Shohei Ohtani Is Redefining MLB Stardom In All-Star Season

In this edition of his weekly column, “The Ticket,” Adam Kramer dives into the brilliance of AL MVP favorite, Shohei Ohtani, looks back at his weekend in Vegas for UFC 264 and previews (and makes picks for) The Open Championship.

Words won’t do him justice, but I’ll certainly try.

The brilliance and rarity of Shohei Ohtani’s first half is something that defies logic and explanation. It is historic. For a game that often douses itself in stats and meaningful moments, this is as big as it can possibly get.

And even if baseball is celebrating each and every magnificent moonshot homer these days, it still feels like we’re not celebrating them enough.

Indeed, the Los Angeles Angels’ star hitter and pitcher has been the talk of baseball’s first half. Now the favorite to win the AL MVP at (-275), Ohtani could have been had at a much better price at the onset of the season — perhaps even greater than (+1200).

Thirty-three homers and 70 RBIs later, Ohtani is the chalk despite Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s sparkling first half. The difference is that Ohtani pairs his incredible offensive output numbers with a 3.49 ERA and 87 strikeouts in only 67 innings pitched.

He has enough power to hit it out of the stadium; he has an arm that will probably flirt with a no-hitter at some point. And yet, this entire unique arrangement somehow feels natural.

Consider that the only comparison we can make it to Babe Ruth, who excelled at both. That, of course, was quite a while ago. We decided a while back that pitchers would pitch, hitters would hit, and when pitchers had to hit, we would accept them being bad at it. Not here.

The Angels are just one game above .500. Losing Mike Trout to injury for much of the first half certainly did not help, although this dose of mediocrity can at least explain why Ohtani has yet to become an even bigger story than he already is.

His 33 homers are five more than anyone else can boast, and most of them have disappeared into the night.

The way he flings open his hips. The way he can hit any inside pitch. His high, majestic follow-through. It is poetry on a baseball field.

Truth be told, I’m not in love with his current MVP odds. Partly because I have never seen anything like this and don’t know how it will translate over 162 games.

Guerrero Jr. could ultimately win the triple crown, which might make things complicated for voters. But this is one of those moments where wagering feels secondary to the moment itself.

When Barry Bonds was destroying home run records and terrorizing pitchers — albeit with a body pumped full of things helping him do just that — each at-bat was a moment. You had to see it. In a sport where failure is still the likely outcome, Bonds defied the script.

It has been a while since I felt that, but I feel it now. Ohtani is a movement and a moment. As we break for baseball’s intermission, do yourself a favor and make time for this while it lasts — as long as it lasts.

Last Week’s Gambling Report Card: I Went to Vegas (Again)

A few things. First and foremost, anyone who tells you that Las Vegas is just a “dry heat” in the summer should not be trusted. On Saturday night after UFC 264, sometime around midnight, I looked at my phone and saw it was still 106 degrees.

Dry heat my &^%.

The vibe of Vegas was magical. A marquee fight coupled with a city coming to life made for a pretty spectacular scene. It is unfortunate that Conor McGregor’s ankle could not hold up in UFC 264, which felt like a deflating way for the buzz to end. It also wasn’t great on my bank account.

One last thing. I finally spent extended time at Circa and also got cozy in the Circa sportsbook. I am in love with this venue. Truly. If you like betting on sports, a good selection of IPAs, a great sportsbook (with an indoor and outdoor option), you must go as soon as you can. An immediate must-visit.

What I’m Watching: The Open Championship, NBA Finals, Midseason MLB and More UFC

The Open Championship 

Golf’s final major of the year will be played at Royal St George’s Golf Club in England, which means a few things. First, you’ve got a lovely event to bet on (picks below). Second, you can wake up Thursday through Sunday to golf, which is a wonderful exercise. The weather and presentation are always a joy, and I’m even more excited for this event because it was canceled last year due to COVID. Coffee and birdies. IN.

NBA Finals

Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t just playing. The Milwaukee Bucks’ star, who looked like he would be out for the rest of the year and beyond with a knee injury, has been sensational the past two games after returning. After looking lifeless on the road, the Bucks responded with a monster Game 3 win that they had to have. Now, with this still very much a series, we shall see what is in store in the games to follow.

UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs. Moises 

It is not the greatest card on the planet, although I am riding a UFC high and this is worthy of a watch. Islam Makhachev is indeed worthy of your attention, and he is fighting in the main event as a massive favorite. No one has really wanted to fight him because of his wide range of skills — particularly his wrestling — and they should be on display here. If you want to see a potential future lightweight champion, I would tune in to this one.

What I’m Betting: Let’s Bet the Open Championship, Shall We?

We’re sticking to golf for the week, and I’m rolling with a series of plays that I hope translate well across the pond.

My pick to win? Dustin Johnson. He has played well on this course, and I think his game translates well in this event. And at 18/1, I am not unhappy with the value. Here are my picks for the event:

Dustin Johnson (+1800 to Win) 

Patrick Reed (+4000 to Win)

Jason Day (+7000 to Win)

Justin Thomas (+200 to Make Top 10)

Paul Casey (+290 to Make Top 10)

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