Report: Shohei Ohtani likely to have Tommy John surgery, will be out until 2020

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Pedro Gomez of ESPN reported overnight that the Los Angeles Angels expect Ohtani to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the remainder of the 2018 season and the entire 2019 season. Here was Gomez’s comment on SportsCenter:

“Everything I’m hearing is that the reality is, he probably will need Tommy John surgery . . . The earliest we might see him, should he have TJ surgery, would be the 2020 season.”

There has been no confirmation by the Angels or anyone close to Ohtani, but nor has there been contradiction. We’ll obviously hear more on this today.

Ohtani was diagnosed with a Grade 2 UCL strain late last week. He underwent a platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections, with the idea being that he could avoid surgery by doing so. Such a path has worked for Masahiro Tanaka and some other pitchers, but it’s by no means foolproof. The Angels were going to reevaluate him in three weeks. At this point, waiting the three weeks before surgery would likely not harm his timetable should surgery then be decided, so it’s possible that the Angels will still wait and see.

If Ohtani does go under the knife, however, it would be sad, sad ending to his breakout rookie season. Ohtani has wowed baseball by being its first effective two-way player in nearly a century, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 61/20 in 49.1 innings as a starter and hitting .289/.372/.535 with six homers and 20 RBI in 129 plate appearance as a part-time designated hitter.

Ohtani turns 24 early next month. He signed with the Angels this past offseason as a free agent, but is subject to a full six years of team control per MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. For that reason this setback will not substantially impact the Angels financially nor impact Ohtani’s near or mid-range future in Major League Baseball from a financial perspective, but it’s obviously a big blow to him, the Angels and fans who have come to enjoy him in his brief time in the States.

Here’s hoping he can avoid surgery and get back to his old self via rehab. Given the Angels’ and Ohtani’s long-term interests, however, and given this report, that’s not seeming particularly likely.

UPDATE: Angels’ GM Billy Eppler is denying that any decisions have been made along these lines:

Obviously, of course, the internal chatter Gomez is hearing could be part of the decision making process, so it does not necessarily rebut the report. We’ll know for sure when the Angels announce something for sure.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.