Some random thoughts from a busy morning:
- I was on MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning talking about A-Rod. In a lot of ways I was presented as the heel, in the pro wrestling sense. Or, as host Matt Vasgersian put it, I was the Newman to Ken Rosenthal’s Seinfeld. Which is about right, I think. Not gonna lie: it was a lot of fun;
- Big kudos to Rosenthal for being awesome. He and I fight a lot, most recently yesterday when I accused him of joining in with the “the Yankees and A-Rod should commit insurance fraud” camp. They brought Ken in on the show when I was on and we talked about that. But we also talked about the back and forth he and I have sometimes on Twitter and elsewhere. He gave me credit for being right about things sometimes, I owned up to firing before I aim sometimes. I think it sums up the somewhat adversarial relationship I have with a lot of people in the media pretty well. Funny that Ken understands that when I’m critical I’m not being personal and that he and I can get along just fine despite that dynamic. Funny that others can’t make that distinction.
- That said, I was a bit taken aback seeing Rosenthal in a plaid shirt and no tie. Never seen him without a jacket. Not gonna lie: Bob Villa-Rosenthal was kind of unnerving.
- In the segment after that, Peter Gammons spoke about how many in Major League Baseball are trying to steer their players away from living and hanging around in Miami due to the culture down there as epitomized by the Biogenesis Clinic business. Deep question: which is more harmful to baseball: the Miami Biogenesis Clinic, or the Miami Marlins. I’m gonna go with the Marlins.
OK, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.