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Biggest takeaways from Shohei Ohtani’s first press conference as a Dodger

From his dog’s name to that historic contract, Ohtani answered plenty of questions.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers speaks to the media at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Between the drama of a roller-coaster free agency saga and all the consternation around a historic (and historically weird) $700 million contract, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that we hadn’t actually heard much of anything from Shohei Ohtani in months. But that finally changed on Thursday, when the two-way superstar was officially introduced in a Dodgers uniform in a press conference at Chavez Ravine.

Ohtani touched on a wide range of topics, from why he chose to jump to the Dodgers to the health of his right arm to even, yes, the name of that very cute dog. We’ve assembled the three biggest takeaways below, so let’s get to it.

Explaining that weird “key man” clause

Among the many unusual parts of Ohtani’s 10-year, $700 million deal, one of the most unusual was a clause stipulating that he’s allowed to opt-out at the end of any season in which either top executive Andrew Friedman or chairman Mark Walter leave their positions. To borrow a term from the business world, we’ll refer to this as the “key man” clause.

Ohtani elaborated on Thursday.

“Everybody has to be on the same page to be a winning organization,” he told reporters through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “Those two are at the top of it…I feel almost like I’m having a contract with those two guys. If one of them are gone … things might get a little out of control. I just wanted a safety net.”

It’s worth noting that this is not the first such clause Friedman has handed out in his career. Longtime manager Joe Maddon had a similar arrangement during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays; when Friedman left for the Dodgers, Maddon exercised the clause and was able to test free agency, which is how he wound up with the Chicago Cubs.

The dog’s name is Decoy

Ohtani’s dog took the world by storm when it appeared on his lap during the AL MVP ceremony back in November. It then became a subject of a truly dizzying number of conspiracy theories, including one that claimed the name of the dog was either a nod to one of Ohtani’s potential suitors or a clue about his final destination. (“Dodger” was a popular guess, for example.)

Predictably, Ohtani was asked what his dog’s name was on Thursday. His answer will, hopefully, put those theories to rest: Apparently, his Japanese name is “Dekopin”, with his American name being “Decoy.” I would say that this will finally put the matter to rest, but I’ve spent too much time on the internet to be that naive.

We still don’t know what type of elbow surgery he had

Also on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times ran an interview with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed both Ohtani’s first Tommy John surgery and his most recent — and still mysterious — elbow operation. Dr. ElAttrache told the paper that Ohtani had undergone a second Tommy John operation a few months back, and expressed his belief that Ohtani was well-positioned to make a full recovery. He went on to add that Ohtani’s case is especially encouraging because of the specific details of his injury — although he declined to reveal just what those specifics are — and that he considers the chances of full recovery to be roughly the same as a first-time Tommy John patient.

Case closed, right? Well, not so fast: Ohtani, for his part, seemed to push back on Dr. ElAttrache’s comments, claiming that his elbow surgery was “completely different” from the first operation. Ohtani claimed he wasn’t sure of the procedure’s name, which only adds to the confusion.

Either way, it seems safe to say that Ohtani will be a DH only for the 2024 season — still a huge boon for the Dodgers lineup.