After taking home the American League MVP in a unanimous vote last month, Shohei Ohtani earned yet another honor for his historic season on Tuesday, as he was named the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year for 2021.
The AP Male Athlete of the Year award can be won by competitors in any of the major sports leagues or any Olympic event, and Ohtani won it this year after LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers took it home in 2020 following their championship win that season. The Angels’ two-way superstar is the first Major League Baseball player to win it since José Altuve did back in 2017, and he joins Altuve, Madison Bumgarner in 2014, and Barry Bonds in 2001 as the only representatives of MLB to take the honor home since the turn of the century. He also joins Altuve and fellow compatriot Naomi Osaka as the only non-American born athletes to win the male or female version of the award in the last decade.
As you probably already know by now, Ohtani put together a once-in-a-generation type season in 2021, becoming the first person to excel both in the batter’s box and on the mound since the legendary Babe Ruth all the way back in 1919. As a hitter, Ohtani emerged as one of the premier power threats in the league, slugging 46 home runs and 100 RBI while recording a .965 OPS that ranked 5th in all of baseball. As a hitter, he re-emerged as the unquestioned ace of the Angels’ pitching staff, making 23 starts while posting a 3.18 ERA and striking out 156 hitters in 130.1 innings. Among guys to pitch 130 innings or more, his ERA- of 73 tied for the 14th best in baseball. Either of these things on their own would rank him among the league’s elite, but doing both of them at the same time made for something truly unprecedented in the history of the sport.
This award is just the latest of a long string of accolades that Ohtani has brought home since the conclusion of the 2021 season. In addition to this and the MVP, he also won the AL Silver Slugger at DH, was named first team All-MLB at DH and second team as a starter, took home the 2021 MLB Players Choice Awards Player of the Year, and was awarded the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award given to those who have made a “major impact on the sport” of baseball.