Though Los Angeles Dodgers fans might vastly prefer having Shohei Ohtani wearing blue and playing in Hollywood instead of Anaheim, the rest of baseball would likely veto that proposition for a number of reasons.
And no, none of those reasons have to do with the competitive imbalance of adding yet another generational superstar to this ridiculously stacked roster.
The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya (subscription required) recently wrote an examination of Ohtani’s dalliance with the Dodgers, which occurred both following the 2017 season when he was posted and prior to his selection in NPB, all the way back in high school.
Yes, the Dodgers scouted Ohtani way back when, and flirted with signing him … until the Nippon Ham Fighters selected him and offered him something Los Angeles couldn’t: the chance to be a two-way player.
If the Dodgers had finished the deal and brought Ohtani to the states, we might never know him as the Next Babe Ruth or the force of nature bending the rules regarding what’s possible in the game of baseball.
He’d instead be a pitcher only — and a damn good one at that. You have to admit that just isn’t the same.
The Dodgers wouldn’t have given Shohei Ohtani the same opportunities out of high school.
Bad for the Dodgers. Good for the game.
On the surface, it’s not stunning the team’s braintrust didn’t envision the possibility Ohtani could be a two-way star. After all, those hadn’t exactly been prevalent in the game of baseball since the turn of the century. Without the DH in the National League, a young Ohtani’s best bet of garnering playing time in Dodger Blue would’ve been a brief trial in the outfield.
Credit is due especially, though, to the Japanese team that selected him and changed the course of modern baseball history. Why they were willing to be especially innovative is anyone’s guess, but they were willing to float an unconventional trial balloon that no MLB team would’ve been the first to test out. That feels like a guarantee.
In the end, MLB got the transcendent star they wanted after he’d established his entirely unique skill set overseas, and Ohtani landed near the biggest west coast city America has to offer, but not quite within its walls.
Would Ohtani’s brand be slightly more exposed on the Dodgers? Sure. But if he’s an ace-level pitcher and occasional pinch-hitter at best, that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Then again … nobody would be angry at Walker Buehler 2.0, either. We simply wouldn’t know what we had lost.