There’s no telling exactly what the rest of Shohei Ohtani’s career is going to look like. He could continue to dominate as a two-way sensation, or he could completely mold his game into something else. Regardless, the Los Angeles Angels and their fans will always have the 2021 season.
Years from now, people will look back at 2021 with the same awe that they do Babe Ruth’s career, as Ohtani has defied all measures of what baseball players can do. All of this was epitomized on Wednesday night against the Detroit Tigers, when Ohtani put together perhaps the most complete performance of his — or anybody’s — career.
In Detroit, where the big story remains Miguel Cabrera’s chase for 500 home runs, the Tigers legend became a footnote. Ohtani threw 8.0 innings, allowing just one run, striking out eight, and throwing an efficient 90 pitches. In the seventh inning, with the Angels in need of insurance, Ohtani took a mistake slider 430 feet for his 40th home run of the season.
On Wednesday night alone, Ohtani became the first left-handed batter to hit 40 home runs in a season in an Angels uniform while also hitting 100 innings of work on the mound. Joe Maddon described it best when talking about Ohtani, according to Ethan Sears of The L.A. Times:
“What could you possibly say that has not already been said?” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game.
The AL MVP award seems to be all but locked up, but Maddon went a step further, advocation that Ohtani could be in the mix for the Cy Young award.
“Making a case, absolutely,” Maddon said. “He’s in the middle of everything. Every award that’s gonna be given out this year, he’s in the middle of it.”
Ohtani, as humble as ever, spoke about his seventh inning, 430-foot rocket. He said he wanted the team to have the insurance run in case he was not able to go back and pitch the eighth inning.
“At that point I wasn’t sure if I was gonna go back out or not,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “I wanted to get that insurance run, it was huge for both me and the team.”
What Ohtani has done this season almost doesn’t feel real, and that’s because for most people alive today, it’s never been done. We’ve heard plenty of stories about Ruth commanding the diamond as a two-way player in the early 1920’s, but only a select few people alive today actually got to witness that firsthand.
This generation of baseball fans gets something even better, watching Ohtani hit and pitch at the highest level to put himself in the conversation for the MVP and the Cy Young awards. Not only could we never get a player like Ohtani again, we may never get an individual season like this again.
Maddon believes long road trip will help Angels next season
With the Angels all but eliminated from the 2021 postseason picture, Maddon has shifted the focus to next season. And because of that, he views the Angels’ current 10-game road trip as a vital learning tool. He believes the hectic nature of a long road trip can help young players better prepare for a playoff run.
So far, the Angels are 2-1 with a chance to complete a sweep of the Tigers on Thursday morning.