Ohtani voted unanimous American League MVP

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Ohtani makes his final home game pitching appearance of the season in Anaheim, Calif. on September 26.

LOS ANGELES — Shohei Ohtani was crowned the American League’s Most Valuable Player on Thursday night, adding yet another feather to his well-plumed cap after a historic season with the Los Angeles Angels.

The 27-year-old was the unanimous pick, earning all 30 first-placed votes of journalists from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that presents the award each year.

Ohtani became only the second Japanese player to be named MVP in Major League Baseball, following Ichiro Suzuki, who won while playing for the Seattle Mariners in 2001.

The award caps a remarkable season for the two-way phenom. In just his fourth year stateside, Ohtani won nine games as a pitcher, while belting 46 home runs as a hitter — putting him one win short of becoming the first player in 103 years to rack up double-digit wins and homers, a feat last achieved by Babe Ruth.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Ohtani hits his 46th home run in the final game of the season in Seattle on October 3.

Ohtani hits his 46th home run in the final game of the season in Seattle on October 3.

“I’m thrilled and want to thank everyone who supported me,” Ohtani said, clad in a suit jacket and speaking in Japanese, after the MLB Network announced the results of the voting. “Of course I wanted to win [MVP].”

Ohtani became the 11th player in AL history to win the award unanimously, joining Angels teammate Mike Trout, the last to do so in 2014. Ohtani received the maximum 420 points, far outpacing runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays.

‘Shotime’ and smiles

Ohtani has garnered acclaim for his dominance as a double-threat, capable of delivering 143-meter homers and blazing fastballs that clocked more than 160-kph.

He has also been praised for his gentlemanly demeanor and an ever-present smile that has won over fans as well as opponents.

A memorable example came in a pitching appearance against the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 19. Ohtani looked over to the Angels dugout, and saw manager Joe Maddon hold up four fingers, calling for him to intentionally walk Matt Olson. Ohtani shook off the sign, and pointed adamantly to Olson, indicting his eagerness to take on the Oakland slugger.

Maddon recalled that Ohtani stared him right in the eyes, as if to protest, “But I could have gotten him out!” Although Ohtani quickly diffused the standoff with a smile and the obligatory walk, Maddon said this reaction revealed the impressiveness of his competitive spirit.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Ohtani led the AL with 20 intentional walks from opposing pitchers who were not eager to give up his next home run. Maddon said Ohtani’s own prowess as a two-way player might have been a factor in why he was so reluctant to give a batter a free pass to first base.

Maddon, a three-time Manager of the Year, gives Ohtani high marks for the fire that burns behind his charismatic smile.

But back in 2018, Ohtani’s first season in the big league, ended prematurely because of a right elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in October that year.

After a lengthy rehab, he chalked up his first pitching victory of the season on April 26 this year, ending a 1,072-day drought.

Big league organizations have tended to be skeptical of two-way players. But Ohtani has certainly helped dispel doubt with his determination to become the best player in the world, and a rebellious spirit developed after encountering naysayers about two-way stars even when playing ball in Japan.

He kept his faith and his talent finally blossomed.