It’s not just about next season. It’s about city history and team legacy.
Ohtani and the Dodgers.
So now that Shohei Ohtani | 大谷翔平 is a Los Angeles Dodger, every baseball analyst is going to wonder what happens next. And they will likely say that if the Dodgers don’t win the World Series in 2024, the trade is a bust.
Because unless Ohtani himself is a bust, which is highly unlikely, he’s going to be around for years to come, have some memorable if not spectacular seasons and maybe win a few pennants or World Series. And he could one day be remembered as one of the greatest players to put on a Dodger uniform.
And even if the Dodgers DON’T win the World Series in ’24—which is, of course, their goal—Dodger fans will embrace him and love him and cheer for him.
Dodger fans don’t turn against their heroes. It pains them when Clayton Kershaw doesn’t pitch his best at the most important times, but they don’t turn against him. Management knows this about the fans. They don’t sign players if they aren’t a good fit for the team and the fans, and they’ll send them packing if they’re not.
Dodger fans love their team and their players. The Dodger owners, especially now, know that if they continue to put a good team together of star players and new players, the fans will come.
As they always have. That’s a fact.
@shoheiohtani: To the next chapter..
Here’s a closer look at why Ohtani and the Dodgers are meant for each other.
He’s moved from a losing culture to a winning culture.
Ohtani played six seasons with the Angels. Six. That time has gone by fast. During those seasons, the Angels never made it to the playoffs. Not once.
Up the freeway some 32 miles, the Dodgers have made it to the playoffs the past 10 years. They’ve won their Division 10 out of the last 11 seasons. They made it to the World Series in 2017 (where they lost to the infamous Astros), and in 2018 but lost to the Red Sox, and then won in 2020, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers have a winning culture, a winning history, and have made their mark on baseball history. That’s perhaps the biggest reason Ohtani signed with the Dodgers: to be part of a winning culture now with a history of winning—not just a team that’s on a hot streak.
He’s a superstar on a team and in a town that has (and has had) plenty of them.
One online baseball writer said that this is the most historic signing by the Dodgers ever. If you’re talking about signing a superstar, yes. If you’re talking about signing a player who changed baseball, no. Jackie Robinson changed the game of baseball as perhaps no other player could. Fernando Valenzuela likewise opened the door for Latino ballplayers when he helped the Dodgers win the World Series in his rookie season.
The fact is, the Dodgers have had some of the greatest players ever to play, and many of the most recognizable names: Snider, Robinson, Reese, Drysdale, Koufax, Hodges, Campanella, Piazza, Gibson, Hershiser. And now Kershaw and Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. On the mound, stealing bases, position players and at the plate, the Dodgers have fielded many players who are household names in baseball. That remains part of their legacy and always will.
He’s a superstar in a city that has plenty of them.
Anaheim, mostly famous for Disneyland and Mickey Mouse, may be in Southern California, but it is far from the bright lights of Los Angeles, which is the second biggest sports market in the nation—and home to Hollywood and celebrity.
Some writers have speculated that Ohtani, who values his privacy, might feel uncomfortable in L.A. and despise the spotlight. However, winning cures all of that. More than that, the team will do all it can to give him the environment he needs to thrive in and succeed.
The Los Angeles Lakers play just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium, and their history is similar. They moved to Los Angeles in 1960, just three years after the Dodgers. The Dodgers battled the Yankees for the World Series in Brooklyn, while the Minneapolis Lakers had to deal with the Celtics. Today, the Lakers are perhaps one of the biggest sports brands in the world. They’ve had more than a handful of superstars acquired from other teams who changed the franchise, including Wilt Chamberlin, Shaquille O’Neill, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and LeBron James.
Finally, as part of their face-to-face pitch, the Dodgers showed Ohtani a video clip of the late Kobe Bryant, that was recorded when Ohtani was deciding on a team six years ago. Unfortunately, Ohtani never saw it the first time because he signed with the Angels. But this time around, according to ESPN reporter Jeff Passan, the Dodgers used the one-minute video of the late superstar.
Speaking to Ohtani in the video clip, Bryant says that Los Angeles is the City of Champions and the best place to win one. Passan said that Ohtani seemed “awestruck” when he heard Kobe say his name. “This was one of the highlights of the meeting,” Ohtani said later, saying it was a “strong and touching message” from the late Laker superstar.
He’s a Japanese superstar in a city that has a huge Japanese population.
Second only to Honolulu, Los Angeles has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. That number doesn’t include subsequent generations of Japanese Americans. He’ll have plenty of reporters and friends to converse with in his native language, and even Manager Dave Roberts is half-Japanese.
For certain, he also knows that the Dodgers signed Hideo Nomo, a Japanese pitcher who was the Rookie of the Year and pitched a no-hitter with the team.
You have to feel bad for Ohtani the athlete, having spent six seasons with the underperforming Los Angeles Angels. Finally, those days are over. He’ll be just one of the stars on a team that will feature a strong lineup.
Best of all, Ohtani won’t have to relocate—he can choose to stay put in his Orange County home.
The Dodgers don’t need Ohtani to fill the seats at Dodger Stadium. They lead the Majors in attendance virtually every year. They don’t even need him to turn them into a winning team. But he could be the missing piece to their next World Series appearance and win.
Ohtani doesn’t need the Dodgers’ money. He’s already wealthy and will probably make even more in endorsements moving ahead. And he doesn’t need the Dodgers to make him famous. He’s there already.
But he does need them if he wants to be on a bona fide winning team. One that will be fighting for the Championship for the rest of his playing career.
That’s why Ohtani’s choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers makes perfect sense.
Resources: mlb.com/news/why-dodgers-should-sign-shohei-ohtani; usatoday.com/story/ohtani-dodgers-introduction; foxsports.com/shohei-ohtani-and-the-dodgers-are-an-ideal-match; baseball-reference.com/LosAngelesDodgers; Wikipedia.org; ktla.com/dodgers/Ohtani; AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb