ShoTime becomes UH OH TIME as Ohtani’s UCL Barks; Tarheels Punch First Ticket to Omaha

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday afternoon, June 9.

On a night when the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka left the game after just 5 innings with tightness in both ham strings, his  wasn’t the only news about a Japanese pitcher in distress. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, the youngest Japanese player to come here, is now on the DL with a sprain to the UCL, the vital ligament at the heart of every Tommy John surgery from the very first.

Suddenly, his interpreter has to figure out how to say “you’re facing Possible major surgery, you need to see Dr. Andrews (or another orthopedist) and “You may not pitch until 2020.”  That’s no message I’d want to deliver to anybody.

This wasn’t in the Angels’ plan.  Ohtani was supposed to be the highlight of this year’s All-Star game by doing both hitting and pitching, which no man has done in the Mid-Summer Classic.  Now he can’t and that’s the least of  his worries.

He’s a boy of 23 who will  have turned 24 by the time he is reevaluated next month. Under the old system, a player had to spend 8 years in the Japanese league before he was allowed to come here which is why Ichiro was nearly 30 before anybody in America had heard of him. Ohtani played 5 full seasons in his native land, which means he started before he had turned 19. Few if any major leaguers have done that since Alex Rodriguez, and before him Dwight Gooden.  In Japan he fired a pitch at 102 MPH.  He had a 4–1 record in our majors before the injury. Apparently he had a sprain to the elbow ligament before he arrived here but the Angels rolled the dice.

The first of 8 tickets to Omaha has been punched and it belongs to the light blue of North Carolina.  Between 2006 and 2013 the Tarheels only missed the College World Series twice-in 2010 and 2012 in spite of the tougher playoff system.  Until 1999 there were no super regionals.  If you won a regional you went straight to Omaha.  That’s how such modern baseball nonentities as Seton Hall, Maine, Fordham, St. Johns and the Citadel either got to Omaha or got within an ace of the holy of college baseball holies. In 1999 the tournament grew from 48 to 64 teams making the super regionals necessary.

The Tarheels beat Stetson 7-5 after a 7-4 win yesterday, winning the series 2 games to None.  Stetson’s Jack Perkins, a draftee by the way, was pounded by the Tarheels.  On the other side of that coin, depending where he is sent by the team that drafted him he’ll see lesser opponents than he saw when facing North Carolina or Oklahoma State who he shut down in the regionals. A reliable source described the Appalachian League to me as “glorified high school ball, with the players “living in barracks.”  And that’s just one of several places he could go once he’s signed.  Only at high A or above will a draftee regularly face competition that matches the highest levels of college ball. As for today’s game, Perkins gave 4 runs to the Tarheels in the first, another in the third, and it was “Happy Trails to You.”  The Hatters didn’t mail it in, as some might after seeing their best pitcher obliterated.  They scored in each of the last 3 innings, and with a man on Carolina only held on by running down a long drive to center field.

Later on, if Washington should defeat Fullerton if Oregon State should top Minnesota and if Mississippi State gets the better of Vanderbilt (as they did with a walk-off home run last night) then three more tickets will be punched. Oregon State made short work of the Golden Gophers 8–1 in the first game of their series.

 

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