Angels can’t let Shohei Ohtani make history with another team

Phil Nevin, the Angels interim manager, grew up in the shadow of the Big A. His father took him to see Nolan Ryan on the lawn.

“I haven’t been to any of his no-hitters,” Nevin said.

Think about it. The first thing Nevin said was that something remarkable didn’t happen because he and his father came to see a player so special that every time he stepped onto the field something remarkable could happen.

Who else can you say that about?

Shohei Ohtani, who almost threw a no-hitter himself on Thursday night.

“They expect something like that to happen every time he steps on the field,” Nevin said, “whether it’s in the box or pitching.”

Ryan could do magic every fourth day. Ohtani can cast magic every day.

“He gets two hits and almost throws a no-hitter? You never see that,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Ohtani is the greatest sho in baseball.

Why else would the Angels, 32 games behind first place, have sold more than 31,000 tickets to a game against the 100-lost Oakland Athletics? On the previous two nights against the A’s, the Angels sold 19,000 tickets one night and 24,000 the other.

At the final homestand of the Angels season, these words were regularly emblazoned on the outfield wall in bright yellow letters: 3 MILLION FANS. Not this year. The Angels aren’t even up to speed for 2.5 million this season.

They have sold less than 23,000 tickets for 19 games. In 2018 they have never sold so few tickets for a game.

Fans take photos of Shohei Ohtani as he waits to bat in Anaheim on Thursday.

Fans take photos of Shohei Ohtani as he waits to bat in Anaheim on Thursday.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Ohtani sold that many tickets for all of his Anaheim pitching starts except for one game that started at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. And of those 14 pitching starts, all but two came in midweek games. Until September, the Angels never played their train card on a weekend.

In his post-match press conference, Nevin called Ohtani “in a way invincible”.

Said Nevin, “The greatest pitchers of all time — and I’m already counting him in that category — some of them never threw a no-hitter.”

Thursday’s start was Ohtani’s last appearance at Angel Stadium this season. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning before giving up a single with two outs. A no-hitter for Ohtani seems more a matter of when, not if. It would be a shame if he threw a no-hitter in another team’s uniform next season.

The Angels are up for sale and whether a new owner can convince Ohtani to stay beyond next season is a very open question. But baseball is an entertainment business, and nothing could damage the Angels’ brand more this winter than trading their most sensational player.

Could the Angels use an infusion of prospects? Secure. Would they get maximum value for a player for a year from free agency? Of course not. (See: Betts, Mookie.)

Should they trade in the player that offers fans the chance to watch something they’ve never seen before every night? Of course not. This is entertainment, not money management, and the Boston Red Sox will forever be known as a team that willingly brought a star under their sway. (See: Betts, Mookie and Ruth, Babe.)

A fan holds up a sign as Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani takes on the Oakland Athletics Thursday.

A fan holds up a sign as Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani takes on the Oakland Athletics Thursday.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

This dismal season was lifted from its misery in less than a week, and yet there was joy in the stadium, in “MVP” chants for Ohtani and in the fan holding up a sign that read: “GREATEST SEASON EVER!!!”

Three exclamation marks!

The angels have been here before.

Ryan had thrown four no-hitters for the Angels and started the first postseason game in club history in 1979. After a 16–14 season, general manager Buzzie Bavasi let him go in free agency, with a quote that has haunted the franchise five decades later.

How, Bavasi was asked, would the Angels replace Ryan?

“You mean where can I find two 8-7 pitchers?” said Bavasi.

Ryan signed with the Houston Astros, then a member of the National League. There was no interleague game, so Ryan didn’t play again at Anaheim Stadium until 1989 after signing with the Texas Rangers.

He was 42. He threw a shutout, gave up three hits and knocked out 12, to the delight of the home crowd. As Joni Mitchell sang: Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

Once the Seattle Mariners earn their wildcard spot, no team in the American League will go longer without an appearance in the postseason than the Angels. Give the long-suffering fans what they want: Ohtani 2023, because they know exactly what they’ve got. No need to rush the “until it’s gone” part. Angels can’t let Shohei Ohtani make history with another team

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