After a season so uncommonly dominant, there was little drama to Shohei Ohtani’s Thursday night.
The two-way superstar wrapped up his second American League Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first in major league history to win the honor unanimously multiple times.
The only mystery entails what comes next: With which team will he attempt to win a third MVP?
Any hope of prying into Ohtani’s future were dashed when, after a 27-minute delay for his celebratory conference call, the interview was canceled citing “circumstances beyond Shohei’s control.”
And thus the mystery continues.
After another one of the greatest seasons in MLB history, Ohtani won the award for his work as an Angels player but accepted it as perhaps the most hyped free agent in baseball history.
Ohtani, so often compared with Babe Ruth because there is no modern player like him, led the American League in home runs with 44.
As a pitcher, he led the American League in holding opposing hitters to a .183 batting average.
There was no doubt Ohtani would easily outpace the Rangers’ Corey Seager (who finished second) and Marcus Semien (third).
Ohtani received all 30 first-place votes, as did National League winner Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ohtani’s season, in which he posted a majors-best 1.066 OPS and made a run at Aaron Judge’s American League home run crown, ended with an honor but not with any postseason play.
His unique brilliance, in which he also went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings, was wasted yet again on an Angels club that finished 16 games under .500.
Ohtani kept astounding and entertaining until he physically could not.
He threw 1 ¹/₃ innings after Aug. 9 after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which required surgery that will render him merely a hitter next season.
Yet he kept serving as a DH until Sept. 3, when an oblique injury ended his campaign.
“As far as rehab, it’s going really great, it’s going really well. I feel like it feels a lot better and faster than the first time I had the surgery,” Ohtani, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018, said on MLB Network through an interpreter. “But at the same time, I can’t rush. … My plan is to come back strong next year.”
He enters free agency as a 29-year-old who is both the best and most famous baseball player on the planet, promising the club that wins his services not just on-field excellence but intriguing off-field marketing opportunities.
The Yankees and Mets surely will be among the many suitors who will attempt to lure him with promises of the postseason and piles of cash.
Even with Ohtani merely DH’ing next season, the idea of a prodigious hitter who envisions becoming an ace again a season later will entice just about everyone who can afford it.
Before Ohtani’s rookie season of 2018, he narrowed down his list to seven — the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Mariners, Rangers and Cubs — and none that played on the East Coast.
Will that change this time around? The MVP is not dropping any hints.