Graham Womack of the Baseball Past and Present blog recently had readers vote on an All-Time Dream Team, and then asked a number of writers to do little pieces about the winners at each position. I was invited to contribute and I did Johnny Bench. The post with all the winners is up and live now and you can read it here.
A lot of good stuff, especially if you go to the bottom for the note about what to make of there being only one black player on the team. I always think that’s an interesting question, not because of the race issue as such, but because I think it speaks to how people view “all-time” anythings. We get locked in to older things first, and it’s that much harder for us to appreciate more recent greatness.
For example, I don’t think people pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because they’re racist. I think they pick Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan because their father said he was the best and because the pictures of him are in black and white and, boy, if that ain’t history, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, the All-Time Dream Team is a nice little project, and it was developed in order to help fund a worthy charity too (see the post for more details), so go check it out.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.