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[NOTES on a SCORECARD] Best Move for Shohei Ohtani is to Leave Angels, Join Stable Franchise

Shohei Ohtani has thrived since joining the Angels in 2018. As an upcoming free agent, his legacy will be defined by what he decides after the 2023 season.



Shohei Ohtani
Los Angeles Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani becomes a free agent after the 2023 MLB season. (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [NOTES on a SCORECARD] Best Move for Shohei Ohtani is to Leave Angels, Join Stable Franchise

The writing is on the wall for Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani.

There is a saying which indicates when something is academic. It goes back hundreds of years. In Ohtani's case it means it is time for him to leave the only team he has played for since starting his MLB career in 2018.

The 29-year-old Ohtani will become a free agent after the World Series. He has been a good soldier for the Angels through the years despite the club's ability to bring new definition to the word futility with each new season. The Angels have not made the playoffs since 2014, and they won't make it this year either.

How bad are things in Anaheim?

Take a look at the game of August 18 against the Tampa Bay Rays when Ohtani clouted a grand slam and the Angels turned a triple play in the same contest.

Sounds impressive, doesn't it?

The result ― a 9-6 Angels loss in 10 innings ― wasn't.

When stuff like that starts happening, you know it is time to head for the door.

Shohei Ohtani (KYODO)

Shohei Ohtani Faces the Biggest Decision of His Career

The real question now is whether Ohtani is going to have the fortitude to leave the Angels and his Southern California comfort zone behind. He'd better, or he will spend the rest of his career regretting it.

I keep thinking back to 2012 when Ohtani was coming out of Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate Prefecture as a prep star. Ohtani had warned NPB teams not to select him in that fall's draft because he wanted to go straight to MLB.

The Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters drafted Ohtani anyway, and the two-way star became faced with a dilemma: stand by the courage of his convictions or cave in.

We all know what happened.

I am reminded of the words of legendary Boston Celtics GM Red Auerbach, who after finding out star college player Ralph Sampson was returning to the University of Virginia after his freshman season in 1980, instead of joining the NBA when Boston had the No 1 pick in the draft, said of Sampson's decision: "He was hoodwinked by a bunch of glad-handers."

Shohei Ohtani has 17 stolen bases this season through August 20. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Misguided Decision to Join the Angels

Back in 2018, Ohtani was steered toward the Angels despite the team having missed the playoffs in seven of the eight preceding seasons. His agents no doubt had visions of marketing grandeur with him playing in the Los Angeles area. But Ohtani and his confidantes didn't take into the account the track record of the Angels.

Just as in 2012, Ohtani, who was the 2021 American League MVP, is at a crossroads again. He is not 18 this time around, but a fully formed man more than a decade older. It is up to him to make his own decision, and not rely on the glad-handers. His legacy will be on the line.

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani made his MLB debut in 2018. (KYODO)

Ohtani needs to ask himself if he wants to be remembered like Ichiro Suzuki, who ran up impressive statistical numbers while playing for mediocre teams, or Hideki Matsui, who was named the World Series MVP when the New York Yankees won the title in 2009. 

Continue reading the full story, which also includes commentary on Kei Nishikori, Hotaka Yamakawa and more, on SportsLook.


Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on Twitter @sportsjapan.

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