When you think of a baseball player, you probably think of someone who is dedicated to the sport, well-mannered, and willing to listen to your dad’s advice about being a good sportsman.
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Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani is shaking up the sports world, both on and off the field. From the United States to Japan, everyone is excited about this generational talent that has become the new face of baseball.
Well, all except Stephen A. Smith.
ESPN’s Deep Personality was heavily criticized online after claiming Ohtani harmed the game by using a Japanese translator to communicate.
Stephen A. Smith on Shohei Ohtani: I don’t think it helps that number one is a man who needs an interpreter so you can understand what he’s talking about in this country.
– Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 12, 2021
Stephen A. is no stranger to hot thoughts. After all, it’s his job to invent new ones every morning.
But he took it to a whole new level on ESPN’s First Take on Monday. After the host of the show, Molly Kerim, asked the question: Is it a good thing for Major League Baseball that Ohtani is the main attraction? Smith did not hesitate to disagree with this opinion.
Put your seat belt on.
The fact that a foreign player who doesn’t speak English needs an interpreter hurts the game to some extent when it comes to box office appeal, Smith said. It has to be someone like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. Unfortunately, that is not the case at the moment.
I understand that baseball itself is an international sport in terms of participation. But when it comes to an audience reaching for the screen or the stadium to see you, I don’t think it helps that the number one face is a man who needs an interpreter so you can understand what he’s saying – in this country. And that’s what I’m trying to say.
We heard you loud and clear, Stephen A.
Stephen A. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith speaks during Game 3 of the NBA Finals | Justin Casterline/Getty Images
Almost immediately after Smith spouted his xenophobic comments, as he does every time he posts a bad take, the internet exploded with criticism. Baseball fans poured in to defend Ochtani for the ESPN host, who reportedly makes $12 million a year.
Judging by the viral responses to Smith’s statement, it seems baseball fans love Ohtani and his unique skills. Who would have thought it?
But this, oh Shohei Ohtani, is blatant racism at a time of dangerous anti-Asian violence.
This requires an apology and a suspension. Now. pic.twitter.com/dgYRUxWdvI
– Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) July 12, 2021
Ichiro was fluent in English, but preferred to be accompanied by an interpreter during formal interviews, as he wanted to be able to express himself fully. A person must be fluent in more than one language before they criticize someone in another language for knowing that language. https://t.co/UQypaMTdbh
– Yuh-Line Niu (@yuhline) July 12, 2021
You are wrong @stephenasmith. Sports fans care less about the language spoken during a press conference or interview than they do about the talent on display on the field. And right now, Shohei #Ohtani is just the best. Also, is this banner – @espn a serious problem? https://t.co/JGvmSlB8Ue
– Akiko Fujita (@AkikoFujita) 12. July 2021
It’s no secret that the MLB is far behind the NBA and NFL in terms of popularity. The American pastime isn’t as appealing to Americans as it once was, and that may be because no superstar in recent years has been able to find common ground with all generations of fans.
Mike Trout is an exceptional talent, but many consider him boring and unmarketable off the field. Fernando Tatis is a fire starter who brings a new level of excitement to the game, but his flashy attitude and jumping his bat might be too much for the more outspoken fans. Baseball needs a superstar to draw fans – young and old – to the stadium and in front of TV screens with every hit he delivers.
Shohei Ohtani comes into play.
Ohtani is the closest player to Babe Ruth since Babe Ruth. He leads the MLB in home runs (33) and slugging percentage (.698) this season. He is also fourth in the league in triples (4) and 17th in stolen bases (12). Oh, and did we mention his 3.49 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 13 starts?
Not only is he playing on the field for the AL team in this year’s All-Star Game, but he’s also in the team’s starting lineup. Ohtani is the first player in MLB history to be named to the All-Star Team as both a position player and a pitcher.
We’ve never seen anything like Ohtani before and probably never will again. You don’t need an interpreter to understand it.
All statistics provided by Baseball-Reference
COMPARED TO: Jalen Rose’s daughter goes after ESPN’s Rachel Nichols with an emotional tirade I’m sorry your white privilege didn’t work this time.
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