In a recent appearance on ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith, known for his controversial takes, once again stirred the pot by questioning the value of baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani. Smith’s comments come on the heels of his past critique about Ohtani’s English-speaking abilities, further fueling the debate about Ohtani’s place in the baseball world.
Smith, who has previously suggested that Ohtani couldn’t be the face of baseball due to his language limitations, turned his attention to Ohtani’s recent elbow procedure, vehemently expressing his disagreement with any team offering an exorbitant contract in free agency. However, many argue that Smith’s assessment overlooks critical factors.
One glaring omission in Smith’s argument is his apparent lack of interest in baseball, as he has openly admitted that ESPN as a network doesn’t prioritize or even watch the sport. With Ohtani’s impressive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating consistently above 9 in the past three relatively healthy seasons, it’s evident that Ohtani’s contributions on both the pitching mound and at the plate make him a valuable asset to any team, irrespective of their win-loss record.
Blaming Ohtani for the Angels’ struggles seems unjust when the real issue lies with owner Arte Moreno’s approach to roster construction and financial constraints. Many view Smith’s comments as a strategic move to generate higher ratings from die-hard baseball fans, rather than an accurate reflection of his true beliefs about Ohtani.
“When you look at the Dodgers, the Braves and various other teams, you don’t have anyone there making half a billion dollars. There’s a bunch of empty seats that I see when Shohei Ohtani’s pitching, let alone hitting when the Angels come to town. You’re not filling anything, you’re not winning. I’m not giving up that kind of money to him. You don’t need it. If I’m winning without paying somebody a half billion dollars, why would I go and pay him especially if you can’t pitch until 2025.”
The consensus among baseball enthusiasts is that Ohtani’s unique abilities are worth every penny, making him a rare “unicorn” in the sport. Whether it’s the Dodgers or the Braves, teams across the league should be willing to write a blank check for a talent as exceptional as Ohtani, acknowledging his incredible impact on the game.