It’s official: Nippon Ham to post Shohei Ohtani

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Two-way threat Shoehei Ohtani* has said he wants to come play in the United States and, earlier this week, hired a U.S. agent. But the official mechanism necessary to get him here is for his club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, to formally post him.

That official mechanism has been activated. From Kyodo News:

The Nippon Ham Fighters said Friday they will allow slugging ace Shohei Otani to use the posting system this offseason to try to land a deal with a major league team.

“Everyone in our ballclub accepts his thoughts,” Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama told a press conference at a Tokyo hotel concerning the 23-year-old two-way player’s intention to move to the big leagues.

NPB and Major League Baseball’s posting system expired on October 31, but it was reported earlier this week that the two sides have a tentative agreement to renew it, so that shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Ohtani is one of the best, youngest and most unique talents to ever come out of Japan. He’s only 23 but has already established himself as both an ace pitcher and a star slugger, with a 42-15 record with an ERA of 2.52 and a K/BB ratio of 624/200 in 543 innings while batting .286 with 48 home runs and 166 RBI in 1,140 plate appearances.

Since there is now a cap on international signing bonuses for players of Ohtani’s age and experience, his salary will not be high, so most teams will at least make an effort to sign him. In light of that cap, however, Ohtani is going to be looking to sign with a club where he can (a) maximize his non salary earnings via endorsements and the like; while (b) setting himself up for a lucrative long-term extension after his initial deal runs its course. Which is to say that it’s gonna be a freakin’ sweepstakes, with all manner of interesting considerations entering his decision making process.

The free agent class is rather weak this year, but between this and Giancarlo Stanton‘s likely trade, we should still have a lot of wood in the old hot stove.

*Until today we’ve been referring him to “Otani,” but after a lot of research — including reading this excellent piece — we’ve come to the conclusion that “Ohtani” is the better spelling. This is not so cut-and-dry as you’d imagine, actually. He spells it “Ohtani” on his jersey, but the hiccups of Japanese-to-English translation suggest that either is both acceptable yet, at the same time, not quite right. Given that he prefers Ohtani, however, and given that you should, 100% of the time, call people what they wish to be called, not what you think they should be called, we’ll be going with “Ohtani” going forward. 

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”