SPORTS DIGEST: Ohtani offers sports fans history in the making 

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By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

Sports fans in Los Angeles are lucky. On any given night we can witness a performance by someone who will go down in history has one of the best to ever do it, no matter the sport.

June 27 was just one of those days. Clayton Kershaw, who will one day be in baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, pitched a masterful game against the Colorado Rockies, limiting the Rockies to one hit over six innings in a 5-0 victory.

An hour or so later, Shohei Ohtani went to work in Anaheim and did what only Ohtani can do. In 6 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox, he yielded one run on four hits while striking out 10 in the Angels 4-2 win. Oh, he also hit two home runs and was 3 for 3 at the plate.

Since 1960, only six pitchers have struck out 10 batters in a game while hitting two home runs themselves. Only one, Rick Wise of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1971, had a better night than Ohtani. Wise threw a no-hitter that night.

Ohtani will sign the largest baseball contract ever this coming off-season and other teams are lining up for the chance to pay an obscene about of money to him over the next 10 years. 

Most long, expensive baseball contracts don’t work out. The player’s best years are usually long gone by the time the actual contract runs out. The Angels know because they just finished paying Albert Pujols — five years after his last productive season.

But Ohtani is different. He is literally the next Babe Ruth. 

Ruth saved the sport of baseball in the 1920s as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees. But before going to the Yankees in 1920, he was an ace left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

In four-plus years with the Sox, Ruth won 89 games. Not counting his first season in 2014 when he pitched in only four games, his lowest earned run average was 2.44. He had 35 complete games in 1917, a year he went 24-13.

In the 2016 and 2018 World Series, Ruth won three games while yielding only three runs in 26 innings.

Ruth became a full-time outfielder when he went to the Yankees and went on to hit 714 home runs while batting .342, scoring 2,174 runs and driving in 2,214. His on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) was an astronomical 1.164. 

His .342 career average is tied for eighth best all time. His 714 are third on the all-time list. He is fifth all-time in runs scored and third in RBI. 

Ohtani will probably never come close to those numbers. But he is as close to Ruth as any player since Barry Bonds and I doubt Ohtani is using any banned substances.

In 16 games as a pitcher this season, Ohtani has a record of 7-3 with a 3.02 earned run average with 127 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings. 

He is 15th in the major leagues in ERA, third in strikeouts and tied for 18th in wins. Those are all-star marks.

But when you add his hitting stats, Ohtani becomes more than a superstar. 

He is hitting .304 with 28 home runs and 64 RBI. He is ninth in the major leagues in hitting while leading both leagues in home runs and RBI. He is the only major leaguer with an OPS over 1.000, at 1.039. That’s .125 lower than Ruth’s career total.

With numbers like that, Ohtani is set to break the bank once free agency starts in November. Pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer lead the major leagues in salary this season. Both are earning $43,333,333 for the New York Mets.  

Combined, they have nine wins and an ERA around 4. Neither can hit.

Many people think Ohtani will move up the freeway and sign with the Dodgers in the off-season, getting a chance to finally pitch for a team that consistently wins and plays under a brighter spotlight.

He will likely become the first baseball player to get paid $50 million a season and might be able to get closer to $60 million, depending on how hot the bidding war gets.

Anyway, you look at it, were watching history every time Ohtani steps on the field.

GREAT PERSONIFIED: Kershaw isn’t too far behind Ohtani on the greatness meters. At the age of 35, Kershaw is holding the Dodgers pitching staff together at a time in his career when he was supposed to be yielding that status to Walker Buehler or Julio Urias.

Not so fast. Kershaw is 10-4 on the season with a 2.55 ERA. Nine of his 10 wins have come following a Dodgers loss, the ultimate definition of a stopper. 

Earlier this season, he won his 200th career game. With 88 more strikeouts, he will surpass the 3,000 mark, two career milestones that assuredly guarantee him Cooperstown status once his career ends.

It would be nice to see Kershaw and Ohtani together in the rotation next year. It would be even better plugging Ohtani into the batting order somewhere between Mookie Betts, Freedie Freeman and Will Smith. That’s enough to give major league pitchers nightmares.

DRAFT HIGHLIGHTS: The Lakers drafted a point guard from Indiana and a forward from Pepperdine (Pepperdine?) in the NBA Draft June 22. That doesn’t bode well for D’Angelo Russell’s chances of returning to the Lakers, but we will wait at least until summer league play is over before deciding whether Jalen Hood-Schifino, the Indiana point guard, and Maxwell Lewis, the Pepperdine forward, will be difference makers for the team next year.

Hood-Schifino was a one-and-done player at Indiana, averaging 13.5 points and 3.7 assists a game as a freshman. At 6-6, he’s bigger than most point guards, but LeBron James handles the ball on offense for the Lakers when he is on the floor, so Hood-Schifino will spend a lot of his rookie season learning about the NBA from the bench.

Lewis has a smaller chance of playing and is likely to spend more time in the G League than with the Lakers.

The Lakers traded up seven places in the draft to get Lewis, who averaged 17.1 points a game last year at Pepperdine and made 46.8 % of his shots, 34.8% from three-point range. 

He spent most of his childhood in Inglewood before moving with his family to Las Vegas, where he played high school ball.

The Clippers drafted Kobe Brown, a 6-8 swingman out of Missouri with their first- round pick (No. 30 overall), and drafted a 6-7 shooting guard, Jordan Miller at No. 48 in the second round. Both are 23-year-old college seniors, who will be a little more polished than most players entering the NBA next season. Brown averaged 15.8 points a game as a senior at Missouri, 10.8 over his career. He started 118 games over his career.

Miller spent three years at George Mason before transferring to Miami for his last two seasons. 

Over five years, he started 134 of the 142 games he played in, averaging 12.8 points a game, 15.3 as a senior last year at Miami.

If Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are healthy next year, you probably won’t see a lot of Brown or Miller next year. But, since Leonard and George are rarely healthy at the same time, both may get a chance to show their stuff at the NBA level instead of the G League. 

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