Show Time is an LA thing. It always has been. As bound to the golden Lakers uniforms and the golden aura of Hollywood, as cars on the freeway during rush hour. The epitome of LA, purple and gold- show time, que your jazz hands. But wait- Show Time in Anaheim? Can we get past the Princess Castle?
The Angels now have their own version of Show time, it’s even spelled differently (Sho Time), and it was on full display this past weekend with Sunday serving as the crowning moment. 44,742 packed Angels Stadium, the largest day crowd since renovations occurred in 1998. The reason for the draw was not the A’s who were in town for the weekend series. Nor was it for the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. Shohei Otani’s second start of the season, his first at home, was the magnet. His pull is proving greater than could have been possibly anticipated.
That fact is fascinating in itself.
The courtship of Ohtani during the offseason was no casual affair. Dubbed the Japanese Babe Ruth, the two-way player could not be given the money his hype deserved due to his age, 23. Major League Baseball rules prohibit such contracts, huge ones, to be given to foreign players under 25 years-old. Due to this fact (or loophole), clubs scrambled and put together presentations like a teenager pining for a prom date. Ohtani was viewed as a franchise-alterer. A super star of the international variety. However, many teams found themselves stalled at the gate, and very disappointed, when the Japanese super star limited the candidates to 8 possible teams. It was West Coast or bust, and the American League made the most since. He wanted to pitch and DH.
He choose the Angels and the hype train couldn’t find the breaks- until Spring Training(when they were slammed). In the Spring, Ohtani was limited to mostly B game action, pitching on back fields, in front of a measly spattering of fans. He pitched alright but he did not hit well. At all. Reports were that scouts were equating him to a High School hitter, thus insulting the level of pro baseball in Japan, and Ohtani himself. He had never seen good breaking stuff one scout said. We would just have to wait and see, even Babe Ruth went 2 for 10 in his first 5 games in 1914.
Well, on Sunday, we saw. Ohtani was perfect through 6 1/3 against Oakland as the crowd surged with each dominating strikeout (there were 12 of them), sensing the possibility of history growing closer with every pitch. Perfection loomed like an anvil yet Ohtani showed no signs of cracking. (It was Sho Time after all).
What was evident was complete control, even if Marcus Semien called off the perfection with a solid single through the left side in the 7th. Then, everyone took a breath, and began to reflect on the supremacy on the mound they had been watching by this 23-year-old athlete, as the 7th inning was his last. Wow was an appropriate response.
He threw 91 pitches. His splitter was filthy and he threw his fastball consistently in the upper 90’s. This was against an Oakland club that mashed 5 homers on Friday in a 13-9 loss, and scored 7 the previous day, in a win. They were not a scuffling offense.
It was also a club, the only club, who had faced Ohtani before. In that April 1st outing in Oakland, the Japanese pitcher went 6 innings, allowing 3 runs via a Matt Chapman blast. While both starts have resulted in winning decisions, feasibly, the two cannot be compared. On Sunday, Shohei was dominant, the sellout crowd was electric, and the rest of baseball is on notice.
The pull of Ohtani has not just been limited to brilliance on the mound however. He capped an impressive streak of three straight games with homers, cranking a prodigious blast into dead center off of Daniel Gossett. A solo shot as it was, it was impressive, and proved a shot of life to the Anaheim crowd, as previously their team had been down big. That deficit, for the Angels, quickly evaporated, as they went on to win the contest late. It certainly felt like a turning point.
Ohtani is batting .389 through 4 games and 19 plate appearances. He was 3 homers and has knocked in 7.
He is not a high schooler. That much so far has been clear. Far from it in fact, he is legit. He is a superstar. Worth all the hype by any measure, and then some.
The baseball world is abuzz. I can’t even imagine how they’re going in Japan, although I would assume, absolutely nuts. As for Anaheim, Sho Time is on, and you better get your tickets while you can.