The One Rule of Shohei Ohtani Club: You Don't Talk About Shohei Ohtani Club.
MLB's Winter Meetings have thus far been brought to, if not a standstill, at least a very slow lean by the top of the market. Former Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger is reportedly demanding $250+ million so he can feel like a part of things. Japanese hurler Yoshinobu Yamamoto will sign after a series of more intimate meetings next week, and could command $300 million. Ohtani, under cover of darkness, has flown private jets to visit a select few finalists, but doesn't seem any closer to making a dam-breaking decision. Or has he made it already?
On Tuesday afternoon, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts answered in the affirmative when asked if he'd met with Ohtani, claiming it went well and flaunting the slugger's request for anonymity.
The worry here isn't that Roberts perjured himself and broke the golden rule by admitting an Ohtani meeting. The Giants' meeting was leaked via photography. The Blue Jays' meetings were plastered everywhere late Monday night. And, besides, you don't do something like that by accident.
The issue with Roberts' admission, though, is that he was essentially the only manager this week to readily admit what had gone on between his team's camp and Ohtani (other than Craig Counsell, who announced loudly he hadn't met the player). Considering how clearly Ohtani has pledged loyalty to those who are secretive, maybe Roberts' readiness to state that a meeting occurred and "went well" was a meek admission that his camp was already out and he had no remaining reason to care about Ohtani's feelings?
Or, you know, it could just be that the Dodgers' interest has been so clearly registered for two years running that Roberts couldn't fathom a world where Ohtani would lose interest based off a boilerplate answer. There's an easy-to-conjure positive spin lurking there, too.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announces Shohei Ohtani meeting
It was refreshing to hear Roberts be normal in a sea of other managers turning into a politician under fire at the mere mention of Ohtani's name. "Well, now, we, uh, we talk about a lot of players, some of them free agents, many of them not, and it wouldn't be prudent to discuss the particulars of anybody's future, vis a vis the wage scale."
But everyone knows the rules, which became widespread weeks before Ohtani's tour had even begun (and, for all we know, it could still be weeks away from ending). The end of Bob Nightengale's latest Winter Meetings column would seem to indicate that Roberts' carefree attitude might've come paired with a dark twist.
Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes added to the building intrigue minutes later when he seemed genuinely taken aback by a moment most assumed had been cleared by the organization.
The Dodgers' interest hasn't been a secret since ... I want to say 2021? But, regardless, Roberts being the first active participant to flaunt Ohtani's wishes probably means something. Whether that something is "supreme confidence" or "resigned acceptance" is something the rest of us are probably about to find out.