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The Moonshot: Shohei Ohtani is baseball's best problem

Fansided 9/20/2022

Well, we believe in exit velocity, bat flips, launch angles, stealing home, the hanging curveball, Big League Chew, sausage races, and that unwritten rules of any kind are self-indulgent, overrated crap. We believe Greg Maddux was an actual wizard. We believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment protecting minor league baseball and that pitch framing is both an art and a science. We believe in the sweet spot, making WARP not war, letting your closer chase a two-inning save, and we believe love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.

Welcome to The Moonshot.

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Shohei Ohtani is baseball's best problem

In Rogers and Hammerstein's iconic musical, The Sound of Music, Maria is a nun clearly meant for a different life. Instead of doing her religious duties, she's always singing, dancing, and climbing every mountain. Her fellow nuns lament, "How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?"

On occasion, the song echoes in my head when I watch Shohei Ohtani, a player in a class of his own.

More than Babe Ruth or any other player in Major League Baseball history, Ohtani is a true two-way player. He pitches, hits, and even plays the outfield on occasion.

Living in the time of Ohtani is a blessing. The only problem (to borrow a word from the song) with the greatness we're witnessing is that, like Maria, it sets him so far apart from his fellows. What he does on the mound and at the plate is beyond compare, so how can we possibly compare?

That is the conundrum in this year's American League MVP award debate. There must be one player more valuable than the rest, but the top contenders are so different. Is it Ohtani, who continues to do what no one else can, or is it Yankees star Aaron Judge, the towering slugger who stands on the precipice of breaking Roger Maris' home-run record?

Ohtani has hit 34 home runs and posted a 2.43 ERA over 25 starts, even better pitching numbers than last year, when he won his first Silver Slugger and was unanimously voted American League MVP. But Judge leads MLB with 122 runs scored, 59 home runs, and 127 RBI, as well as in on-base and slugging percentages, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. Two home runs would tie Maris, a third would set a new AL home-run record.

Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

Every year that Ohtani is a great pitcher and hitter, the argument can and will be made that he's the MVP because he's the only man in the league who brings value to his team at both positions. But the other side of that argument is that it thereby faults any player who doesn't pitch and hit, which is an unfair standard. But if Ohtani is having an incredible season and doesn't win the award because he's too unlike other players to compare, then he's being punished for standing out from the crowd. It's somehow a win-win and lose-lose situation.

MLB could always implement some sort of Shohei Ohtani Award, but it would lose meaning pretty quickly if he's the only one who qualifies for it.

How do you measure the only two-way player against every other? You really can't.

But what a great, unsolvable problem to have.

— Gabrielle Starr

The next great MLB fan community is already here

From the brilliant, dueling minds behind Red Sox Nation and Yankees Universe, comes:

Dodgers Nebula: Not so much a fan club, but a helpful reminder of what the Dodgers own.

Cardinals Crusaders: Do you have a few minutes to talk about our Lord and Savior Albert Pujols? Ahh, I get it. We were young once. Watchin' baseball with the hits and the errors and whatnot. But have you seen Ryan Helsley's closer entrance? Heck's Bells, yeah. He's pretty impressive, but you know who's got the all-time record for saves? We'll give you one guess.

Blue Jays Border Patrol: From Manitoba to London (not that one!), Blue Jays fans must band together to make sure three or four rival players from every team don't enter the country.

Tropicana Field Truthers: Sign up, and your first 25 Rays tickets are on the house. Free of charge. OK, first 30. First 50? Come to the baseball game sometime please on purpose.

Royal Rooters: Wherever we go, whatever we do, we're Kansas City Royals proud, through and thr–oh, look, the Chiefs game's on.

Mariners Marinarmy: And whenever we break our playoff drought, we're gonna reach out to Red Sox Nation, see how they dealt with having their entire baseball identity shattered. Maybe some pink Mariners hats? Just a thought.

Guardians of the Galaxy: There are hundreds of raccoons in Cleveland, and they do NOT talk. But they do scatter when you play "Slow Ride" at full volume.

Mets Universe: The Mets have a Universe now. Uncle Steve demanded it.

— Adam Weinrib

Money Mike is sawry, not sawry about being 100 percent ATL for the Atlanta Braves

There was a precise moment when everything changed for the better for the Atlanta Braves this season.

The defending World Series champions had themselves a bit of a wake-up call in The Valley of the Sun. Amid the cacophony of Sal Licata barfing into his microphone to prematurely say "so sorry, it's over", it was only fitting that Michael Harris II decided he was sawry, not sawry.

Money Mike took over the starting centerfield role that everybody and their brother thought would belong to Cristian Pache for the foreseeable future. The Stockbridge native decided he was going to be his generation's Andruw Jones in center for the Braves instead.

The man never played an inning of Triple-A baseball, yet he never felt the big-league stage was too big for him. Along with Spencer Strider and fellow troublemaker Vaughn Grissom, these Braves rookies remind us all of the 2005 Baby Braves that prominently featured Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann.

As Harris creeps one game closer to winning NL Rookie of the Year, unless Strider throws a no-hitter and somehow overtakes him, the Braves are in a fantastic position heading into October, regardless of if they win the NL East for the fifth year in a row or not.

As an ATLien myself, I know what type of dynamic player translates on the field of play here and into the hearts of the southeastern metropolis' faithful. You have to be good, and you have to be cocky. Dripping with swag, Harris is everything that makes Atlanta … ATL.

Where it is different from say, Trae Young, Josef Martinez and even his outfield teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. is that he grew up here. The dude knows what's up. Winning in front of this crowd hits differently when you used to watch games at the Ted, the Dome or the Highlight Factory as a kid.

There will come a moment in October where Atlanta is going to need to count on its rookie sensation at the plate, or in the field, and that man will deliver! That is who Money Mike is! He doesn't care that you don't think he's supposed to be here. Well, he is, unapologetically. A true ATLien at his core.

The cooking always tastes better when the ingredients are homegrown anyway.

— John Buhler

3 stories from around the MLB Division you need to read

The Tigers got a front-office executive everyone is excited about. Aaron Judge has Roger Maris on his mind. And Framber Valdez is making history of his own. Here are three stories from around the MLB Division this week that you need to read.

Detroit Tigers: 3 reasons to be excited about the Scott Harris hiring — The Tigers surprised everyone on Monday with the announcement they'd hired Giants GM Scott Harris to be their president of baseball operations. Immediately the accolades began pouring in from his colleagues and media members. At Motor City Bengals, Tyler Kotila breaks down why this should be exciting news for fans.

3 wild achievements still within Aaron Judge's reach during historic Yankees season — Aaron Judge hit two more home runs Sunday to raise his total to 59 for the season. He's not just two shy of Roger Maris' AL record. But did you know a Triple Crown isn't outside the realm of possibilities still? Yanks Go Yard's Thomas Carannante breaks down the mind-boggling achievements Judge can still reach this year.

Astros' Framber Valdez throws record 25 consecutive quality starts — Astros starter Framber Valdez set a single-seasno record when he surpassed the 24 quality starts Jacob deGrom had for the Mets in 2018. But there's another record on the table: the most consecutive quality starts ever. Climbing Tal's Hill's Joe Fernandez details the elie company Valdez has just joined.

— Kurt Mensching

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