We need to start paying attention to Shohei Ohtani


Someone alert the authorities.

We’re in the midst of perhaps the worst sports crime of the past 20 years, and we’re all culpable. The charge: Not paying enough attention to Shohei Ohtani — the best baseball player in the world.

Those doubting the allegations need only listen to this tale. While researching ideas for my column Monday morning, I checked to see if the Angels had played the night before. They had, and Ohtani belted a 454-foot home run — his league-leading 31st of the year — to lift his team to a 5-2 win over the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.

That was quite the feat, but I couldn’t find any details of Sunday’s game on ESPN’s front page. It wasn’t among the top 10 stories highlighted, though there was space for a story on the Suns signing Eric Gordon to a two-year deal and another on the University of Florida’s planned $400 million renovation to its football stadium.

This has been the case all season, and for most of the past several years. Despite Ohtani being among the best hitters — and pitchers — in the game, something no one has accomplished since the days of Babe Ruth, the Japanese star’s accomplishments often fall upon deaf ears.

Ahead of Tuesday’s July 4th game against the Padres — which Ohtani was slated to start on the mound — he led the American League in home runs (31), triples (5), RBI (68), slugging percentage (.670), OPS (1.060) and total bases. On the mound, he led the AL in hits allowed (5.7) and strikeouts (12.0) per nine innings, and he boasted a 7-3 win-loss record with a 3.02 ERA.

All this comes after winning the AL MVP in 2021 and then putting together another All-Star caliber season in 2022, when he hit .273 with 34 home runs and 68 RBI and was 15-9 on the mound with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts.

People who don’t think that’s impressive probably don’t understand how difficult it is to pull off these accomplishments simultaneously. Pitching and hitting require two completely different skill sets. It’s not like being the best offensive and defensive player in basketball. It’s more like if Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was also a top-10 golfer in the world.

I’m admittedly not the biggest baseball fan, but I can recognize greatness when I see it, and I think it’s past time we all embraced Ohtani for what he is — a legend walking among us.

column, jeremy vernon, baseball, shohei ohtani, mlb