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The dumb, ridiculous, silly Shohei Ohtani Friday free agent frenzy

The Japanese star still hasn’t signed, and several national writers looked really bad chasing a story.

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Nine years ago Buck Showalter, then managing the Baltimore Orioles, gave a wide-ranging interview to David Laurila of Fangraphs. Among the things he said to Laurila was:

What is it about our sports world, and society in general, that wants to know about something before it happens? I’m OK knowing about it when it happens.

I tend to agree with Showalter’s statement. Indeed, what is it about sports that makes fans and reporters go:

The Shohei Ohtani frenzy began at the Winter Meetings, National reporters were apparently unhappy that Ohtani didn’t give them a story in Nashville, as if they were entitled to one. Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic called the meetings “boring”:

The 2023 “Shohei Delay” edition, on the other hand, is a colossal bore, a detriment to a sport that should be generating worldwide attention with the shock-and-awe signing of the game’s biggest star. Instead, virtually the entire industry is on hold, waiting for the sphinx-like Ohtani to choose his next team and — be still my beating heart — perhaps even offer public comments for the first time in months.

At some point, yes, Ohtani probably will sign a “shock-and-awe” contract. But no, Ken, you’re not entitled to have that happen just because you traveled to Nashville.

Buster Olney at ESPN.com was oh, so much worse:

Somebody should ask Shohei Ohtani a really simple question about his free agency:

What is the point of all of this secrecy?

Of course, that would imply that anyone had heard from Ohtani in the past four months. Maybe his silence is Ohtani’s choice, or maybe somebody is giving him some really awful advice. But the way this historic free agency has played out is unnecessarily joyless — and completely antithetical to the way Ohtani competes, the way he loves his craft.

Oh, please. If Ohtani wants to conduct himself this way, that is absolutely his right. And all of this appears designed by these writers because they want to be the one to break the story... like MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who set off a Friday free-for-all the likes of which we haven’t seen before:

Internet sleuths were on the job!

Sure, make of it what you will, but... that had nothing to do with Ohtani:

Then there was this:

I’d have posted the original tweet that first noted this plane on its way from Southern California to Toronto but... it was deleted.

Never mind that, our man Morosi was on it!

Remember the part of the headline to this article that read “ridiculous”? Here’s ridiculous:

You might remember when Bryce Harper named his dog Wrigley. That... didn’t make the Cubs sign him.

This all got carried to an extreme when J.P. Hoornstra of Dodgers Nation posted an article stating that Ohtani had definitely signed with the Blue Jays:

According to multiple sources who spoke with Dodgers Nation on Friday, the two-way superstar has ended the suspense of the most lucrative free-agent pursuit in baseball history. A formal announcement is expected as early as tonight.

Well, nope, J.P. Didn’t happen that way.

All of this started to fall apart late Friday afternoon, when Bob Nightengale of USA Today sent out this tweet:

Now. Nightengale has been known to get things wrong. Often. The jokes about that tweet “confirming” Ohtani would be signing with the Blue Jays started. Only:

Only... those two are also not always reliable sources. Only... this time they turned out to be 100 percent accurate. The private jet traveling to Toronto did not contain Shohei Ohtani or anyone connected to him, though when the plane landed, ground control at Pearson Airport in Toronto had some fun:

Instead of Ohtani, this is who was on the plane:

Robert Herjavec... if that name sounds familiar to you, he’s one of the wealthy people on the TV show “Shark Tank.” You’d think this couldn’t get sillier. But thanks to Herjavec, it did!

Good for Herjavec for having a sense of humor about all of this.

For everyone who believed Morosi’s original tweet, or this one:

... shame on you. Here are two people who understand that this sort of thing is damaging to baseball reporting and the sport in general:

Aram Leighton is a former SB Nation writer who worked at Fish Stripes and now runs a site called Just Baseball. Also:

Keegan Matheson is the Blue Jays MLB.com beat writer.

The best summation of the day:

At the end of the day (literally), Jon Morosi issued an apology:

So. Was all of this fun? In a way, I suppose. The headline reads “dumb, ridiculous, silly” and what happened Friday was all of those things, too. I’d like to hope that what happened Friday would make MLB reporters a little more circumspect about their speculation and wait for actual events to happen before they breathlessly tweet, or complain. Notably, Rosenthal, who wrote the article complaining about the lack of action at the Winter Meetings, was silent Friday on Ohtani. So, too, was ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who is often quite reliable about reporting breaking news about signings or trades.

Eventually, Shohei Ohtani will sign with a MLB team. Perhaps it’ll even be the Cubs, as they have not been ruled out yet — nor have any of the other teams previously reported as having interest or even teams having made public statements about meeting with him, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did in Nashville — to the consternation of Dodgers executive Andrew Friedman:

To wrap all this up in a neat little bow, I’ll pivot back to Buck Showalter’s words from 2014:

What is it about our sports world, and society in general, that wants to know about something before it happens? I’m OK knowing about it when it happens.

Let’s all be that way, especially about Shohei Ohtani. As always, we await developments.