There is a good argument that Shohei Ohtani’s free agency is the most consequential player decision since the end the reserve clause, i.e., the birth of modern baseball. And it’s rather open and shut.
The previous most conspicuous and hefty free agent wooing and signing of note was that of Alex Rodrìguez during the winter of 2000, a surefire inner-circle Hall of Famer (on merit) just entering his prime. Ohtani makes a mockery of it all. He is the most preposterously talented player to ever play the game, by a decent margin. Secretariat would be proud.
So here is the question: Is it possible to be better than Shohei Ohtani. While the answer is obvious literally yes, I think we’re finally scratching the ceiling of what is possible. This is something close to the form of the final, singular baseball player in its perfect naturally imperfect state.
Alright so: Red Sox? Before this episode, I thought not, but Dan’s experience watching the Ohtani documentary on Disney+ has me reconsidering. Same with my thought of Juan Soto on the Yankees. Maybe they both belong here after all?
The long and short of it is that the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry needs some new blood, and there’s ample blood to fill it full of life and ample reason to suspect that it would pay dividends for the entire sport. The single best baseball moment of 2023 was Ohtani striking out Mike Trout to end the World Baseball Classic, and even a smidgen of that added to Major League Baseball, in its most marketable rivalry, could go a long way.
The good news is that if either side acts, the other will likely respond. The Sox and Yanks are basically the same organization right now, and neither wants to be like the other, so if we can begin a tit-for-tat that ends up with the best baseball players in the world playing in the northeasternmost part of the Acela corridor everyone will win. Most importantly it would show, as the Manny Ramírez signing did that same A-Rod offseason, the Red Sox are a destination team again — and maybe, finally, destined for something other than last place.