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MLB Thursday review: Ohtani in MVP form

It’s been an exciting week around Major League Baseball and as we close in on the All-Star break, each winning, or losing, streak seems to have a more profound bearing on the season.

The storylines that begin to develop around this time of the season often have an impact heading into October, and here are a few that it may pay to be aware of. 

Dodgers beat White Sox in extras

The Los Angeles Dodgers have the fifth-largest payroll in the league, spending over $227 million on their players. 

Naturally, with an investment of this size, making the playoffs can seem like a forgone conclusion; however, that’s not how things have shook out so far. 

The Dodgers currently sit two games back from the Arizona Diamondbacks – who rank below the league average in payroll – for the NL West lead. 

They’re still in the running, for sure, but it’s definitely not what the Dodgers’ front office (or fanbase) imagined heading into 2023.

However, after a rough stretch of games, the Dodgers are taking steps in the right direction. 

On Thursday, they used some extra-inning heroics to take down the Chicago White Sox, which was especially important since the Diamondbacks lost to the Phillies. 

The Dodgers’ bullpen did the heavy lifting for the pitching staff in the win, going a combined six shutout innings, surrendering just one hit and two walks and striking out nine. 

One of the Dodgers’ biggest investments – first baseman Freddie Freeman – also came through for Los Angeles, knocking in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning. 

Ohtani stays hot in search of AL MVP

If you were to poll 100 baseball fans heading into the season, it’s likely that at least 90 of them would have predicted that the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani would win the AL MVP. 

He’s doing everything he can to prove those believers right, as he’s been on an otherworldly tear recently, bringing his overall slash line to .301/.382/.620 with a league-leading 22 HR, 54 RBI and 10 SB. 

That would be an MVP-caliber line, even for a position-only player; however, Ohtani hasn’t taken his foot off the gas on the mound either. 

In a year where solid, consistent pitching has seemingly vanished, Ohtani has gone against the grain with a 6-2 record, 3.29 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 105/35 K/BB through 82 innings. 

Over his last seven games, Ohtani has hit six of his 22 home runs on the year. 

While he’s not going to match that pace over the full season, we could be looking at a 40+ HR, .300+ average, 100+ RBI, 20+ SB offensive season to pair with 15+ wins, a low-3.00 ERA and over 200 strikeouts. 

If Ohtani stays healthy, he’s on pace for yet another historic season, and is a near-lock for the AL MVP. 

A’s complete successful “reverse boycott”

One off-field storyline that has taken the baseball world by storm has been the Oakland Athletics, their potential move to Las Vegas and the ongoing rivalry between the Oakland front office and the fanbase. 

In what seemed to be a last-ditch effort to change owner John Fisher’s mind and to prove that the Oakland market has the ability to draw sizable attendance numbers, fans across the Bay Area organized a unique protest: a “reverse boycott”. 

This protest involved the exact opposite concept of most protests: the fans planned to sell-out the Coliseum – against a small-market Tampa Bay team at that – to illustrate to ownership that this season’s lack of attendance is a reflection of Fisher’s incompetence and failure to adequately support the team, rather than non-interest. 

The protest went well: Oakland drew a huge crowd of 27,759, more than triple their average home attendance of 8,555.

About 7,000 of those fans were adorned in green “SELL” t-shirts, which made clear the crowd’s demand: for Fisher to abandon the planned Las Vegas relocation and sell the team to an owner who would invest in Oakland.

Whether this “reverse boycott” works in the long run remains to be seen; however, the Nevada senate voted – ironically, on the same day as the protest – to provide Fisher and the A’s ownership with a relocation package for the team to move to Las Vegas and build a $1.2 billion stadium on the Las Vegas strip. 

In this way, it seems the A’s move to Vegas is solidified, and that the “reverse boycott” will serve instead as a bit of a last-hoorah for a fan base that has been treated as poorly as any in professional sports since Fisher took over.

Oakland mayor Sheng Thao says that the city of Oakland and the A’s were just days away from agreeing to a massive $12-18 billion package that would have provided them ample funds to build a new stadium on the Oakland waterfront. 

She now believes that this interest, at least on the A’s side, was feigned in order to use the offer as a negotiating tool with the Nevada senate. 

This perhaps proves what A’s fans have known all along – the A’s were never going to stay in Oakland.

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