Immediately, the easy comparison everyone wants to make is between Ohtani and Babe Ruth.
Ruth famously got his start as a pitcher before switching to offense full-time and becoming one of the best players in the history of the game.
However, the comparison is not a fair one for several reasons.
12 Months Ago: "Comparing Ohtani to Ruth? That's disrespectful. Shohei hasn't proven it yet"
Today: "Comparing Ohtani to Ruth? That's disrespectful. That old man was never this good at both at the same time" https://t.co/8CJ12b0mLA
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) September 5, 2021
Totally Different Eras
The Ruth comparison is fascinating because he last played in 1935.
His heyday was in the 1920s and the game was obviously much different back then.
MLB was still in its early stages as an institution and there is no way for us in the present to truly grasp the different feel to the game without being there in person.
What we do know is equipment was not state-of-the-art and pitchers were not exactly getting enough rest.
So even with a worse baseball, batters could take advantage.
But this argument could easily be flipped to where Ohtani is dominating after growing up living the game of baseball.
Babe Ruth has nothing on this man. I will forever be in awe of Shohei Ohtani https://t.co/MMlg0vmX71
— #BeatOregon (@bird_bouchard) September 4, 2021
He had state-of-the-art training from a young age and is obviously using the best equipment the game has ever seen.
So who truly did more given the respective circumstances?
A Difficult Debate
Ohtani has a WAR value approaching 8.0 and his league-leading 43rd home run only boosted his MVP case.
Ruth once posted a WAR of 14.2 in 1923 to take home his only MVP award.
He also hit 60 home runs in the 1927 season.
Needless to say, doing that in 1927 is far more impressive than doing it in the modern game.
Let’s then talk about the pitching.
Ruth stopped making regular appearances on the mound by the time World War I was drawing to a close.
Yet he did post 23 wins in 1916 and 24 a year later in 1917.
In total, he finished his career with a 2.28 ERA.
Ohtani is really in his first full season as a pitcher.
The comparison between the two comes in their two-way abilities.
But a closer look shows both dominating more on the offensive end.
The spectacle here is less about both being Cy Young-level pitchers and more on the fact they can even do both things so well.
We see position players pitch on occasion and may see a good pitch or two in such an outing.
But how often is a team’s best hitter also their best pitcher?
That usually stops being seen early at the high school level.
It is perfectly fine for Ruth to have his own legacy and for Ohtani to carve out his own without comparisons.
Surely, Ruth was compared to others during his own time as well.
Yet it is fine for every player to be their own individual without the need for pointless debates.