Shohei Ohtani asks MLB teams to define his role

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Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani wants to know how MLB teams plan on using him next season — a reasonable request, given the high demand for his services and his remarkable skill set and track record over the last five years. According to a report from the Associated Press, agent and co-head of CAA Baseball Nez Balelo sent a detailed memo that asked teams to define his client’s role and pitch him on the benefits of signing a contract with them.

Here’s exactly what that includes:

Balelo’s memo asks for a team to evaluate Ohtani’s talent as a pitcher and as a hitter; to explain its player development, medical training and player performance philosophies and facilities; to describe its minor league and spring training facilities; to detail resources for Ohtani’s cultural assimilation into the team’s city; to demonstrate a vision for how Ohtani could integrate into the team’s organization; and to tell Ohtani why the team is a desirable place to play.

Per the report, teams were specifically instructed not to include any financial terms in their letters.

While all 30 teams are expected to have some level of interest in the two-way star, only a few have publicly hinted at their intention to use Ohtani as a hybrid pitcher/hitter. That includes the Yankees, who are still seen as the favorites to land the 23-year-old and could could presumably ease him into a six-man rotation alongside Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia (provided they can persuade Sabathia to return on a one-year deal). The Mariners are also willing to make room in their lineup, with GM Jerry Dipoto hoping to shift designated hitter Nelson Cruz into a part-time outfield role to clear some DH at-bats for Ohtani.

As for Ohtani himself, the young phenom doesn’t appear to be put off by teams who would prefer he focus his talents in one direction. “I don’t know if I’ll be given the chance to be able to do it, so first of all, I’ll have to listen to what they say,” he told reporters several weeks ago. “You can’t go after something like that unless you’re in the right circumstance. It’s not just about what I want to do.” For now, however, it certainly looks like he’ll have his pick of circumstances.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.