Who among us is not rooting for the Babe Ruth of Japan, Shohei Ohtani, other than perhaps the Bambino himself from the great beyond?
(I’ll say this – if Ohtani were a New York Yankee, I might have trouble rooting for him. The Yankees have collected a post-modern Murderers Row, with Manny Machado and maybe Bryce Harper on the way next year. As my Uncle Nathan used to say, “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; Yankees alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”)
Japan’s finest pitcher/hitter is coming to America – well, California – to join the Los Angeles Angels.
Ohtani, 23, bats left-handed and pitches right-handed. Playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters, in 2016 he was the Pacific League’s most valuable player – he hit .322 with 22 homers in 323 at-bats, and he had a 10-4 record with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings.
When he’s not pitching, Ohtani has been an outfielder and a designated hitter.
The Angels plan to use him as part of a six-man pitching rotation, deviating from MLB’s standard five-man rotation, and likely as a DH.
(Probably the most successful six-man rotation of all time was the rock band Foreigner. The Trump White House also has experimented with it among its senior advisers.)
Ohtani has been a sensation in Japan – Ohtani-made gloves sell for $450; by comparison, you can exchange a Dennis Rodman basketball jersey in North Korea for a Blu-ray DVD of “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
For all the hype surrounding Ohtani – I haven’t been this excited since the 1981 debut of the McRib – this isn’t the first time the Angels have traveled down this two-way road.
Oh, you don’t remember Willie Smith?
Playing for the 1964 Angels, Smith, a left-hander, pitched in 15 games and was in the outfield for 87. He hit .301 with 11 homers and had a 2.84 ERA in 31.2 innings.
(Column Intermission: Le Moyne – coached by Patrick Beilein, starting five of Tom Brown, Isaiah Eisendorf, Robert Jones III, Anthony Richards and Russell Sangster – has reached the Division II Elite Eight to be played in Sioux Falls, S.D., this week. Three Ws for a national title! The NCAA politely declined my offer to referee or announce all of the games.)
Of course, Smith’s numbers pale compared to the greatest two-way player ever…Alfred Kinsey.
I mean Babe Ruth himself.
Ruth was a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox from 1914-17 before transitioning to his dual role in 1918-19. In those two seasons, he hit .312 with 40 homers and 174 RBI, mostly as a left fielder, and had a 2.55 ERA in 299 2/3 innings, with 30 complete games in 34 starts.
He also was an unmatched two-way threat – eating and drinking – on most intercity train travel.
Conventional thinking says it is extremely difficult to be both a pitcher and a hitter. Fiddlesticks. I’ll tell you what’s a tough proposition – being both a Hatfield and a McCoy.
And, not to diminish Ruth or Ohtani, but history has actually produced countless multifaceted professionals.
Isaac Newton was a physicist and a theologian.
Winston Churchill was a statesman and a writer – he won the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Friedrich Engels was a Marxist and a fox hunter.
Benjamin Franklin might’ve been the greatest polymath since Leonardo da Vinci – yes, polymath; look it up, chumps – a politician, Freemason, author, inventor, even a postmaster. That’s right, he all but delivered the mail while flying a kite in a thunderstorm.
Walter Ray Williams Jr. is a bowling champion and a horseshoes champion.
Then there was Ferdinand Magellan. Not only did he navigate the Strait of Magellan in 1520 – who couldn’t see that coming? – he completed 25 Sudoku puzzles on deck daily before lunch.
Couch Slouch, by the way, can walk and chew gum at the same time. Check that: Couch Slouch can sit on the chesterfield and chew gum at the same time.
So, despite a rough spring training, Ohtani should be able to pitch and hit, and overcome a minor elbow injury; I’d use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, or Flintstones Gummies.
Go get ’em, Shohei!
Ask The Slouch
Q. What if the NCAA changed it so that “one-and-done” referred to one game and done? Think how exciting the college hoops season would be – every game would be a new set of players, Duke might beat Kansas on one night and lose to Samford the next, coaches would have to recruit 200 players each year. Fun for all! (Mark Habeeb; Arlington, Va.)
A. If this fella wants to take over my column for a year, he has my blessing.
Q. I see where Tony Romo received a “sponsor’s exemption” to play in a PGA Tour event this week. Any chance President Trump will receive a similar exemption from Russia? (Mitchell Shapiro; Rockville, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. How long after his death will John Calipari still be complaining about his burial site? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)
A. Pay this wise soul, too.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
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