On Friday night, Shohei Ohtani — the Los Angeles Angels' two-way megastar and likely 2023 AL MVP — emptied his locker and left the team without any explanation.
While the confusing situation has since been (somewhat) explained, and Ohtani was seen back coaching fellow Angels players in the dugout on Saturday, his emptied locker still feels like a sign of things to come.
The explanation for Ohtani's absence starts on Friday afternoon. As Fox Sports reported, Ohtani received an MRI report at around 4 pm PT on Friday, which confirmed that his injured oblique — which has kept him out of action since September 3rd — is still some time away from being fully healed. This news apparently prompted Ohtani to deem his 2023 campaign as finished, shift his focus toward the future, and address the UCL tear in his elbow, which has prevented him from pitching since late August 23. So he picked his things and left.
On Saturday, the Angels announced that Ohtani had been placed on the injured list due to an oblique injury, and that he would miss the rest of the 2023 season. When asked about Ohtani's emptied locker, Angels GM Perry Minasian told Fox Sports that it was a matter of miscommunication. "He thought there was a possibility for a [UCL] procedure [Saturday]," Minasian said. "That's why he packed. It's nothing malicious. There's no story there. It's just he's so focused on, 'The season's over, I have to get ready for '24,' and that was what his mindset was."
That "explanation" sounds like a cover up to me. Yet, because Ohtani is already back with the team — and because we'll never receive the real story — we must take Minasian's words at face value.
Regardless of why Ohtani packed his locker and left Angels stadium on Friday night, his sudden absence feels like confirmation that we've seen the last of Shohei Ohtani in an Angels uniform.
The underwhelming Angels are going to miss the MLB playoffs for the ninth straight season, their farm system (each MLB team's set of minor league teams that develops prospects) is consistently ranked one of baseball's worst, and the team recently announced that they'd be willing to trade Mike Trout if the price is right. All of which is to say that might be another nine years (or more) before the Angels are good again.
UCL tear aside, Shohei Ohtani — who becomes a free agent this offseason — will command a lot of money in the market. While the Angels have the payroll to land him, Ohtani has also made it clear that money isn't everything for him. He also wants to win — an unlikely outcome for the Los Angeles Angels in the next few years.
Perhaps Angels fans can take solace in the, "better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all," proverb. Perhaps not.
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