FOX Sports MLB Analyst
One of the weirder days in baseball internet history is ensuing and Shohei Ohtani is still a free agent.
With so little meaningful information leaking out of Ohtani’s camp, a desperate public, thirsty for anything of consequence, took measures into their own hands on Friday. On the six-year anniversary of Ohtani’s 2017 decision to join the Angels, the collective baseball world lost its online minds. After weeks of absolutely nothing of note reaching the public as it relates to Ohtani’s decision, things absolutely exploded into life, captivating the attention of so many on both sides of the Canadian border.
The day of madness featured a Shark Tank judge, an opera singer, a sushi restaurant, a ton of conflicting reporting and enough flight tracking to start a new unit in the Coast Guard. It was infuriating, enthralling, bizarre, hilarious, sad and magnificent all at once.
Here’s a timeline of Friday, Dec. 8, the day Ohtani did or did not (per the latest reporting, he did not) get on a plane.
8:39 a.m. ET: An electric start
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that an Ohtani decision is “imminent” and “possibly as early as today.” Morosi broke the Aaron Judge signing last winter and has been all over the Ohtani sweepstakes this year. As such, fans took his tweet very seriously. The overeager public was a barrel of gunpowder. Morosi’s report was the spark.
Let the games begin.
9:31 a.m.: Let’s watch some planes
Late Thursday night, an intrepid Twitter user identified a private plane set to depart John Wayne Airport in Anaheim for Toronto on Friday morning. Some time after breakfast on the East Coast, larger accounts like Jim Bowden of The Athletic and SiriusXM amplified that information to a wider audience. By lunch time, scores of excited fans were tracking said flight as it made its way across the country. At one point in the afternoon, the flight that might or might not be carrying Ohtani to Toronto was the single most tracked plane in the world according to Flight Aware.
9:42 a.m.: The opera singer and the sushi restaurant
As Ohtani allegedly entered cruising altitude, a Canadian opera singer by the name of Clarence Frazer — he’s a baritone, if you were curious — was embarking on a takeoff of his own. Frazer — who, again, is a professional opera singer and not a reporter — cited an unnamed source who told him that Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi had bought out an entire Sushi restaurant near Rogers Centre for a dinner. Frazer said the reservation was allegedly for over 50 people. Was it just a coincidence that Toronto’s Japanese pitcher would plan a high-end meal for a large group on the same night Ohtani was rumored to be making his final decision?
11:26 a.m.: Dodger Dog? Blue’s Clues?
Meadowlark Media’s Pable Torre drops a hilarious rumor about Ohtani’s dog on his podcast. The puppy in question first entered the public consciousness after spending most of the American League MVP award show on Ohtani’s lap. That inspired some intrepid reporting from Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who tried and failed to uncover the canine’s name. Why so much secrecy around the dog’s name? Torre hypothesized that it’s because the dog’s name is related to one of the teams he’s considering. Incredible conjecture, here. Relatively un-impactful, but fabulous nonetheless.
1:53 p.m.: This is not a drill, or is it?
J.P. Hoornstra, a Southern California-based member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, reports on DodgersNation.com that Ohtani to the Blue Jays is a done deal. Hoornstra, who has written for various SoCal newspapers over the course of his career, was the first reporter of note to definitively state that Ohtani had made his choice.
That understandably sent everyone into a frenzy. The whole baseball world waited impatiently for additional information; for a Ken Rosenthal or Jeff Passan tweet coming any minute now. But as the minutes ticked on and no other credible scribe backed up Hoornstra’s reporting, the out-of-the-loop normies started to face the harsh reality: Ohtani had yet to make his decision.
2:09 p.m.: Cold water on a hot fire
ESPN’s Alden González, who’s covered Ohtani and his camp for many years in Southern California, refuted Hoornstra’s report. Back to square one.
4:01 p.m.: But is Ohtani on the plane?
After nearly two hours of silence from anybody perhaps in the know, Morosi came out with a haymaker: Ohtani was en route to Toronto. He also conveyed that nobody at Ohtani’s agency would comment on specific travel plans and that Ohtani did not have a signed deal. But those felt like measly details; the two-way superstar was apparently headed to Toronto. There was now enough circumstantial evidence to power an electric vehicle.
That sent Blue Jays World back into chaos, until …
5:11 p.m.: Ohtani not on a plane?
This is a tweet that will live forever in internet baseball lore:
The unintentional Cat in The Hat style rhythm. The capitalization of the NOT. The unequivocal and direct repudiation of other reporting. Truly one for the ages.
Soon, other reporters like Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, who’s very plugged into the Jays and very reputable, were independently confirming Nightengale’s tweet. This left baseball Twitter running around in circles like a chicken with its head cut off, or the file room fire scene in Spongebob.
5:54 p.m.: Ohtani was definitely not on that plane
A CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) photographer dispatched to the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto — where the flight in question had already landed — spotted someone other than Ohtani. The jet was actually carrying Canadian entrepreneur and Shark Tank judge Robert Herjavec. Unless he can hit a baseball 115 mph and throw one 100 mph, Herjavec probably wasn’t on his way to the Rogers Centre.
7:45 p.m.: The free-agency Sho goes on
Two hours have passed, and nothing more has been reported on the Ohtani front. It looks like we might be back where started at the beginning of the day — in the Ohtani rumor abyss with no concrete news rescue in sight.
Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.
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