Shohei Ohtani Has Narrowed His List

For the most part, as far as available players care, teams are separated from one another by money, and by available playing time. Available players tend to chase the most money, and/or the opportunities that will allow them to most often see the field. This is part of what’s made the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes so perplexing. Every team in baseball could give him playing time, and he’s given no indication that he cares about money. I mean, he can’t not care about money at all, but it doesn’t seem to be a motivating factor. He’s a baseball player. A great one! If he’s good enough, there’ll be plenty of money there in the end.

So it’s been unclear what, exactly, Ohtani wants. I don’t just mean for us, in public. Even within the industry — the very industry Ohtani’s attempting to join — some people have had to throw up their hands. The entire process has been so shrouded in mystery. Even when Ohtani’s representation recently sent out that questionnaire, teams didn’t know quite how to fill it out. Teams haven’t known how Ohtani is leaning. Teams haven’t known how best to make their cases.

At last, this is all gaining some clarity. As of Sunday, we all know more than we used to. Ohtani’s final decision will necessarily be made within just the next few weeks. And it would appear he’d like to play out west.

Sunday’s first news was the big news: Ohtani’s camp told the Yankees they wouldn’t be signing him. Many had picked the Yankees as the favorites, given the quality of the team and the size of the market, but it turns out that second part isn’t actually a plus, in this instance.

After news came out about the Yankees, the same news came out about the Red Sox. Ohtani’s been narrowing down his field of teams, and other teams reportedly out include the Twins and the A’s. According to Ken Rosenthal, there’s a strong sense Ohtani ends up on the west coast, and Mike Berardino lent some support, while adding that the Cubs could be an exception. Jeff Passan noted that the Giants and the Mariners are among the Ohtani finalists. Even as I write this, more is coming in; the Pirates are out of the mix, and so are the Mets, Brewers, and Diamondbacks.

This will only continue to evolve, and for the time being, we don’t know if Ohtani wants an actual small market, or just a market smaller than New York. We also don’t know exactly how badly he’d prefer to play on the west coast, so any guesses would amount to speculation, but this does seem to be pointing more and more to the Giants or Mariners. The greater Los Angeles market is gigantic. The Padres are supposed to be getting better, but they’re still in the middle of a rebuild. The Giants made the playoffs as recently as last season, while the Mariners have hung around on the fringes of relevance. The Mariners also have the obvious recent history of folding in and leaning on Japanese talent.

But that doesn’t mean the Padres can be excluded. It doesn’t mean the Dodgers or Angels can be excluded. The Cubs seemingly can’t be excluded, and we know the Rangers have been pursuing Ohtani for a long time. Ohtani has whittled the list of candidates, but we probably shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. We still have only a little more information than we used to, with regard to what Ohtani wants. He might not mind playing for a last-place team. He might, alternatively, mind that quite a lot. He might strongly prefer to end up in the American League. He might be okay with what a National League team would have to offer.

The biggest specific development is that Ohtani isn’t going to the Yankees. The biggest general development is that Ohtani is wasting little time in moving ahead to his decision day. This might not drag out beyond the next week, during which Ohtani will be meeting with the finalists. Even if we don’t have an answer by the weekend, the answer shouldn’t come too far after that. Ohtani is beginning to reveal his preferences, and the teams still in the mix all want him badly. If this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a big-league organization, it’s at least once-in-a-generation. When Ohtani makes his choice, the league is going to change as a consequence.

If Ohtani goes to the Giants, maybe that increases the pressure on the Dodgers to go get Giancarlo Stanton. Or, maybe the Giants get Ohtani and Stanton, both, with Ohtani allowing them to potentially avoid an upcoming cliff. All of a sudden, the Giants would look like contenders again. If Ohtani goes to the Mariners, he could help them avoid an upcoming cliff of their own. He could almost singlehandedly make up for what’s long been a disappointing player-development system. Really, Ohtani would make a huge difference anywhere. He could push the Padres’ window forward a season or two. He could give the Angels a No. 1 starter to pair with Mike Trout. He could make the Dodgers almost invincible. He could make the *Cubs* almost invincible. As soon as Ohtani signs with someone, he’s going to be one of the five or ten most valuable players in the game, in terms of performance and salary, if not in terms of performance alone. This isn’t quite like an ordinary citizen landing a winning Powerball ticket, but it’s a little something like an ordinary citizen winning The Amazing Race.

Every single baseball team has its strengths and weaknesses. Every single baseball team has a plan for becoming and remaining competitive. There is nothing in the game more valuable than a young and cost-controlled star-level player. Shohei Ohtani is one of those, and, in the best-case scenario, you could say he’s almost two of those, if he can keep hitting as well as he has. Of course Ohtani is a risk, and of course he could disappoint or get injured. Bryce Harper could disappoint. Luis Severino could get injured. Within the next few weeks, an unprecedented blessing is going to fall into some organization’s lap. We still don’t know which it’s going to be, but we’re starting to figure it out. Baseball isn’t going to be the same, on the other side. For a handful of reasons.

We hoped you liked reading Shohei Ohtani Has Narrowed His List by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Skipple
Member
Skipple

Can someone please explain to me what the difference is between a West vs East Coast team is for Ohtani? It is purely being physically closer to Japan?

carter
Member
carter

As someone whose lived on both coasts the answer is quite simple: The East Coast sucks.

bobmarleydied
Member
Member
bobmarleydied

but maybe ohtani isn’t a wimp about snow?

bobmarleydied
Member
Member
bobmarleydied

Oh! And the east coast has seasons :)

Maggie25
Member
Member
Maggie25

Okay, I have lived in Ontario all my life and quite frankly, having seasons does not seem like a really big selling point when compared to constant summer.

bobmarleydied
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Member
bobmarleydied

But how do you tell that time is even passing?

WARrior
Member
Member
WARrior

By the number of games my team has played?

FranklinP
Member
FranklinP

Watches.

Oh, and clocks ‘n stuff.

TheGrandslamwich
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TheGrandslamwich

By taking a 2 hour drive to the mountains.

tramps like us
Member
tramps like us

30 year periods are easy to tell, that’s how long it’s been since the Dodgers hoisted the trophy

JJ000
Member
JJ000

Maggie…I agree. Contrary to popular belief, seasons are just as important to west coasters as much as anyone else, that’s why we choose the best one. (I’ve lived on the east coast as well as the west coast.)

There are things about home (east coast) that can never be replaced but when I hear comments like, ‘west coast people are soft.’ or ‘they’re there bc they can’t handle it.’, i find that ridiculous. Unless you like the cold/snow over warmth and summer, why think negatively on those who choose the latter? healthy vs. sick? i choose healthy. rich vs. poor? uh…rich, please! (extreme examples but you catch my drift.)

Now if the baseball gods can have Stanton and Ohtani in a Giants uniform at a reasonable cost, that would be awesome.

vmx
Member
vmx

West Coast has seasons, too. The three good ones.

Llewdor
Member
Llewdor

I live on the west coast now. The west coast blows.

So does the east coast. I’m a fan of the middle. Not many baseball teams there, though.

Larry Faria
Member
Larry Faria

He’s from northern Japan, Iwate Prefecture, where it snows. In fact, the forecast for Tuesday-Wednesday is 4-6 inches.

binqasim
Member
binqasim

As someone who lives on East Coast and visits West Coast from time to time, I agree.

SenorGato
Member
SenorGato

Surely you jest

Ecofolux
Member
Member
Ecofolux

West coast is full of crybaby, pansy lib-tards

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

IMO*, it is probably as much to do with the cultural aspects of it as the physical distance. Note the discussion about the market alongside the west coast.

*This is literally just my opinion. Wait for information from a real, live journalist instead of sadtrombone in the comments section.

chazzycat
Member
Member
chazzycat

maybe he likes Mexican food

Six Ten
Member
Six Ten

This is a good reason tbh.

JJ000
Member
JJ000

Unless you live in NYC, I’m pretty certain most types of food are better on the west coast than the east.

Brians Sticky Sock
Member
Brians Sticky Sock

Or Chicago… I’ve been to LA a few times and Chicago food is just as good (other than sea food, of course)

Jetsy Extrano
Member
Jetsy Extrano

Mexican food? Seattle is boned. (Yes I know about LCDO, okay.)

goateesonly
Member
goateesonly

worlds better in Seattle than anywhere East Coast or Midwest. Still several tiers below the Southwest though.

bunslow
Member
bunslow

There’s some damn good stuff in Chicago at least, be careful before writing off too much stuff

bunslow
Member
bunslow

You made me hungry dammit

bobmarleydied
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Member
bobmarleydied

I think the fact that it is closer and there are large asian populations there. I think his top priorities are where he’s most comfortable and where he can be the best player.

tz
Member

There are large Asian populations on the east coast and other parts of the US as well. But, the only real concentration of Japanese populations in the US is on the west coast.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

The demography of Japanese-American populations in the US is pretty interesting. You’ve got Honolulu easily at #1. You’ve got LA easily at #2. You’ve got San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle somewhere behind them. And then it’s basically nonexistent after that.

We don’t think about it very much but there are huge Chinese-American populations, and much smaller but still sizeable Korean-American populations. Comparatively there is very little in the way of Japanese-Americans anywhere outside of Hawaii, with the West Coast having the only other populations of note.

Cheeknbut
Member
Cheeknbut

New York surely has a bigger Japanese population than Seattle, so don’t know what you’re talking about

EonADS
Member
EonADS

Cheeknbut is correct. NYC has more than twice the Japanese population of Seattle according to the 2000 census numbers.

carter
Member
carter

Per capita matters.

EonADS
Member
EonADS

…good god, how did I make /that/ mistake. Right, Seattle might only have a third as many Japanese population-wise, but they’re 1/16th population of NYC, give or take a bit.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Actually, it might not matter to Ohtani if they are geographically concentrated. But they aren’t. They’re all over the place in NYC.

This may be due to the fact that Japanese-Americans have been here a long, long time. Wouldn’t be surprised if Japanese-American population in the US was much more dispersed than, say, Korean-American population (and certainly more than recent immigrant waves from southeast asian countries).

It’s also worth noting that Japanese-Americans have had a cultural presence in Seattle forever. It’s somewhat imprinted on the character of the city, whereas in NYC that’s not the case.

Of course, who knows if any of this matters. He could have ruled out NYC simply because he doesn’t like the pace of the city (another “culture of the city” argument, but a different sort of culture).

nooten
Member
nooten

The only way it would matter is if we were concerned whether it was more likely that Ohtani encountered a Japanese person among the populace when walking down a random city street.

nooten
Member
nooten

Which, of course, is to say that “per capita” does not matter at all.

nooten
Member
nooten

Why? The only way per capita matters is if we were concerned whether Ohtani encountered a Japanese face when walking down a random city street.

Which, of course, is to say that it doesn’t matter at all.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Or if he wants to live near Japanese-Americans, institutions catering to Japanese-Americans, Japanese food, etc.

Besides, don’t rule out the possibility that seeing random Japanese people on the street matters to Ohtani. While discrimination and structural factors do play a role in ethnic residential segregation, so does preference.

Paul22
Member
Paul22

Why? Its not like he has all that much free time during the season. He can live anywhere in the off season. Pretty sure there is a Japanese Club and communities where many Japanese reside near the Japanese school. Add in tourists from Japan which are significant and the quality of Japanese restaurants and NY is hard to beat outside of Hawaii

Of course no state and municipal taxes in Seattle, Texas and minimal in Chicago compared to California and NYC so maybe its taxes

mdp34
Member
mdp34

Why would you use the 2000 census when the 2010 census data is available? For Asian population details see https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-11.pdf

Jetsy Extrano
Member
Jetsy Extrano

One historical factor, the West Coast Japanese-American population was all uprooted during WW2, and the (smaller) East Coast population was not.

People who went back into the West did it often in clusters for safety among neighbors who had shown their colors. East coast populations reflect longer natural dispersion.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Jetsy, I’m starting to think you’re the person a few cubicles down from me. The facts you know seem like they’re part of the same “family” as the facts I know.

ItsPoPtime
Member
Member
ItsPoPtime

Did you see how they treated Hideki irabu? Even how they treated Matsui towards the end? It was awful

SenorGato
Member
SenorGato

Far and away I think his priority is to be the best player. Guy thinks he’s Clemens

Matt1685
Member
Matt1685

It’s a 3 hour longer plane ride to Japan. 12 hours from the West coast and 15 from the East coast, or something like that.

WARrior
Member
Member
WARrior

Ten hours coming to the U.S., because of the prevailing wind. Also, you can make that flight non-stop, not sure you can do that from the East coast.

Larry Faria
Member
Larry Faria

It’s almost 10 hours from Tokyo to LA on the fastest flight (Korean Air). Add four hours for the east coast. The Big difference is time zones. At noon Monday in Seattle/SF/SD/LA it’s 5AM Tuesday in Tokyo. You’re crossing the international date line.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

I just looked on Google for flights from LAX to Toyko and from O’Hare to Tokyo. There was one direct flight from Chicago, and it was 13:15. There were two direct flights from LAX, 12:20 and 12:40.

I really don’t see this distance thing as a driving factor. When you are already talking about the distance from Japan to the continental United States, the relative distances just don’t really matter that much. You’re not popping back into Japan when you get an off day.

Chill
Member
Chill

It’s quaint that you think Ohtani would be flying commercial.

tung_twista
Member
tung_twista

As filthy rich as he would be in the future,
Ohtani’s salary this season was around $2.5M.
He will be making around half a mil for another three years.
That is first class money, not trans-pacific G4 money.

Chill
Member
Chill

You are forgetting about endorsements. It’s fanciful to think Ohtani is going to mix with the hoi polloi. All the down votes in the world ain’t gonna alter that truth in the slightest.

Llewdor
Member
Llewdor

It wouldn’t be three hours longer. A direct flight would follow the great circle route (over Canada).

Larry Faria
Member
Larry Faria

Doesn’t matter – Japan is on the other side of the international date line. Take off one day, land in another. Check those time zones.

Joser
Member
Joser

The only person who can give you the real answer to that question is Ohtani himself.

Kyle Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil
Member
Kyle Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Physical proximity plus maybe getting to play your games around lunch Japan time instead of at 5am?

If he has family staying in Japan, particularly older family members, a direct flight to the west coast is much easier than getting to the east coast.

Couple shots in the dark.

The Real McNulty
Member
The Real McNulty

isn’t player fatigue/rest a thing for West Coast players who travel to the Eastern time zone? Would this be even worse for Ohtani?

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

He’s not commuting from Japan, why would it be worse?

ItsPoPtime
Member
Member
ItsPoPtime

As someone who is only lived on the East Coast up and down the shoreline, it sucks. The fans treat the players worse, and the media treats two players even more poorly. Plus, Fenway right field is huge, and Yankee land is the evil empire

awy
Member
awy

he doesn’t have in-depth knowledge of cities, just general impressions. :shrug:

YKnotDisco
Member
YKnotDisco

If only Tupac and Biggie could chime in on this debate…

Paul22
Member
Paul22

About 90 minutes flying time on a direct flight, presumably in first class.

Large Japanese population in NY

Also, he only has to stay in his teams city for 110 days a year.

The other difference is ST is in Arizona for WC teams and not Miami.

East Coast AL teams have smaller parks than WC teams. This could be an issue for a player who needs to put up good numbers as a pitcher to get a big deal. Presumably what he offers as a DH has comparatively little value in a future contract unless he becomes a future David Ortiz which is unlikely

Antonio Bananas
Member
Member
Antonio Bananas

Time zones matter for calls/facetime back home. 3 hours can be a big deal if family can talk at 10pm or 1am.