Shohei Ohtani is a Dodger. And I, like so many others are going to enjoy saying that for a long time. While I was cautiously optimistic that this would be the end result, I would be lying if I was not preparing myself to have my heart torn from my body. There was also the added possibility of insult to injury due to the overwhelming expectation that he would sign with the Dodgers as well as the fact the Dodgers seemingly put themselves in suspended animation to set themselves up to land Ohtani. All of it almost felt as if, we the fans, were being set up for the ultimate troll job.
But, alas, we can put all that angst to bed. He is a Dodger, and he will be a Dodger for a very long time. And befitting him signing on to live that, "Hollywood" life, the story of how he became a Dodger is about as zany as any screen writer could have come up with. From the supposed secretive, hush hush nature of his free agency, to the very way in which his contract is structured, every bit of it, like his career to this point, was one for the ages. So, here are a few of my thoughts on what happened and what lies next now that, say it with me, Shohei Ohtani is a Los Angeles Dodger.
THE FRIDAY FRENZIE:
I’m in my 40’s and I have followed baseball religiously for the better part of that 40 years and I have never seen a day like Friday. And to be honest, it was one of the most fun days I have ever had as a baseball fan. I know some people will disagree, and the fact that he ended up with the team I root for probably clouds my judgement. But in all sincerity, even before it was known that the Dodgers were getting him, I was laughing my ass off and having the time of my life as I read through my timeline.
It was simply ludicrous and in my humble opinion it was just fantastic for the sport. I know there are many people who feel as if they were personally wronged by this process but really, in an objective sense, this is what the sport desperately needed. Like it or not, people in this day in age, live for the circus. Look at our entertainment, look at our politics, look at Kelce and Swift. As much as we love the on-field product, the circus is what brings eyes to the sport.
And what I think is even more interesting is that what propelled the circus to such immaculate heights, is what was once the most criticized aspect of his free agency: The level of secrecy and mystery that surrounded Ohtani.
From the very start, it was leaked out that he would "hold it against" teams that revealed any information about their pursuit, which in of itself lead to some of the most ridiculous moments of the whole ordeal. People legitimately had panic attacks about Dave Roberts mentioning the most obvious of things, that the Dodgers really wanted Ohtani and met with him. Dave’s shockingly mundane admission actually dominated the baseball news cycle for two days!
But as the old saying goes, nature hates a vacuum. And just days after baseball writers were complaining about how much of a missed opportunity the Ohtani free agency was, that secrecy along with the best and worst aspects of the internet, filled the void. What occurred as a result, ended up being 700 million times better than an Ohtani version of "The Decision" would have ever been. From the flights tracked, from the false reports, and in all likelihood, the involved teams being too scared to say anything to correct any of this nonsense, all of it was due to the fact that Ohtani decided to take an unconventional path, his own path, in this free agency.
Again, I know some people have emotional scars from Friday. And I shouldn’t make light of people who were so traumatized by a baseball player deciding to pick a team that wasn’t their team. But in all seriousness, when you can get past that, you must understand what a win this was for the sport. This is something that can carry some real momentum, to help get eyes on baseball and get interest ramped up to the degree we haven’t seen since the days of the chemically induced home run chase. The sport has lacked a legitimate, marketable superstar for years, a household name that breaks beyond the "smarts" of the sport and into the "marks," but they have a real chance to build that with Ohtani. This drama filled free agency is just the right catalyst to get people truly interested and invested in him for the good and bad. Look, this was obviously a very polarizing event, but those are the best types when you are trying to garner interest in your event, or sport or whatever you may be promoting. You now have people who will be extremely invested into the success or failure of the Dodgers no matter where they live geographically. Again, if you are a fan of this sport, I don’t know how you can’t understand how that’s a good thing.
Just when you thought the drama was over. The contract details were released, and boy howdy, if the collective shrieks of baseball fans could be bottled up into an energy source, global warming would be solved.
680 million of the 700-million-dollar contract was "deferred." For those, like me, who have no idea about anything, what this apparently means is that for the actual 10 years of the contract, Ohtani will only make a paltry 2 Million dollars a year. The rest of the contract will be paid in yearly increments of 68 million dollars long after Ohtani has left the Dodgers and likely the sport of baseball.
There are plenty of great posts and articles on what that all means from a tax perspective, both within the sport and for Ohtani personally. There also are incredibly funny memes about who will actually make more than Ohtani (Here’s looking at you Austin Barnes) but from the perspective I truly love, the circus perspective, what this means is that the Dodgers essentially get to have their cake and eat it too. They get Ohtani and they now get payroll flexibility to add to Ohtani and build around him and its making EVERYBODY REALLY MAD.
If the Ohtani Saga Part One got your blood boiling, the sequel surely pushed you into apoplectic levels.
Now, I have heard a ton of the complaining about why this is cheating, or bad for the sport. That its gonna open up pandora’s box, that this is the end of the Kansas City Royals and that their wife left them because Ohtani is such a jerk and on and on and on. And, to be honest I get it. Anybody who has a truthful bone in their body will readily agree that deferring 97% of a contract seems, unnatural. But, to say this is cheating or that the Dodgers "exploited" a loophole is not only the song of sore losers, its simply not true.
As people have reported, there is a specific article in the CBA addressing this saying this is explicitly allowed. It’s not like the Dodgers are going with, "Well it doesn’t say we can’t do this." No, instead they are structing a contract in a way the rules explicitly say they can.
"There shall be no limitations on either the amount of the deferred compensation or the percentage of total compensation attributable to deferred compensation…."
That’s no loophole man, that’s a written permission slip, stamped sealed and approved by the owners, players and their daddies.
Further reporting seems to indicate that this was a point negotiations for the last CBA, meaning, it’s not just a rule hidden in plain sight, that it was something everybody was clearly aware of and discussed. Your team, your GM, your owner knew about this, could have taken advantage of it and still can.
But again, I’m an honest fellow. If this was not my team that did this, I would hate it too. But be honest with yourself, if your team did this to sign Ohtani or does it next year to sign Soto, you would/will be dancing on the grave of the uncollected CBT tax dollars just like Dodger fans are and that’s, OK!
It’s criminal to not like something that helps your team win and hate something that doesn’t, that’s what sports is all about. You ignore the 87 calls that went for you but cry ALL NIGHT LONG about the one offsides that ends your night. Too soon?
There are Astros fans who vehemently defend 2017. There are Dodger fans who will absolutely argue that the 2020 Championship is actually more worthwhile than any others. There are Mets fans who believe Chase Utley should have never played baseball again after his slide. To believe that your opinions on a subject is not 100% clouded by the team you root for is nonsense. If you are watching sports "objectively" you are doing it all wrong.
And again, this goes back to my original point, this is good for baseball. This whole ordeal is making people feel something when they think about baseball. The worst outcome for almost anything is apathy, especially when it comes to the world of entertainment and the last few days, what Ohtani has brought to the sport is anything but.
WHAT NOW FOR THE DODGERS:
What a win for the Dodgers, there is obviously no certainty that this brings any on field success. But there is absolutely no way, barring some catastrophic injury, that the Dodgers and their fans do not benefit greatly from this deal.
There is just not a lot of ways in which this goes wrong. Even if they don’t get a championship(s) out of it. They will make up the money, all 10 million of it (just kidding) and then some. They will have a draw to the stadium no matter where their place is in the standings and for the fans, the team is now, unbelievably, entertaining on a night in and night out basis and the cherry on top? The team is contractually obligated to Ohtani to spend money to field a competitive team! I mean it’s just a chef kiss of all chef kisses and if I was on the opposing side of this, I would absolutely hate it too.
The Dodgers have a ton of work to do still (Yamamoto, please!), there are presents yet to be opened for us and make no mistake they will draw hatred too. And when all is set and done, there will be a lot of heartache, failed expectations and opposing fans laughing at us to no end. But, for now, if you saw Mike Piazza leave, if you have been tortured your whole life by thinking about what could have been with Pedro or Beltre. Shoot, if you are insane like me and cry every day about Paul Konerko or why Billy Ashley never panned out. Well, my friends, for a moment we are the kings and envy of all of baseball and we should rightfully enjoy every moment of it.