Stephen A. Smith landed in hot water Monday with controversial remarks about Los Angeles Angeles two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani.
During “First Take,” the ESPN personality suggested that Major League Baseball’s premier star power is too lopsided in favor of players who don’t speak English as their first language.
“The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, believe it or not, I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that’s your box office appeal,” Smith said. “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately at this point in time, that’s not the case.
“When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube, or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, I don’t think it helps that the No. 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying, in this country. And that’s what I’m trying to say.”
Smith later took to social media to offer an explanation.
“People are misinterpreting what I’m saying,” Smith said. “I’m talking about the state of the game — baseball, itself. Baseball’s a great game, a great sport. Some of the greatest players in the world are foreign players. (Fernando) Tatis comes to my mind. … And Ohtani is the second coming of Babe Ruth, OK? That’s not what I was trying to say. I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport. … If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public the way Major League Baseball is because of the problems that you’ve been having to deal with in terms of improving the attractiveness of the sport, it helps if you (speak) the English language. It doesn’t mean any more than that.”
Make of that what you will.
Ohtani this season has emerged as perhaps the best player in baseball, as well as the face of the game.
At the dish this season, the 27-year-old is hitting .279 with an MLB-leading 33 homers. He also has four triples and 70 RBIs in 343 plate appearances. On the mound, he’s 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts.