Ohtani's whirlwind week of travels -- or lack thereof -- recapped

December 9th, 2023

No matter where he signs, no matter when he signs, no matter what his new contract entails, will have already succeeded in one thing:

Driving all of us bananas.

We, the baseball-loving community, are somewhere south of sanity, and a private jet that may or may not have once been used by Shohei Ohtani flew us here.

With precious few details leaking from the super secretive and super sensitive process that is the Ohtani offseason, we have been left to look for clues about his free-agent decision by reading tea leaves, turning over tarot cards, gazing into crystal balls, consulting magic eight balls and -- most suspect of all -- scrolling through social media.

Things got truly weird this week at the Winter Meetings, then reached what we can only hope was the apex of absurdity Friday, when the Platform Formerly Known as Twitter got even goofier than usual because of drastically conflicting reports about Ohtani’s whereabouts and his nearness to inking a deal. 

So let’s recap a week of Ohtani news that was kind of wild ... even though hardly anything actually happened.


It was a relatively tranquil time on the Shohei scene.

Aside from some speculation that he might sign within the week and a report that he had already received bids north of half a billion dollars (no biggie), we were still in those halcyon days when the biggest controversy surrounding Ohtani was his agency’s unwillingness (or is it inability?) to reveal basic details about the beautiful little dog the two-way hero cradled in his surgically repaired right arm during last month’s American League MVP announcement.

Left in the darkened doghouse, we were -- are -- hounded by the mysterious pooch. What is its name? What is its breed? Is it really Ohtani’s dog, or was it a prop pup?

These were certainly the most pressing questions at the onset of the Winter Meetings, where the whole baseball industry would be gathered under one woof -- er, roof.


All was calm, all was bright, until round yon 3:30 p.m. local time in Nashville, Tenn., when Blue Jays reporters received word that Toronto general manager Ross Atkins’ scheduled, in-person media availability would instead be taking place ... on Zoom. Cue that dramatic suspense movie music:

Dun dun duuun!

Quickly, our minds churned: Either Atkins had been felled by the same gastrointestinal issue that had upended the General Managers Meetings a month earlier, or something was up with Ohtani. When Atkins appeared on the Zoom screen, he was in front of a blank white wall. Questions about his location were quashed.

“Due to scheduling conflicts,” Atkins said, “I was able to be on this call, and I am grateful for your adjustment to be here with me today.”

In doing everything in his power not to reveal any specifics, Atkins was adhering to the operating principles reportedly established by the Ohtani camp -- that no details emerge from the process, lest the leakers potentially hinder their chance at inking Ohtani.

Ah, but subsequent flight-tracking by Internet sleuths (the kind of people who can tell you where Taylor Swift is right at this very moment, any moment) found two private jets that departed Clearwater, Fla., on Monday night -- one bound for Anaheim, the other bound for Nashville. Credible reports indicated that Atkins was not in Nashville because he was showing none other than Ohtani around the Blue Jays’ state-of-the-art Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Fla.

Dun dun Duuun(edin)!


It was 2 p.m. in Nashville when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sat down for his scheduled Winter Meetings media availability and roughly 2:01 when he cracked under the intense pressure put upon him by this intrepid, incisive question:

“Are you able to say you met with Shohei?”

Roberts hemmed and hawed for exactly four seconds before coming clean:

“Yeah, we met with him.”

Had this been an old-school courtroom movie drama, all the reporters would have rushed away to the nearest payphones to let their editors know they had the story of the century. But because it’s 2023, we just sat there in our seats and posted the revelation to social media while Roberts kept giving us the goods.

The Dodgers, Roberts revealed, had met with Ohtani at Dodger Stadium a few days earlier, for a few hours.

“It was just a pleasure to get to spend some time with him,” Roberts said.

Roberts later added, “Clearly, Shohei’s our top priority.”

The nerve of this man, to let reporters know that the team everybody in the industry expected to sign Ohtani actually has interest in Ohtani. How dare he?

Not much later, it was time for the scheduled general manager availabilities. Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes said he was “surprised” by Roberts’ admission but would not confirm ... what his manager had just confirmed. No one could be sure if Roberts had just negatively impacted the Dodgers’ play for Ohtani or, perhaps, demonstrated a “Sho” of strength.

Meanwhile, Cubs president Jed Hoyer looked, um, not especially thrilled with a report that his club’s optimism regarding Ohtani had “significantly waned.”

“I don’t know where that came from,” Hoyer said.

Are we having fun yet?


Nothing really happened, honestly. Ohtani was not selected in the Rule 5 Draft.


OK, nothing really happened on this day, either. Ohtani was not involved in the Juan Soto trade.


The sixth anniversary of Ohtani’s original agreement with the Angels seemed an apropos day for his latest decision, and a morning report by MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi that an Ohtani decision was “imminent” had all of us on edge ... and hitting refresh.

Would this be the day of the Ohtani announcement?

Would he be headed to Canada to conquer a third country?

Would he sign a deal with the Dodgers and get Roberts off the hook?

Would he say “Halo” again to the Angels?

Would a Mystery Team swoop in to sign this man of mystery?

Maybe we would have gotten through this day with our wits about us if a plane had not departed John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., at 9:40 a.m. PT, bound for Toronto Pearson International Airport. It was a 3-hour, 50-minute flight from Point A to Point B, yet, with each and every one of the 2,157 miles traversed being tracked by insatiable Ohtani gossips, it felt like an eternity.

Fans fixated on that flight. Reporters scurried for scoops. And I made what I thought was a pretty good Aaron Loup joke.

Surely, it seemed, when that Bombardier Global 5000 landed, we would be bombarded with an Ohtani announcement, an official end to this signing saga. The Blue Jays would be heralded near and far for reeling in the sport’s biggest star, the AL East would add another superstar, and Toronto-born rapper Drake would be rewarded for his Ohtani All-Star jersey investment.

But when Flight N616RH finally touched down in Toronto, do you know who stepped out?

It wasn’t Ohtani.

It wasn’t Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara.

It wasn’t Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo.

It wasn’t Ohtani’s dog, whatever his name is.

It was reportedly Canadian businessman Robert Herjavec, founder of an Internet security software company, writer of books and television personality on multiple programs, including ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

And so, as reports of Ohtani nearing a deal were countered by less-exciting -- and, um, apparently more accurate -- reports that he has not yet made up his mind, as Ohtani was revealed to not be traversing the continent in a private jet, but, rather, chilling at home on a Friday (as the rest of us should have been), those clamoring for information about all things Ohtani were left not with new answers but, rather, a new, compelling question:

Are the Blue Jays signing Robert Herjavec to be their DH?!?