Shohei Ohtani's remarkable campaign will feature yet another Ruthian-level moment when he pitches and hits, as is planned, during Tuesday's All-Star Game in Denver. It will be the latest historic milestone in a season for the ages.
Between Babe Ruth and Ohtani, two-way players disappeared from baseball simply because too many people, Ruth included, thought they were an unsustainable species.
"I don't think a man can pitch in his regular turn and play some other positions and keep the pace year after year," Ruth said.
After the Boston Red Sox traded him to the New York Yankees in January 1920, Ruth, one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of the dead-ball era, pitched only five more times in his career.
Ohtani is a not-so-subtle reminder to rethink our assumptions. In my case, he's a reminder of something Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom said in 2019 while with the Tampa Bay Rays, who had their own two-way experiment with Brendan McKay.
"Baseball is such a hard game that I think the number of players that are going to be able to have sufficient skill to do this is still going to be small," Bloom said. "But we've seen over time in this business that sometimes it takes someone going out and doing it to expand people's definitions of what might be possible."
This season, Ohtani is forcing baseball fans, players, and team officials to rethink impossible. The Los Angeles Angels have used the 27-year-old more aggressively in 2021, and he flourished in the first half. But perhaps Ohtani can be pushed further, expanding our imaginations and definitions of possible. What could a fully enabled Ohtani accomplish? Perhaps a campaign without equal.