We Were Ohtani-ed!


The Astros got the full Shohei Ohtani experience Wednesday night. He walked and scored leading off the first then doubled in two runs when he came up again. Then he went to the mound and threw five perfect innings, leaving after 6 innings of one-hit ball with 12 strikeouts.

National headlines, again, for Ohtani, last year's American League MVP. The comparisons to Babe Ruth quivered across the media and burned up Twitter. Ruth was the best left-handed starting pitcher in the American League before he moved to the field full-time and became, well, Ruthian. A few more astute baseball writers compared Ohtani with the great Negro League two-way players Ted Radcliffe, Bullet Joe Rogan, Leon Day, and Martin Dihigo.

Just over 23,000 men have played in the MLB and Negro Leagues over the 146 years professional baseball has been around. Less than a dozen of them were two-way players. Does that mean that over all those decades no one else was capable of pulling it off? Of course not – recently departed Astro pitcher Zack Greinke, on course for the Hall of Fame, was an excellent hitter and won multiple Gold Gloves (should he have been pulled from Game 4 while throwing BBs at the Braves? Discuss).

Every year we hear about the great college pitcher-shortstop-outfielder drafted in the first round. But that’s it, he’s quickly made a full-time pitcher or infielder or . . .

Why is that?

Because baseball dogma says so. Shohei Ohtani was a two-way star in Japan, when he signed with the Angels it was in his contract that he would pitch and play the outfield. The Angels agreed to that, but they didn’t agree to how often they’d allow him to pitch. Which was not much. It was a moot point in 2019 when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Baseball people and the media shouted, “See what happens, now he’ll just hit – like he should have been doing all along.”

Dogma would have won out, the world would have been denied one of the great baseball stories of all time in 2021, and the Astros would have gotten a chance to beat up on one of the Angels anemic starters if it wasn’t for Joe Madden.

Joe Madden is the Angels manager. Whatever the opposite of dogmatic is, that’s Joe Madden. Last season, Madden decided that his second-best hitter and best pitcher should be on the field as often as possible. Baseball shook its collective heads. The result was an historic MVP performance.

We’re writing about this because, you may have guessed, dogma is just as prevalent in the practice of law as it is in the MLB. “That’s the way cases like this are handled because . . .” is dogma and very much exists.

The good firms aren’t bound by dogma. We’re always looking – not waiting - for an Ohtani: the fact, issue, thing that separates a case from the thousands ‘just like it’ that came before.