New Yankee Adam Ottavino tries walking back his Babe Ruth comments

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Adam Ottavino has everything a homegrown Yankees fan could want. The Brooklyn native is getting paid millions to don the pinstripes, was allowed to wear a single-digit number on his jersey and already has a reputation as one of the best relievers in the game. He should be instantly beloved in The Bronx.

There’s just one tiny problem: He’s broken a franchise cardinal rule by speaking ill of Babe Ruth.

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It happened before he signed in New York, but that doesn’t make the transgression any easier to stomach for Yankees fans. Now that he’s playing for the Great Bambino’s former club, Ottavino’s trying to soften his comments a bit.

Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino works against Diamondbacks while with Colorado last July. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino works against Diamondbacks while with Colorado last July. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

‘I would strike Babe Ruth out every time’

Back in early December, while making an appearance on the Statcast Podcast, Ottavino recalled a conversation he had with a coach in Triple-A in which he pretty much said Babe Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep up his numbers if he played in today’s game. In fact, Ottavino said he’d strike Babe Ruth out every time.

He cleaned up those remarks a bit when the Yankees held an introductory conference call on Friday.

“I probably used a bad example of the point I was trying to make: the evolution of the pitching in baseball over baseball history.” Ottavino said. “And Babe Ruth’s probably a name that I shouldn’t have used in this example. But I’ve got a lot of flak for it, mostly funny stuff, like my uncle telling me that he can’t go anywhere without hearing about it, things like that. But I meant no disrespect. I’m a huge baseball historian and love the game, and it’s not even something that can be proven anyway, so I find it a little funny.”

As far as hypotheticals go, this isn’t really that bad of an argument. Ruth, with his hot-dog-and-beer diet, 154-game seasons, and long, inactive winters against guys who play virtually year-round and dedicate their lives to their mechanics doesn’t seem like that much of mismatch. If anything, modern athletes have way more of an edge in that fight. It’s what makes Ruth’s accomplishments even more astounding.

But Ottavino went further than saying he’d strike out Ruth.

I said, ‘Babe Ruth, with that swing, swinging that bat, I got him hitting .140 with eight homers.” Ottavino recalled on the podcast. 

Ruth never hit below his weight (a generously reported 215 pounds on Baseball-Reference.com) in any of the 20 seasons that saw him play more than 40 games.

Prepping for 2019

All of the noise surrounding Ottavino is just that to him: noise.

He’s familiar enough with New York to know to keep to himself centered no matter which way things go during his Yankees tenure.

“That’s something that I must talk to my family about,” Ottavino said later in the call. “We understand the implications of playing here for me. We’re just trying to keep the circle tight and not try to read too much of what you guys write and just focus on doing my job every day and keeping myself held to a high standard.”

Now that he’s addressed the Ruth comments and assured Yankees fans that he’s a fan of The Sultan of Swat, that should become a bit easier.

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at blakeschuster@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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