Good morning to everyone but especially to...
SHOHEI OHTANI AND JAPAN
We often throw around words like "dream matchup" and "instant classic" too generously. Not this time.
Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout with world baseball supremacy on the line in the ninth inning really was as good as it gets -- and then some. Ultimately, it was Ohtani striking out Trout in the World Baseball Championship title game to close Japan's 3-2 triumph over the United States.After touching 102 miles per hour on a fastball low to make the count 3-2, Ohtani got his fellow Angels superstar on an 87-mph slider to clinch the victory. Ohtani stretched his arms wide, yelling and then throwing his mitt and cap as teammates stormed the field to celebrate.Ohtani also collected a hit and a walk as a batter before entering in the top of the ninth as a pitcher. He walked Jeff McNeil but then got Mookie Betts to ground into a double play before fanning Trout.Ohtani, unsurprisingly, won MVP. He hit .435 and posted a 1.86 ERA. Yeah, pretty good.Trout, for his part, is ready for revenge: He's already committed to the 2026 WBC.
Japan's pitching staff got big outs all night against a star-studded Team USA lineup, save for solo home runs from Trea Turner (yes, again) and Kyle Schwarber. Team Japan got solo home runs from Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto sandwiched around a Lars Nootbar RBI fielder's choice to have just enough offense to take their third WBC --most of any country -- and first since 2009.
There was plenty of heartbreak to go around in the WBC. Major injuries to Edwin Díaz (knee) and Jose Altuve (thumb) made some wonder if this tournament is even worth it. But the final last night was baseball at its best: high drama, overwhelming star power and, ultimately, a true dream matchup in every sense of the phrase.
If it didn't get you excited for the MLB season just around the corner, nothing will. And that, truly, means the World Baseball Classic did its job. Bring on the season!
And not such a good morning for...
THE BALTIMORE RAVENS
Lamar Jackson is ready to move on. At least that's what one of his representatives is telling teams, according to a report. This report emerges two weeks after the Ravens gave Jackson the non-exclusive franchise tag, which pays him $32.4 million in 2023.However, that non-exclusive tag also allows other teams to negotiate with Jackson. If another franchise were to offer Jackson, the Ravens would have a chance to match that deal.If they chose not to, the team signing Jackson would send Baltimore two first-round picks.Several teams have said they won't pursue Jackson.
There hasn't been much news on the Jackson front since he got franchise tagged, which makes this latest report significant. The negotiations between Jackson and the Ravens have been strained at best and certainly not very successful with regards to reaching a long-term deal. In fact, the last news from Jackson himself was him disputing a report that he turned down $200 million guaranteed.
It's not 100% clear what this new piece of info means. Is Jackson trying to pressure the Ravens into stepping up their negotiations? Is he simply trying to get his own market going? As I've said for a while, this situation is far from over.