Ugh. This is just so … ugh.
Earlier this offseason, the Chicago Cubs became a finalist for two-way Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, and our collective hopes – even among the more skeptical – were raised more than we’d expected was realistically possible, given the many hurdles the Cubs faced. And, then, dud: he signed with the Angels.
At the time, we knew it made some sense – AL, West Coast, DH, etc. – but it was a bummer nonetheless. And, I’m sorry to say, things might get even more disappointing for you now.
If you recall, soon after the news broke that Ohtani had signed with the Angels, news also broke that Ohtani was dealing with a UCL sprain – the sort of injury that could eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. You obviously felt bad for Ohtani – you don’t want any player to be injured – but for a brief moment, the idea of not getting him stung *just a bit* less.
But now, it seems, that injury may have been the very reason the Cubs didn’t get him in the first place.
Peter Gammons reports that “[p]eople close to Shohei Ohtani privately said that Epstein’s presentation was far and away the most compelling, and it impressed Ohtani.” So why didn’t he choose the Cubs in that case? Well, according to Gammons, “Ohtani also realized that with his elbow ailment—a Grade 1 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm—playing the outfield, swinging a bat every day and pitching had risks.” So, Ohtani ultimately decided he was better off with a team where he could DH instead of appearing in the outfield … and that was that.
So, basically, the implication here is that if Ohtani had not sprained his UCL, he would’ve been less worried about making throws from the outfield and would’ve been confident in his ability to draw at-bats in that way (as opposed to DH’ing in the AL). And since he was so impressed by the Cubs’ presentation, he very well may have chosen them in that case. But because of the injury, the NL became a riskier bet for Ohtani, and since he also liked the Angels, he went that route.
[Brett: My gut also feels punched, but is it any small consolation knowing that the front office really is as good at this stuff as we believe them to be? It was just homer-y fan imagination that the Cubs front office can sell almost anyone on almost anything. They really can! They just can’t heal elbows with their magic touch. Yet.]