There is absolutely no denying the impact that Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani has had on the game of baseball this season. However, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith was the center of controversy when he stated that Ohtani could not be the face of baseball due to his use of an interpreter.
This is obviously an absurd claim. Beyond the fact that sports are a global phenomenon, most of baseball’s biggest stars do not speak fluent English, and Ohtani’s use of an interpreter has not at all affected his ability to communicate and dominate at the highest level.
This was exactly the argument of L.A. Dodgers All-Star third baseman Justin Turner when discussing the comments surrounding Ohtani. He gave his thoughts on Smith and the star power of Ohtani, via the Holding Kourt Podcast with Kourtney Turner:
“It’s just ridiculous. Yes, baseball is an American pastime, but baseball is played all over the world. And this guy is the greatest baseball player on the planet, so I don’t care what language he’s speaking or if he needs an interpreter. It doesn’t matter. Worldwide, Ohtani is the face of baseball right now. And if you don’t believe me, go look at how much his All-Star Game jersey is being auctioned for. It’s $111,000, and the next closest guy is at $2,000 or $5,000, I think.
“There just was an article today. There’s a memorabilia company, Fanatics, and they said Ohtani has sold 20 times the amount of memorabilia in the last two months than any other player has. So like it’s not even a debate. It’s a world game, an international game. There’s players from all over the world and that’s growing and getting more prevalent in our game. To say that you have to speak English to be the face of the game is just ridiculous.”
Turner very strong and succinct in his defense of Ohtani, especially after seeing the pandemonium that Ohtani caused during All-Star week in Colorado. It is very clear that the Angels star is an international superstar, and the language he speaks doesn’t affect that.
Smith apologized shortly after making these comments, realizing the offensive nature of what he said.
Joe Maddon says Ohtani is clear MVP
When Joe Maddon was asked about what Ohtani has done this season, he made it very clear that Ohtani should be the AL MVP. He didn’t stop there, though, as he went on to say that the gap between Ohtani and second place is huge, and that there shouldn’t even be a debate about it.