Dear valuable Sports and Society consumers,
I will be studying abroad in Germany next semester, so with the semester coming to a close, this will be the last Sports and Society column for at least a really long time — potentially ever. However, instead of writing some sappy introspective summation of all we’ve learned, I’m just going to keep things like they usually are and send the column out just like it came into this world: by overthinking relatively simple concepts.
On Oct. 3, I wrote:
“Hindsight is always 20/20, so it’s easy to blame the bad season on the Angels for not trading [Shohei] Ohtani. The season amounting to nothing will feel particularly bad for fans if Ohtani just ends up with the Los Angeles Dodgers and calls it a career.”
And then this very thing happened, to the tune of 10 years and $700 million. I’ll leave any and all baseball analysis to Henry Blickenstaff, my colleague and writer of the Extra Innings column, but I’m here to tell you why Ohtani going to the Dodgers is good for sports.
On paper, this looks like a classic case of the rich getting richer. The team with all the money and the name-brand players gets the best player of the generation. Everybody knew this was going to happen, and despite some erroneous flight-tracking lunacy saying Ohtani was headed to Toronto, the Dodgers made much more sense.
This kind of thing happens with player movement across professional sports. Most of the time, despite speculation that some wild alternative outcome will shock the world, things usually play out in the most logical way.
Woah, Aaron Judge could go to the San Francisco Giants? Amazing — oh, he just went back to the Yankees. Wow, James Harden might actually play for Philly? Or maybe he could get traded to the Timberwolves … for Karl Anthony-Towns? What a fun and cool outcome — nope, he just went to the Clippers like everyone thought he would.
Ohtani lives in Los Angeles already, so moving across the street to a way cooler team with a way cooler history and way cooler colors and logos was just a perfect fit. The Dodgers have all the money in the world, so this was perfect.
But beyond all the trading is the part that is important for sports in general: getting the good players on good teams. Unlike the NBA and NFL, the MLB is a local product. Very few games are nationally televised, and I don’t even know how I would go about watching some random Angels game on a Tuesday in June.
As a frequent watcher of Red Sox games (but only a ‘when-they-play-the-Red-Sox’ watcher of every other team), Ohtani’s greatness went tragically under the radar for everyone other than Angels fans. But, never fear! I’m sure we will all get to see him in the playoffs, right?
Wrong. Ohtani never made the playoffs since his team was wholly unequipped to get there, and herein lies the value of the Dodgers move: they are pretty much always going to make the playoffs with their payroll, so the world will hopefully get to see the greatness of Ohtani in October.
At the end of the day, greatness needs a platform. The Dodgers will give him that.