People who know a bit about EPL soccer sometimes make comparisons between the big English soccer teams and the big major league baseball teams in order to explain the dynamic of that league to we soccer ignoramuses.
Like, I once heard someone say Man U. was like the Yankees. Or maybe Arsenal. And Chelsea was the Red Sox. Or maybe Liverpool was. I can’t remember and I kinda don’t care, actually. Like every other time I’ve sat and watched more than five minutes of an EPL game I was in a pub and the guy explaining this all to me was over-emphasizing the words “football,” “kit,” “pitch,” and “match” to make it abundantly clear he wasn’t saying “soccer,” “jersey,” “field,” an “game.” I’ve sorta liked EPL when I’ve watched it, but man, those guys who make it a point to have you know how into it they are drive me nuts.
Anyway, this is some meat for those conversations:
The New York Yankees are going into the soccer business.
The Yankees are partnering with Manchester City to own Major League Soccer’s 20th team, which will be called New York City Football Club and plans to start play in the 2015 season.
Manchester City, owned by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, will be the majority owner of the team.
During that conversation, held at the faux Irish pub in a suburban Ohio mall, the guy to my right will loudly and conspicuously order “a pint of bitter,” and then frown a bit when the suburban Ohio bartender rolls his eyes and gives him whatever they have.
Oh, here he is now.
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.