Image credit: © Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Dodgers sign DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract.
Baseball is a business. That’s been the theme of the past several decades of winding progression, the mantra guiding front offices to ever-more regimented and homogenous efficiency mindsets. The guiding perspective is clear: there’s a right way to do things, and to stray from that path is to inevitably falter and crumble. The Yankees largely ceased to be a monolith, outspending the rest of the league with reckless abandon and gaining the cultural preeminence one might expect to go with their easy dominance, on the assumption that doing so wasn’t actually providing concrete dividends, and have been rewarded with one of the longest title droughts in their history. The Dodgers, perhaps alone among the league’s teams, have made winning their business, trusting that everything else will follow. Bringing Shohei Ohtani aboard on a generation-defining contract is simply the natural conclusion of that strategy, and it’s more than possible that in a decade or two this will be the moment where Los Angeles dethroned New York as baseball’s preeminent franchise. Ohtani is so much more than business, even as from that perspective he makes all the sense in the world.
Ohtani, like the other superstar who also swapped teams and leagues this week, requires no introduction. He’s been a top-10 offensive talent each of the last three years despite offering no defensive value and marginal help on the basepaths. Basically no one hits the ball harder or with more consistency than he. He owns two unanimous MVPs despite a voting bloc that must be absolutely sick of voting for Angels on losing teams (as has been the case for half of the last eight AL MVP awards). A UCL tear followed by his second elbow surgery in half a decade, and a looming year’s layoff from pitching that will see him away from the mound nearly as much as he’s been on it in a six-year MLB career, appear not to have perceivably diminished his earning ability in free agency—despite similar injuries being essentially death knells for the careers of those who have suffered them. It’s not that it’s difficult to find comparisons for Ohtani’s talent; they simply don’t exist, not in baseball or the rest of the sports world.