Who knows what free agent Shohei Ohtani, possibly the first impact two-way player since Babe Ruth, is going to deem a dealmaker, or deal-breaker? Answer: Hardly anyone. But I hereby grant permission for Mariner fans to get cautiously optimistic. Emphasis on the “cautiously.”
Everyone loves a good mystery, and everyone needs a beacon of hope to rally around, which is why the Shohei Ohtani saga is the Hot Stove obsession of the century.
No one knows how good this guy is really going to be, and no one has a royal clue what he’s looking for in his search for a new ballclub in MLB to play for. And yet seven fan bases have convinced themselves that landing Ohtani is going to transform their franchises.
The Mariners are one of the lucky ones, having made Ohtani’s first cutdown. In fact, the two sides had a meeting Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to a baseball source cited by Times reporter Ryan Divish. But anyone who tells you they have much inside information about this whole process is lying, because Ohtani’s people aren’t talking and the negotiations are so delicate that the teams themselves have gone into radio silence. Even loquacious Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is clamming up for now.
But I hereby grant permission for Mariner fans to get cautiously optimistic. Emphasis on the “cautiously,” because, again, it’s all hunches and supposition at this point. For instance, just three days ago, a lot of informed baseball people had a strong hunch that Ohtani would end up with the Yankees. They didn’t even make the first cut. Neither did the Red Sox, or any team east of the Mississippi besides the Cubs.
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If you look at the Magnificent Seven — the Mariners, Angels and Rangers from the American League, and the Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Cubs from the National League — you can see the vague outline of Ohtani’s wish list.
All seven teams train in Arizona. Ohtani’s Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, have a working agreement with the Padres and have trained the past two springs at the Peoria Sports Complex. Yes, the same Peoria Sports Complex the Padres share with the Mariners. So he has a comfort level with the place he would call home during those vital first six weeks assimilating to his new ballclub.
Five of the seven are from the West Coast. The exceptions are the Cubs and Rangers, both of whom have other benefits to…