Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, mostly a mystery to American fans, has shown some of his personality traits during the run-up to his foray into the big leagues .
On the one hand, Ohtani clearly does not put the money first, considering he is abandoning a possible nine-digit contract by opting to join the majors now instead of waiting two more years. No. 2, seems to have a special ability to make surprises.
Although his predilection for a team on the West Coast was not a big shock, Ohtani surprised baseball observers when he excluded the New York Yankees and to a lesser extent, the Boston Red Sox from their last seven clubs. under consideration The Yankees, who have introduced Japanese stars such as Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka, were generally considered favorites for Ohtani's services.
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Instead, it is said that the outfielder pitcher met Monday with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, two of the remaining finalists along with the Seattle Mariners , San Diego Padres, LA Angels, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs.
The list offers a couple more surprises, one of them potentially significant. Although Ohtani has not played in the gardens since 2014 and may have an easier route in his pursuit of pitching and hitting regularly as a designated hitter, he included only three American League teams among the seven.
An even bigger revelation is the Padres remain in the fight, although they have not had a winning season since 2010 and have embarked on a reconstruction project. Jumping to such an effort would be a detour for many free agents, but it could be beneficial for Ohtani.
The Padres have no pressure to win now, which would make it easier for them to accommodate Ohtani's desire to play in two ways. and the logistical challenges that will arise. San Diego even has some experience in that regard after using catcher / outfielder Christian Bethancourt as a reliever for four games last season.
The experiment did not work, since Bethancourt had problems in the plate and in the mound before being degraded to the minors. But the Fathers showed that they have an open mind when it comes to unconventional thinking.
"It really comes down to the person, and a special individual is needed," the general manager of Parents A.J. Preller said of a two-way player during GM meetings. "But, again, in our organization you will never want to say that something is not possible."
The Padres also have a stacked farm system that came in third in Baseball America's mid-season ranking, an indication of better days ahead.
In addition, the club has a number of Japanese connections that could facilitate Ohtani's transition, employing former big league pitchers Hideo Nomo and Takashi Saito, as well as a manager in Andy Green who played a season for the team Japanese of Ohtani, the Hokkaido. Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Of course, all the contenders for Ohtani will highlight aspects of their organization and basis that could make them feel more comfortable.
The Giants, for example, have surely mentioned that the first Japanese player in the majors, the pitcher Masanori Murakami, stormed with them in 1964. And they probably pointed to the substantial Asian population of San Francisco, 35% percent, and the presence of a city.
The Dodgers have several Japanese-speaking employees, not to mention a manager, Dave Roberts, who was born in Okinawa to a Japanese mother. More significantly, the club has a history of acquiring Japanese pitchers like Nomo, Saito, Kaz Ishii, the current Dodger Kenta Maeda and free agent Yu Darvish, who enjoyed the varied atmosphere of LA.
The Darvish connection could also play in favor of Rangers, who looked after the former Fighters phenomenon through their transition to the Major Leagues in 2012 and was their only American team until the July interchange with the Dodgers. It is known that Ohtani idolizes Darvish and probably consulted with him.
The Mariners will certainly show their success with Japanese legend Ichiro Suzuki and former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who is still with the organization. The Angels can offer the opportunity to play alongside two likely Hall of Famers in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, and will also throw away free Disneyland passes, while the Cubs and the persuasive president of baseball operations Theo Epstein can exhibit his rings of the 2016 World Series.  Until its recent elimination, the Ohtani camp has not revealed in which direction it is leaning. Reacting to Ohtani's rejection, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman could have clarified the process a bit when he said: "I can not change that we are a big market and I can not change we are in the East".  If those elements are really disqualifying, it is logical that the Padres and Mariners – West Coast clubs in relatively small markets – feel good about their chances of landing with Ohtani.
But that's just a conclusion when reading the tea leaves, a practice that seems to continue until the 23-year-old prodigy reveals his decision before the December 22 deadline.
Gallery: bidirectional sensation of Japan Shohei Ohtani