Before Shohei Ohtani ultimately signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, the reporting over who were the favorites to sign him as well as what was real and what was just noise was a total dumpster fire. Every reporter had their own pet teams that supposedly possessed the inside track to sign Ohtani, and even mentioning a meeting with him caused an uproar, as Dave Roberts found out.
Things were particularly wild on Friday when Jon Morosi first reported that Ohtani's decision was imminent and JP Hoornstra over at Dodgers Nation reported to the masses that Ohtani had decided on the Blue Jays. From there, Twitter/X/social media sleuths started checking chartered flights out of southern California as well as Toronto dinner reservations in a conspiracy-fueled speculation storm for the ages.
Obviously, that's not how things turned out as the Dodgers did land Ohtani. The end result of all the madness was that Morosi had to issue an apology for reporting incorrect information, and he hasn't said much since then. As for Hoornstra, he defended his site's reporting in a lengthy post on Sunday.
There's some good information there about the timeline of events and their reporting. However, one wonders if there was something more insidiously clever afoot.
Was the Ohtani-Blue Jays leak designed to help the Dodgers out?
In all fairness, the most likely outcome here is that Morosi and Hoornstra got some bad information, tried to swing for the biggest scoop of their careers, and it blew up spectacularly in their faces. Fair or not, that moment is going to be tied to both of those guys for the rest of their careers in baseball media. Given Morosi's silence of late, it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility that he's getting benched due to the incorrect report.
There's actually a nice tinfoil hat idea that the information was purposefully leaked to create some misdirection. Whether it was Ohtani's camp trying to create some urgency and get other teams to up their offers at the last minute, or the Blue Jays' side trying to create some public goodwill (and a bit of pressure on Shohei to make a decision). We may never know the motives here.
However, what would've been some 4D chess is if the Dodgers side was actually responsible. Getting in touch with a national reporter as well as a Dodgers-friendly site to get word out there that Ohtani was close with the Blue Jays was a mortal lock to create a media frenzy. If it were actually true that Shohei would punish teams for leaking information about negotiations, it would be some next-level gamesmanship to create a fake leak about their chief competition, upset Ohtani's camp, and get Shohei to finally come over to the dark side.
Is that altogether likely? No, sadly. Again, it's more likely that those guys had sources they trusted that burned them. Those sources were very, very wrong and the reporters paid the price for it. However, it is still fun to think that LA used the secretive nature of the negotiations and the over-eagerness of a couple reporters to gain an advantage. Hopefully we hear about it in a documentary or book in 20 years.