Friday night, Los Angeles Angels two way prodigy Shohei Ohtani continued his historic season with his 29th and 30th home runs in his team’s victory over the Baltimore Orioles (LAA 8, BALL 7). Ohtani is only the third player in history to have 30 home runs and 10 steals in his team’s first 81 gamesalong with Sammy Sosa (1998) and) Albert Pujols (2009).
Earlier this week, fans voted Ohtani in the American League’s starting DH for the All-Star Game in two weeks. He’s also going to take his hacks in the Home Run Derby. And if it were up to Angels manager Joe Maddon, Ohtani would also throw in the All-Star Game. This is what Maddon told reporters on Friday (through the Associated Press):
Shohei’s maximum participation within limits is the right thing for me to do. What else do you want? We have to do it in a way that will not be destructive in any way.
To make him both throw and hit, you need to relax a bit, the DH rule. I think they’re willing to do that sort of thing.
Since he will be in the starting grid with DH, the AL would lose the DH once Ohtani ascends the hill. The All-Star Game is a meaningless exhibit — it’s a marketing tool to showcase the game’s brightest stars and nothing else — and MLB should bend the rules so Ohtani can pitch without the AL losing the DH. It’s a no-brainer for me.
When asked about possible hitting and throwing in the All-Star Game, Ohtani played coy, saying only, “It’s all up to the manager how he’s going to decide to use me. That’s all I can say for now.”
Maddon said he has spoken… Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, the All-Star Game manager of the AL, on letting Ohtani hit and throw in the All-Star Game. It is common for managers to discuss the use of players in the All-Star Game, especially with regard to pitchers, in the days leading up to the event.
The question is not whether Ohtani should hit and throw in the All-Star Game. He should clearly do that. The real question is whether he can physically handle it. Ohtani has played in 76 of the Angels’ 81 games this year, and MLB would ask him to compete in the Home Run Derby on Monday and hit and pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday. That’s a lot.
If Ohtani can’t handle it and thinks he can’t throw in the All-Star Game, so be it. It would be a shame, but understandable. You can’t ask him to risk injury by pitching fatigued. However, if Ohtani is capable of it, MLB and Cash must make it happen. He is the most exciting player in the game and there is no better time to show him than the All-Star Game.
Ohtani, 26, hit .280/.364/.705 this season with an MLB-leading 30 home run as a batter. As a pitcher, he has a 3.60 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 12 starts and 60 innings. Ohtani’s combined 4.8 FanGraphs’ WAR leads baseball.
The 2021 MLB All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 13 at Coors Field in Denver.