Ever since his arrival in the U.S. in 2018, Shohei Ohtani has drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth. And after winning the American League MVP award in 2021 and regularly pulling off feats not seen since Ruth’s heyday, he’s won over nearly every skeptic who thought the days of two-way stardom were over.
Among those who are somehow not yet convinced? Legendary WFAN radio host Mike Francesa.
The renowned sports personality addressed the idea that Ohtani, who recently showed off his prowess by leading Japan to the 2023 World Baseball Classic championship, was the best baseball player of all time. And, ever on brand, he did not mince words while giving his two cents.
“Not even a little bit do I agree with that. I don’t think he’s done anywhere near enough to be called that,” Francesa said Friday. “I think that is ridiculous. I’m sorry.
“You know what? Check out what Babe Ruth did before you’re going to tell me what Ohtani did. Go look at Babe Ruth’s pitching statistics in the regular season, in the World Series, career-wise. And then look at his offense, and then tell me how you would possibly think that Ohtani was better than Babe Ruth? It doesn’t make any sense. People say a lot of silly things. That’s a silly thing.”
Ohtani has made a habit of doing things on the baseball field that haven’t been done since Ruth—and has even broken through to new, uncharted territory that even the Sultan of Swat could never accomplish. Last season, he became the first player ever to record enough innings pitched and plate appearances to qualify for MLB leaderboards as both a pitcher and hitter. His ability to simultaneously star as both a hitter and pitcher full-time is something Ruth was never able to do: Ruth’s last season with more than 20 games pitched was in 1917, and his career high in plate appearances to that point was 152. He juggled both pitching and hitting part-time in ’18 and ’19 before giving up pitching for good in ’20.
Ruth’s impact on the sport is undeniable, but even for someone like Francesa—whose job it is to stir reaction with his opinions—being so outright dismissive of a singular talent like Ohtani at the peak of his powers is a strange stance to take. While some opt for the negative, contrarian route, the rest of us can marvel at Ohtani’s wondrous achievements on a nightly basis for the next six months.