Shohei Ohtani is the world’s greatest baseball player.
What about Babe Ruth, you ask? Nope. Willie Mays? Hank Aaron? The Mick? Sorry. Ty Cobb? Ted Williams? No again. Barry Bonds? Oh, please. Sit down.
None of them did what Otani is doing.
For that matter, Ohtani is the greatest performing athlete in the world at the moment. Better than Mahomes. Better than Djokovic. Better than Messi. Better than Jokic.
It’s not even close.
In baseball, a player is one of two things: a hitter or a pitcher. Not both. Then along came Ohtani from Japanese professional baseball. He not only hits and pitches, he excels at both. As of Monday, he ranked No. 1 in slugging percentage (a phenomenal .664, and no one else is even close); third in on-base percentage (.407); seventh in the in batting average (.306); tied for first in home runs (43); sixth in RBIs (89); ninth in total hits (137). As a pitcher he ranks ninth in earned-run average (3.17) and 11th in strikeouts (165) and tied for 16th in wins (10). And he’s done this while playing for a sub-.500 Angels team.
He’s a unicorn. A freak of nature. His average fastball is reported at 97 miles per hour with a best of 102. Earlier this season he hit a home run that traveled 493 feet. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds he can run fast enough to beat out ground balls.
Let’s go to the highlight video. In July, Ohtani pitched a complete-game, one-hit shutout in the early game of a doubleheader against the Tigers, then returned for the afternoon game and hit two home runs, including the game winner.
At the 2021 All-Star Game, Ohtani hit 28 home runs in the first round of the home run derby and was the starting pitcher the next day and batted first in the lineup.
If Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdown passes and collected 10 tackles and an interception, all in a single game, he might come close to matching what Ohtani is doing in baseball — if he did it every week.
There’s never been anyone like him. Ruth began his career as a pitcher but when his hitting prowess was discovered he stopped pitching and became a hitter and position player.
Ryan Phillips, a senior writer for the Big Lead, wrote the following in late June: “On Tuesday night, baseball fans got the full Shohei Ohtani experience. The Los Angeles Angels superstar threw 6.1 innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out 10 while going 3-for-3 at the plate with two solo home runs. At this point, five-plus seasons into his MLB career, I feel confident in saying Shohei Ohtani is the greatest baseball player of all time.”
Phillips continued to gush: “In the 147-year history of Major League Baseball we have simply never seen anyone do what Ohtani is doing. The man hits majestic 450-foot home runs, then goes out and hits triple digits with his fastball. Oh, did we mention he’s also one of baseball’s fastest players?
“Now before you jump down my throat, let me clarify something: I’m not saying Ohtani will have the greatest career ever. That distinction will forever be argued between a few players — Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Walter Johnson among them. But when you consider talent and the things he can do on the field, Ohtani has no peers in baseball’s long history. (He) is MLB’s only legitimate two-way player and he’s dominating on the mound and at the plate.”
Other baseball aficionados agree. A headline in the Ringer reads: “Forget MVP. Shohei Ohtani is building a Case as the GOAT.”
Logan Martinez, another baseball writer, wrote, “… it is safe to say that Ohtani is certainly the greatest baseball player the world has ever seen.”
“He’s the most incredible athlete I’ve ever seen in baseball,” said Dusty Baker, who has spent 55 years in the major leagues as a player and manager. “I’ve seen some great players, but I mean none that can both run like the wind, throw a hundred miles an hour and hit as well as anybody in the game.”
It’s almost enough to make us watch baseball.
Ohtani, 29, is finishing up his sixth season in the major leagues. From 2013 through 2017 he played for the Hokkido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, starring as a two-way player there, posting a win-loss pitching record of 42-15 and collecting 48 home runs.
He signed with the Angels in 2018 and was voted Rookie of the Year. The next two seasons were marred by injuries but in 2021 he hit 46 home runs and had 100 RBI, posted a 9-2 record on the mound with a 3.52 ERA and was named the American League MVP.
Last season’s numbers: 34 homers, 95 RBI, 15-9 pitching record and a 2.33 ERA (sixth best in the league).
The shame of it for Major League Baseball is that Ohtani will not be playing in the postseason. With a 61-67 record, the Angels are fourth out of five teams in the American League West standings.
The other subplot of Ohtani’s season: He will become a free agent after the season. It is being widely reported that he will be given a $500 million contract at the very least. That will make him the greatest player ever and the highest paid player ever.