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An open letter to Shohei Ohtani

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We could have been great together, but we’ll be great anyway.

Japan v Netherlands - International Friendly Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Ohtani,

I hope this letter finds you well, though it’s not an easy one to write.

You see, this letter is written with a heavy hand and a heavier heart. We here in New York are still reeling from the shock of the Yankees not being able to make an in-person presentation to you and the members of your camp. We know that you have a lot of clubs after you, so we tempered our expectations a bit. Not being able to participate, though, is a tough pill to swallow.

We’re not used to rejection. Not public rejection on this scale, at least. Usually by utterance of the name Yankees alone, we’re in the door to the most exclusive clubs the sport has to offer. So, you’ll have to excuse what’s coming to you in the future: a lot of boos.

It’s not the most mature way to handle a break-up—especially when we weren’t technically together—but we were never really taught the last three stages of grief. We have denial, which comes in the form of a constant refreshing of Twitter feeds for the correction that the Yankees are still actually in the running.

We also have have anger, which will be on full display should you choose a team that visits the Bronx. That’s it. Don’t take it personally, though. You’re not the first to be booed in the hallowed halls of Yankee Stadium. You certainly also won’t be the last.

The reason for this letter is really to ask you a simple question: Why not the Yankees? Yes, you want a West Coast team. Yes, you want a “smaller market” (congrats, Dodgers?). Looking over your memo to the teams of Major League Baseball, though, is a bit of a head scratcher. The Yankees have everything you are looking for in an organization.

As evidenced by the 2017 season, the Yankees are far ahead of schedule on their program rebuild. They’re legitimate World Series contenders heading into 2018. The team has state of the art facilities. The player development at all levels has launched a young, endlessly talented team prepared to win now and for years to come. And culture assimilation? It’s NEW YORK CITY. We’re not called a melting pot because we like fondue.

More importantly was the question of where you will fit into the organization. In 2017, the Yankees were one elite arm and one productive designated hitter away from domination. The pitching was outstanding in the playoffs — and you’d really have to reach to complain about the offense — but you could’ve been the last piece of the puzzle entering 2018. We could have had it all, Shohei. It could have been us.

Maybe you want to be a star, a big fish in a little pond. Wouldn’t you rather win multiple World Series rings on the biggest stage, one that has crafted its image around the cultivation of star power? The fish in the little pond only get so big. The fish in the big pond can grow to 6’7” and weigh 282 pounds.

There’s no use in talking about what could have been, I suppose. Those images of you teeing off on fastballs deep into the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium are dust in the wind. The same goes for the echoing sounds of “SHO-HEI” before a big playoff game. I’ll try to not think about the laughs we could have shared or the ones we already have, like when you told the Red Sox they were out of the running—classic. Your mind is made up and we’ll have to live with that.

It’s not lip service to say that I hope you’ll be happy where you end up. Whether it’s with the Angels, Cubs, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Rangers, or Dodgers, I wish you the best. Hurt as I am, I can say that because I know the Yankees will be just fine. In fact, “fine” is a drastic undersell. They’re going to be phenomenal.

Losing you opens the door for the Yankees to bring back “The Stopper”, CC Sabathia. As great as you’ll undoubtedly be, Mr. Ohtani, seeing CC on the mound for a big game is as comforting a feeling as there is in October. As for the Yankees’ offense, ranking near the top in almost all major offensive categories in 2017 is a good sign for 2018. The DH position will figure itself out between Brian Cashman’s ninja-like prowess and the glut of talent in both the infield and outfield.

So, we bid you farewell, Shohei Ohtani. It could have been fun, but there’s nothing about 2018 that’s worrisome for the Yankees. I’m sure you know what you’re doing and you’ll figure out the spot you think is best. One thing I know for sure, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Wishing you the best when you’re not playing the Yankees,

Kenny Crocker