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As the legend of Shohei Ohtani grows, so does his hardware collection.
The Angels’ two-way Japanese phenom was named The Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year on Tuesday. It comes on the heels of Ohtani unanimously winning the 2021 American League MVP award.
2021 was the first complete season of Ohtani’s career, free of injuries and filled with memorable moments. The result was a season only rivaled by Babe Ruth in 1919. That season saw Ruth pitch to a 9-5 record with a 2.97 ERA in 133.1 innings of work. He also slashed .322/.456/.657 with a league leading 29 HRs and 113 RBIs.
Ohtani, 27, held his own with “The Babe”, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 Ks in 130.1 innings pitched. Ohtani was must watch at the plate, slashing .257/.372/.592 with 46 HRs and 100 RBIs. He also swiped 26 bags and led the league in triples with eight.
“He’s doing something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes, but he’s also doing it at the very highest level of hitting and pitching,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, via The AP’s Greg Beacham. “He’s doing more than other players, but he’s also doing it better than almost everybody else on that field, and those are the greatest players in the game, his contemporaries. He’s playing their game, but he’s also playing a different game.”
Records were set, with the first coming on his first start of the season on April 4 against the White Sox. Not only did Ohtani touch triple-digits with his fastball in the first inning, but he then belted a 115 mph, 451-foot home run in his first at-bat.
During the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field, Ohtani made history by becoming the first player to start the All-Star game on the mound and bat leadoff. Ohtani participated in the Home Run Derby, falling in the first round to the Nationals’ Juan Soto, but the two put on a show. Down big to Soto, Ohtani roared back to force a swing-off, which Soto ultimately won.
Individual accolades aside, the Angels did not find much success outside of Ohtani. Working without the services of three-time American League MVP Mike Trout for majority of the season due to injury, Los Angeles limped to a 77-85 record, fourth place in the American League West.
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