Just when we thought that Shohei Ohtani was done winning awards for his historic 2021 season, he adds yet another honor to his trophy case. On Tuesday, Ohtani was named AP Male Athlete of the Year, with the Female Athlete of the Year yet to be announced.
At this point, it’s hard to find new words to say about Ohtani’s performance in 2021. His 46 home runs, 100 RBIs, .592 slugging and 116 combined walks were impressive enough, before getting into the fact that he was an elite pitcher. A 3.18 ERA, 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings, and a 1.090 WHIP would be an excellent year for a pitcher by itself.
Ohtani is absolutely deserving of this award, which has been won by L.A. Lakers star LeBron James three times in the last five years, L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard in 2019, and Houston Astros star Jose Altuve in 2017.
“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 late in the regular season. “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.”
“At times, I felt like I was back in Little League,” Trout added. “To watch a player throw eight innings, hit a home run, steal a base and then go play right field was incredible.”
Ohtani certainly looked like he was playing Little League at times with his ability to dominate for 7-8 innings on the mound and then turn around and hit a home run the very next day, or even in the same day. What we saw from him in 2021 is unlikely to be seen ever again.
And yet, Ohtani and the Angels are confident that he can repeat a similar performance in 2022. If they’re right, Ohtani could cement himself as perhaps the best player in baseball just before signing a massive contract.
For now, he’ll have to settle for winning just about every award a player can win in one calendar year, including the AP Male Athlete of the Year Award.
Ohtani ranked in “Sportify Wrapped”
Baseball Reference put together a 2021 “Sportify Wrapped,” looking into the most popular pages on their site in 2021. To no one’s surprise, Ohtani had the most popular Baseball Reference page this year, with his teammate Mike Trout finishing in third despite missing over two-thirds of the season with injury.