Mookie Betts deferring to Shohei Ohtani shows who Dodgers' current leader is

Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers
Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Shohei Ohtani batting leadoff for the Dodgers in Mookie Betts' absence has been an unmitigated success. Since moving up a spot on June 17, he's batted .333 with a 1.271 OPS, nine home runs, 19 RBI, 16 walks, and five stolen bases. Despite an LA Times newsletter that argued Freddie Freeman would be better at leadoff, Ohtani has continued to prove naysayers wrong.

It's true that everything seems to be heightened with Ohtani — some commentators were calling it a "dry spell" or a "slump" when he went just three games without a home run from July 3 through 5 — but that might be because he's always operating on such a high level that any small dip in performance reads like the end of the world. Still, the numbers don't lie, and it's hard to say that a guy who's managed to get on base one way or the other in almost half of his plate appearances at leadoff (.460 OBP) is anything but brutally effective.

Betts is progressing in his recovery from a broken hand, but the best anyone can do for that sort of thing is wait. When he does come back, there's a question now of what the lineup will look like when he returns to the mix. After absorbing Ohtani's successes at leadoff, it's no longer a given that Betts will go right back to that first spot.

When asked about moving off leadoff this week, Betts said, "I don't care. Shohei belongs wherever the hell he wants to go. Wherever he wants to go, he can be there. Once he decides what he wants to do, I'll get in where I fit in."

Mookie Betts says he'll move to accommodate Shohei Ohtani batting leadoff in Dodgers lineup

Even though he's surrounded by stars, Ohtani's Dodgers teammates have seemed in awe of him throughout the season. Betts, who was the odds-on favorite for NL MVP before he got hurt, is no exception. His leadership role in the clubhouse is practically baked into his contract; the $680 million he'll receive over 10 years after his contract expires was built that way so the Dodgers could craft a roster around him over the next 10 seasons. Ohtani knows he's good, and he wants everyone else around him to be good.

It stands to reason then, despite Betts being older and having more seniority on the team, that he would defer to Ohtani's preferences. Whatever way it shakes out, Betts will absolutely slot somewhere at the top of the order again, and it speaks to the caliber of LA's stars that they can succeed (or, at least, be confident in their ability to succeed) anywhere they're placed in the lineup. If Betts moves back to leadoff, great. If Ohtani stays there, great. The Dodgers' 1-5 hitters are going to keep hitting the ball, no matter where they end up.