SEATTLE — Major League Baseball was blessed by a first half of its dreams.
So many surprise teams are making playoff runs (who had the Marlins nine games clear of the Mets?)
Attendance is up 8 percent (yes, up!)
Game times have been cut by 26 minutes, which is great for those of you not even on deadline.
Perhaps topping all this positive news is the otherworldly performance of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, who executed the earliest clinching of an MVP award ever with what may be the greatest individual season ever played; as a batter, he leads the majors in slugging percentage (.663) and OPS (1.050), and as a pitcher leads in opponent batting average (.189).
The All-Star Game, by all rights, should be a celebration of Ohtani’s outstanding play and the outstanding game.
Unfortunately, the way injuries and losses are piling up for Ohtani’s Angels, some of the celebration may be obscured by trade speculation regarding the game’s best player.
On Friday, The Post reported that Angels people are starting to move away from their no-sell stance and are telling folks they will evaluate the situation over the next “two to three weeks,” meaning a trade of Ohtani could at least become a consideration.
And that was before they made it nine losses in 10 games in their first-half finale on Saturday and fell below .500 for the first time since April.
Logic says Ohtani has to go, but trading arguably the greatest player ever goes beyond an analytic calculation, and two people who know Angels owner Arte Moreno said Sunday that they still don’t believe he will ultimately pull that trigger.
Moreno understands the historic implication.
The obituary of Harry Frazee, the Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, surely began with his one memorable transaction: selling Ruth to the rival Yankees for $120,000, triggering “The Curse of the Bambino.”
The good news for Moreno is that nothing he could do — even trading the best all-around player since at least Ruth — could possibly curse the Angels, as they are obviously already cursed.
Also, while I am no economics expert, the guess here is he would do better than the 120K for Ruth.
Moreno has made clear both publicly and privately his reticence for trading Ohtani.
He told The Post back in February that he was instead hopeful he could extend him, and sources say he expressed his distaste for trading Ohtani when his top people brought him trade possibilities last July, both emphatically and profanely.
Logic says last year was the time to trade Ohtani, when the Angels were clearly out of it and they could have offered an acquiring team two pennant runs with the all-time uber talent.
But here’s more good news for the Halos: Ohtani’s value, even as a rental, would still be enormous.
He’s even better this year, and if he stays in the AL has a chance to break the true single-season home run record of 62, set last year by Aaron Judge.
(Even if Otani’s traded to a National League team, it’s hard to see him not winning the AL MVP award. The question is whether he’d have time to win both awards — although realistically, Ronald Acuna’s Jr. has given himself quite a head start in the NL.)
Ohtani’s value exceeds the numbers.
The excitement he’d bring is enormous.
Even better, any acquiring team would acquire a crucial head start in trying to convince Ohtani to stay long-term.
(While the Angels treated him right, allowing him to do his thing, their inability to reach the playoffs all six years likely dooms their chances whether they trade him or not.)
In this year of surprises, nearly anyone could be a candidate to acquire Ohtani in trade since he makes just $30M, merely a fraction of his real worth.
But for our purposes, we will stick with teams that have a realistic hope to keep him, as the two-month courtship time carries enormous value.
Dodgers: Frazee compounded his mistake by trading Ruth to the main rival. Would Moreno consent to trade him 45 miles up I-5 to the powerhouse Dodgers? But they definitely have the prospects, the wherewithal and the ambition.
Yankees: They were one of the teams most aggressively pursuing Ohtani last summer and did have prospects the Angels liked. Could also use a bit of offense.
Mets: GM Billy Eppler was the one who signed Ohtani for the Angels. But an Ohtani acquisition would cost them double since they are already in Steve Cohen tax territory. Their big plan was to build for the long haul and their playoff chances look rather long.
Giants: They surely have aspirations to sign Ohtani long-term after failing to get a big fish last winter.
Mariners: They were an aggressive pursuer of Ohtani last time and have the prospect capital.
Padres: They’re in the middle of everything, but their prospect ranks are down since the Juan Soto deal.
Rangers: Clear World Series contender could move to a favorite’s position.
The speculation begins now.