Quick Bit: The trade deadline has come and gone, and Shohei Ohtani is still with the Angels. That’s incredibly disappointing.

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The trade deadline has come and gone, and Shohei Ohtani is still with the Angels.

That’s not surprising, of course. There was never any real reason to expect that he’d be traded to a contending team, despite that he’s set to become a free agent after the 2023 season, and seems unlikely to sign an extension to remain with a team that hasn’t sniffed a playoff berth in his time with the franchise, and seems as far away as ever at the moment. There were never any reports that the Angels wanted to move him, only reports that other teams asked about him and that GM Perry Minasian did his due diligence and listened.

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And I’m happy for Angels fans. They get to watch baseball’s most unique superstar wear their favorite team’s uniform and they’ll get to see him rack up strikeouts as the team’s ace and home runs as the team’s best hitter in Anaheim for at least the next couple of months.

For the sport as a whole, though, honestly, it’s incredibly disappointing.

Another year will pass without baseball’s brightest star playing in the sport’s biggest spotlight. We’ve spent the past several years bemoaning that the Angels have wasted Mike Trout’s prime years as non-contenders, but at least he had one trip to October. Sure, it was only his third full season and he was only 23 years old, but at least he made it. How bad have the Angels been as a franchise that a three-game ALDS sweep by the Royals in 2014 makes fans get all wistful for the good ol’ days?

Ohtani hasn’t even come close to the postseason. Well, the Angels kind of came close in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when eight teams made the playoffs and the Angels’ 26-34 record left them “only” three games out of the final AL spot. Other than that, they missed a wild-card berth by 18 games in 2018, by 24 games in 2019 and 14 games in 2021.

Ohtani should be the headline act at Baseballpalooza, but instead he’s spent his career playing B and C stages. And, though it’s no fault of his, that almost has relegated Ohtani’s incredible career and once-in-a-century talent to sideshow status.

The Astros are one of baseball’s elite teams in 2022. In Ohtani’s final pre-All-Star break start on the mound, on July 13, he dominated Houston hitters. He pitched six innings, struck out 12 Astros and allowed just four hits and one run. At the plate, he went 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, two RBIs and a run scored.

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We’ve almost become numb to games like this from Ohtani. On one hand, that speaks to his greatness, that performances like that are almost expected. But on the other hand, it speaks to the low-stakes impact of Angels games that performances like that are basically footnotes.

I want you to imagine, for a moment, Shohei Ohtani starting Game 1 of the ALCS and striking out 12 Astros hitters, while going 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs. And then following that up with a home run in Game 2, two more hits in Games 3 and 4 and then starting again in Game 5.

Imagine how we would view Ohtani in games that matter in October, instead of the side stages in Anaheim in July. Even the All-Star Game spotlight, which is fun, is still just an exhibition. In October, we would finally see his true value as a baseball player. We would see why teams would have opened up the prospect coffers for the Angels to raid this week, in an effort to get two postseason runs from the player who was perfectly built for October.

Think about what helps teams win games in the postseason: Pitchers who miss bats and sluggers who hit home runs. Few people do either thing better than Ohtani; imagine what teams would pay to have one player who does both!

October is where legends are born. Ask Madison Bumgarner. Ask Jorge Soler. Now, imagine Madison Soler on the World Series stage.

So when will it happen? When will we finally see Ohtani in October games that matter?

Probably October 2024, after he signs elsewhere as a free agent. The Angels didn’t trade him now, and they’re probably not going to trade him in the offseason. How can you deal a player like Ohtani? Theoretically, maybe the Nationals trading Juan Soto makes it easier, but how many times have you heard that Angels owner Arte Moreno likes shiny things?

Doesn’t it seem feasible — realistic, even — that the Angels hold onto him for as long as they possibly can, hoping against hope that he’ll sign a long-term deal to stay? Soto might be the best hitter in baseball, but Ohtani is the best overall player and the biggest attraction, the biggest money-maker. It’s not possible to get back the type of marketable players the Angels would be trading away in any Ohtani deal.

But Ohtani has consistently said two things during his time with the Angels: He loves the franchise and he wants to win baseball games. You’d better believe that the former doesn’t overrule the latter.

He was asked about it recently. From the Los Angeles Times:

“I really like the team. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere of the team. But, more than that, I want to win. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll leave it at that.”

And there it is. “More than that, I want to win.”

I’m really looking forward to October 2024, folks.

Originally found on Sporting News Read More

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