TORONTO (Dec. 7) — This is going to sound churlish. But, the only place on the Internet where you can find an appropriate analogy to the hunt for baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani is at pornhub.com. Never in the modern history of professional sport has there been such carnal deportment — incestuous pursuit of the Japanese–born player coming with unparalleled ego and boundary. There are rules of engagement; rules of chatter and maybe even a dress code involved in fellating Ohtani for the purpose of the richest contract in Major League history.
The Toronto Blue Jays are among the teams taking him deep. And, we’re not talking home run.
When viewed through the prism of commonality, the Ohtani affair becomes obscene. Though he may be the most–unique offering in the annals of pro sport free agency, Ohtani is neither sacred nor divine. While he rode shotgun with Mike Trout for the past five years, the Los Angeles Angels won precisely nothing. Yet, baseball owners are curtsying as if he were the father of all religion. This, of course, will not turn out well for the team Ohtani anoints. It rarely does when contract figures become as inconceivable as the distance between galaxies. Yet, the Blue Jays are said to be in the very thick of the negotiations. The Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom Ohtani could sign and not have to uproot, were the apparent frontrunners until someone had the gall to mention the player by name. Thereby shattering the cone of subterfuge installed by either Ohtani; his pious representative, or both.
But, clandestine images have emerged.
Evidently, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins are shown dropping grapes into Ohtani’s mouth — the player surrounded by a faintly clad harem. Another photo has Shapiro and Atkins walking arm–in–arm with Ohtani at the minor league complex in Dunedin. Given stringent rules of the information blackout, neither of the Blue Jay execs would confirm meeting with Ohtani… or even having heard of the player. When asked if his off–season target hailed from Japan, Atkins denied that such a country existed. Shapiro claimed the individual was from Botswana.
Having been shown a recent picture of Ohtani, one general manager claimed he was Kenta Maeda.
I’m telling you, it is such a load of poppycock.
What if mutual respect and common decency, rather than snooty silence, governed the quest?
Buster Olney, the much–respected baseball writer at ESPN, offered this Utopian scenario:
Imagine if Ohtani had concluded his visit with the Toronto Blue Jays — that neither manager John Schneider nor GM Ross Atkins would confirm Tuesday, given multiple opportunities — on a Zoom call with reporters. He could open with an homage to the city of Toronto, before describing the impressive tour of the team’s new spring training complex. He could’ve talked about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s power, Bo Bichette’s aggressiveness at the plate or Kevin Gausman’s splitter. He could’ve mentioned Schneider’s humor, thanked Shapiro and Atkins for their time. He could’ve capped his reflections with an observation about the Maple Leafs, about Joe Carter’s home run. And he could have wrapped up by announcing a donation to Jays Care — say, $50,000, pocket change for a player who makes tens of millions of dollars in endorsements, before he gets the richest contract in the history of North American professional sports — to help children. He could’ve deftly answered a few queries from local reporters, easily deflecting questions of where he intends to play by saying he was still going through the process.
Instead, the Ohtani camp has insisted that potential suitors remain gagged and blindfolded.
It’s enough to make you hurl.
They remain, in my view, the two best logos in the modern history of the National Hockey League. That the designs debuted in the same season (1967–68) and were both from the state of California was merely a coincidence. These are the most–accurate remakes of the California Seals (above) and Los Angeles Kings jersey logos from their first year in the NHL. The California team played out of the Oakland Coliseum–Arena (later Oracle Arena) throughout its nine–year reign, which ended after the 1975–76 season, when the franchise relocated to Richfield, Ohio as the Cleveland Barons. The Barons struggled through a pair of NHL campaigns before merging rosters, in 1978–79, with the Minnesota North Stars. The North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993–94 and dropped “North” from their moniker (still with me?). The Kings, in their purple and gold uniforms, played early home games at the Long Beach and Los Angeles Sports Arenas before moving into Jack Kent Cooke’s Forum in suburban Inglewood (adjacent to LAX Airport). The club maintained its original logo and color scheme until it acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers in August 1988. It then switched to black, silver and white, though a third jersey — a replica of the Kings original gold road design — has occasionally been worn in recent years.