Joe Maddon said he isn’t the type of manager to talk with his players about things they say to the media.
Shohei Ohtani’s postgame comments Sunday, however, certainly caught the attention of the Angels’ second-year skipper.
Following the team’s final home game of the season, Ohtani spoke to reporters about his desire to win and his disappointment with a fourth-straight season since coming to Anaheim that will end without a playoff appearance.
“I really like the team. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere of the team,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “But, more than that, I want to win. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll leave it at that.”
The comments seemed to potentially call into question whether Ohtani — who is under contract for two more seasons, and who said no negotiations over an extension have taken place — would want to stay with the club long term.
Before the Angelsgame against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, however, Maddon said he had a different interpretation of what Ohtani was saying.
“He’s not talking about leaving,” Maddon said. “He’s talking about winning.”
To Maddon, Ohtani echoed sentiments shared throughout the Angels clubhouse — of both frustration in the team’s inability to make a playoff push amid their inconsistent and injury-plagued season, and of their hope of becoming serious contenders next year.
“We all want to win,” Maddon said Tuesday. “If anybody misconstrues [Ohtani’s comments] as though he wants to leave, that’s trying to connect some dots that are not at all what he said.
“He was just addressing the fact that he wants to win. I think he also mentioned how much he loves it here … He’s just venting and saying everything we’re all thinking and wanting.”
Even with Ohtani’s historic production as a two-way player this year, the Angels couldn’t overcome season-ending injuries to Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, nor a lackluster performance from much of the rest of the pitching staff.
Last week, Maddon and Trout each spoke about their desire to see the team be competitive next season. On Tuesday, Maddon doubled-down on his optimistism in the team’s future.
“We all want to get to the next level,” Maddon said. “And we see it as an absolute, not just a possibility — it’s going to happen here in the very near future.”
And, while Maddon said he didn’t address Ohtani about his Sunday comments directly, the manager said the two-way star feels the same way — happy to be with the Angels, and eager to change the franchise’s fortunes.
“[Ohtani was] just him expressing himself,” Maddon reiterated, adding: “If somehow people connect that like he wants to leave, that’s not what I heard.”