Shohei Ohtani Named to All-Star Team As Pitcher And Player

In this era of overstimulation, nothing really dazzles us anymore; not for very long, at least. We see some form of abnormal behavior, react with either a shaking head or a quick chuckle, and file it away as just more trivial fodder. Never has this great big world felt so small and accessible, and yet never has the shine of its greatness felt so lackluster.

If you’re a baseball fan, casual or committed, don’t let this fleeting moment of greatness pass you by. The Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is quietly rewriting the history books of Major League Baseball, a league that values tradition and consistency above all.

One of the game’s only two-way players (pitcher and competitive hitter) since its earliest days as a professional sport, Ohtani has bucked that mythical tradition in the best way possible.

At this point in baseball’s evolution, we can compare nearly any statistical outlier that arises to the stats of some other player in history. In other words, true originality in this sport of statistics is very difficult to achieve given its massive sample size.

But Ohtani’s prowess transcends the many decades of America’s game, so much so that he can be compared only to the true originals—players whose legend proceeds them but who may or may not have had the ability to succeed in today’s game. Babe Ruth is one such legend, but there are certainly others.

(Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

And that’s what makes baseball statistics, and therefore baseball itself, so much fun to consider: it’s the only sport that should supposedly transcend generations.

It’s the simplest and slowest of sports, yet it’s also often considered the most difficult and complex; a paradox of sorts.

In theory, the game in the 1920s shouldn’t be much different than today in terms of strategy, but it has changed immensely, thanks to improvements in the human body, in technology, and in expectations. Baseball’s originators played multiple positions and had two-way careers, mostly because they were expected to do so, not because they truly excelled.

As it grew in popularity, baseball became a game of specialization. Teams became an eclectic tool belt of sorts in which every member contributed something unique. Hitting a baseball for power consistently over the course of thousands of chances is now considered the most difficult feat in all of team sports. The same goes for throwing a baseball with velocity and spin and pinpoint precision.

The legendary two-way players of yesteryear may have excelled at both today, but it’s difficult to say for sure. Most players don’t even bother playing two ways now anyway. The tool belt is supposed to carry some variety, and most players do their one job. Most of the time, that’s more than enough.

But even in this age of specialization, Ohtani is excelling at the sport’s two most difficult skills with equal grace and aplomb. He has effectively become two different tools in the most competitive belt of them all. Ohtani is hitting .278 and leads the league with 31 home runs and 67 RBIs. He is also 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 83 strikeouts over 60 innings in 12 starts on the mound. In so doing, he has linked the past with the present, stirred baseball’s immortal souls, and shown us what true greatness looks like in an era that rarely appreciates it. Like the game itself, Ohtani has fulfilled the prophecy of paradox, bringing the evolution of the game full-circle back to its roots, all while highlighting the magic of its simplicity. He throws the ball, he hits the ball. Simple.

As we near the All-Star break, let’s take the time to watch this generational — perhaps, legendary — talent bridge the gap between origin and evolution. He is both a true original and an iteration of what has already come before us. He is baseball personified, he is capable of dazzling you, and he deserves more than a quick chuckle or a shaking head.

Written by TK Sanders

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  1. I watch Ohtani more than the Yankees these days. Pitching while getting into the ASG as a DH and oh yeah, participating in the home run derby as well? There isn’t a more worthwhile player in the majors. He’s proof that it’s a matter of work ethic and talent whether someone can play two ways, rather than saying “oh it’s too harrrrrd to do both well”. Not many could do both well, mind.

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