Who knows when the relationship between Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim began to fracture? Who can say when the fracture deepened and became permanent? Perhaps it was the Body Double.
Regardless of origin, no team's season plan has ever gone as powerfully wrong as the 2023 Angels' efforts to double down on their roster and maybe lure Ohtani back in the process at the trade deadline.
Still technically in the Wild Card race on Aug. 1, the Angels decided that adding Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas wasn't a strong enough statement. With the clock ticking, they opted to dangle their top prospects for prizes Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. They splurged on Randal Grichuk and CJ Cron. And then they flatlined.
If the goal was to convince Ohtani to stay long-term, going from 56-51 at the end of July to 64-70 at the end of August was not the way to go about it. By the end of that month, things had gone from bad to long-term worse, with Ohtani reporting a partial UCL tear and facing a scaleback of his pitching career on the verge of free agency. With all hope lost, Angels owner Arte Moreno dangled his midseason additions on the waiver market. The only way things could get more definitive would be if Ohtani disappeared like a ghost.
On Friday night, that happened. The Angels plan to provide an update on his status Saturday. The Dodgers are likely bubbling with glee.
Dodgers can inch closer to signing Shohei Ohtani, whose Angels career might be over already
Ohtani could have opted to have surgery to repair the UCL ahead of schedule, knocking himself out offensively for a portion of 2024. The surgery is probably inevitable anyway, and any interested teams should be operating in free agency as if it's on the horizon.
In addition to the balky elbow, Ohtani's oblique has prevented him from contributing in either direction down the stretch. He recently marked his 10th straight game absent, featuring one dramatic just-before-first-pitch scratch.
Whatever the cause of Friday night's wild optics, the reality is that Ohtani has spent his entire tenure as the face of baseball as a largely drama-free entity. Now, seemingly overnight, he's fallen victim to the Angels' stink, as his ability to talk contract with the Dodgers, Red Sox and other interested parties looms perilously close.
Despite the UCL injury, most prognosticators still expect Ohtani will earn something resembling a $500 million contract this offseason. Until recently, though it seemed unlikely he'd wind up back in Anaheim, there was at least a minute possibility of that occurring if the Angels dared to pay. There was no clear evidence of bad blood.
That changed on a dime on Friday night, as the quiet MVP left one mysteriously packed bag behind.