Over the weekend, the LA Angels announced that they put Shohei Ohtani on the injured list and said he would not play again this year. That led to Ohtani’s locker being cleared out and at least one Internet video posting of someone who might have been Ohtani in an airport in Japan. This injury is to his oblique muscle; it is separate from his elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery once it is subjected to further examination. Ohtani was definitely with the Angels in their dugout during their game on Saturday, but his future with the team is up in the air simply because his contract will expire at the end of this season.
Speculation about Ohtani’s value on the free agent market places his value in the neighborhood of $500M given that he is a solid power hitter who can also be a starting pitcher every 5 days or so. There are not many folks who can put that sort of thing on their résumé meaning that there is no benchmark for his value on the open market. However, with an injury that could affect his future as a pitcher – – the elbow injury – – teams will have to determine for themselves how his treatment of that elbow injury is progressing.
Ohtani has said he wants to play for “a contender” and the Angels are not a team that fits that description; in fact, the last time the Angels made the playoffs was in 2014. So, it is quite possible that Ohtani has played his final game as a member of the LA Angels.
In other baseball news as the regular season comes down to its final couple of weeks, the Braves and the Dodgers have each clinched their division titles meaning two of the National League playoff participants are set. The Braves are on track to win 104 games and currently hold a 15-game advantage over the Phillies in the NL East. The Dodgers are the only other NL team with a shot at winning 100 games this year.
In the National League, none of the wildcard slots have been filled and the race in the NL Central is still up in the air – – sort of. The Brewers lead the Cubs in the NL Central by 6.5 games with 13 left to play. Unless we see a repeat of the 1964 National League pennant race, the Brewers look like they are going to win that division.
In the American League, the Orioles have clinched a playoff slot; it might be a wildcard slot, or it could be as the division champion since they currently lead the Rays in the AL East by 2 games. Don’t feel bad for the Rays because they have clinched a wildcard slot in the AL playoffs for themselves. Everything else regarding the AL playoffs is up for grabs.
I have been saying for the last month or so that the AL West race is the thing to pay closest attention to. With about a dozen games left for these three teams, here is the status as of this morning:
- Astros 84-66
- Rangers 82-67
- Mariners 81-68
Of the remaining 13 games on the Mariners’ schedule, 7 games are against the Rangers and 3 games are against the Astros. The schedule-maker got this right when he set things up for 2023 …
If the playoffs began today, the Rangers would be in. However, they would play without their major trade acquisition at the trading deadline this year. Max Scherzer is on the IL; he will not pitch again in the regular season and would be doubtful for any action in the playoffs. Scherzer has a “teres major strain” which is an injury to one of the muscles that holds the arm to the shoulder blade. I am not a physical therapist, but that sounds like a serious injury for a pitcher whose arm is the keystone of his success or failure.
The Rangers’ pitching staff has been snake-bitten this year. They acquired Jacob deGrom in the offseason, and he needed Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Nathan Eovaldi made the All-Star team this year and then proceeded to take some time on the IL. Now, Scherzer goes down – – probably for the rest of 2023.
Another bit of baseball news sounds like a broken record. Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Tampa Bay Rays are supposed to make an announcement about a new stadium for the team early this week. This time, the location is in downtown St. Petersburg, and the facility will be a domed stadium. The estimated cost of this stadium is $1.2B and the Rays are expected to cover at least half of that cost. Speculation in advance of the announcement says the new facility will have a capacity of 30,000 with a fixed dome – – not a retractable one.
There is sort of a time issue associated with this latest proposal for a new stadium for the Rays. Their lease at Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 season which means that as of the start of the 2028 season the Rays would be “homeless” if they did not have a new ballpark or did not extend their lease at Tropicana Field. For years, people have blamed the stadium as a major – – if not THE major – – reason that the Rays attendance does not correspond to the team’s performance on the field. So, extending the lease there would seem to be “undesirable at best”.
There is another interesting angle here regarding the pending announcement by the team. Assuming that the inside info is correct and that seating capacity for the new venue will be 30,000 seats, that is a small park. Currently, 16 of the 30 major league teams average home attendance is greater than 30,000 fans per game. If you assume this year to be “typical”, that will mean even if the Rays sold out every game and filled the new stadium to the rafters for every game, they would be in the middle of the pack when it comes to attendance for MLB teams.
Finally, I’ll close today with an observation by baseball manager/philosopher, Casey Stengel:
“Going to bed with a woman never hurt a ballplayer. It’s staying up all night looking for them that does you in.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………