The dust has now settled on two of the most talked about moves of the MLB offseason. Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani inked a contract to play for the Los Angeles Angels, while home run thumper Giancarlo Stanton kicked both San Francisco and L.A. to the curb to play for the New York Yankees.
Without question, the Angels and Yankees organizations are already better than they were last season. Should the Angels decide to use Ohtani as a designated hitter, the combination of he and Mike Trout pose a deadly threat to any pitching staff. Perhaps the only other duo that poses a bigger threat in the American League is that of the Yankees’ Stanton and Aaron Judge. For all the success that Mike Trout and Aaron Judge have had for their respective teams individually, they’ll each be better off batting in front of (or behind) one of these new additions.
Though baseball truly is a team sport, the separate signings of Ohtani and Stanton conjure up the question of, “Who’s team is it?”
For the Angels’ Mike Trout and rookie Shohei Ohtani, this is somewhat of a layered and speculative answer. If Ohtani is strictly used as a starting pitcher, then there’s absolutely no conflict. Mike Trout would still be the assumed team leader.
However, should Ohtani be used consistently as both a starting pitcher and DH (and succeed in the process), then Mike Trout could, comparatively speaking, become yesterday’s news. Language barriers aside, it would be hard not to deem Ohtani as the team’s new leader if he’s raking in runs and winning games on the mound. While the skill set of Ohtani sounds almost too good to be true, in Japan, the 23-year old carries a Vladimir Guerrero type folklore. He’s both raw and pure when it comes to the game. A natural, as we like to say.
Whether or not Ohtani succeeds at both pitching and hitting, or just one, the media will still follow him like no other Japanese baseball player in recent memory. Not Matsui. Not Matsuzaka. Not Ichiro. That in itself will instinctively lead onlookers to deem the Angels as Ohtani’s team. Given the nature of the Angels organization, it’s also easy to see this as a San Antonio Spurs type situation, meaning that at the end of the day it’s really Mike Scioscia’s team. Everyone else just plays into the system.
As for the Yankees, the addition of Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t bode well for Aaron Judge, no matter what the optics read.
Stanton’s definitely good for the game and we’re sure that he’s a great teammate as well. However, if you watched any baseball last year, then you’ll know that Aaron Judge is a giant sized version of Derek Jeter. He’s the new Mr. Yankee.
While the Yankees have long juggled multiple big name players leading back to Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson, this new pairing feels more like a bad mixture of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. No, we’re not comparing Stanton to Rodriguez and his baggage by any means. We are saying that this pairing could potentially throw off the team’s current chemistry, one in which many already look to Judge as the natural leader.
As Stanton has always been the guy for the Marlins, would he be okay playing second fiddle to Judge, or sharing the spotlight in a non-egocentric way? The Yankees certainly have a good thing going, so it would be nice to see Stanton ease right in and the team not miss a heartbeat.
Before the Golden State Warriors won their second championship in three years, the basketball team faced similar questions regarding Stephen Curry and (at the time) new addition, Kevin Durant. In the end, both guys were less about being the outright team leader, yet equally led in their respective ways. Whatever the two star players did, it seemed to have worked.
Neither Shohei Ohtani or Giancarlo Stanton is a bad guy. However, each simply comes with his own star power to a new organization. So much star power that it could be disruptive to any team’s chemistry.
In the end, the hope is that Ohtani and Stanton can seamlessly fit into their respective ball club’s culture and we can all enjoy great baseball without ever questioning, “Who’s team is it?”