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Shohei Ohtani

NEW YORK (AP) — Shohei Ohtani, who has captivated baseball with his unprecedented combination of high-level hitting and premium pitching, became the first two-time unanimous Most Valuable Player when he won the American League honor on Thursday.

Ohtani, a free agent after finishing his contract with the Los Angeles Angels, received all 30 first-place votes and 420 points in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He was a unanimous MVP in 2021 and finished second to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in voting last year.

Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. won the National League honor, also a unanimous pick. There have been 21 unanimous MVPs, and this year marked the first time since the awards began in 1931 that the winner in each league was unanimous.

Corey Seager was second with 24 second–place votes and 264 points, and Texas teammate Marcus Semien was third with five second-place votes and 216 points. Balloting took place before the postseason, when the Rangers won their first World Series title.

Ohtani led the AL with 44 homers and hit .304 with 96 RBIs, eight triples and 20 stolen bases in a season at the plate that ended Sept. 3 because of an oblique injury.

While Ohtani appeared on the televised Major League Baseball Network announcement, with a dog in his lap, he did not speak on the media call that had been scheduled to follow. Major League Baseball said Ohtani was not available due to circumstances beyond his control. He has not spoken with reporters since Aug. 9, two weeks before a pitching injury that required surgery and will keep him off a mound until 2025.

Ohtani was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts on the mound, striking out 167 and walking 55 in 132 innings before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Aug. 23.

Not even Babe Ruth starred at such lofty levels on the mound and at the plate in the same season. Ruth batted .300 with 11 homers and 61 RBIs in 1918 while going 13-7 with a 2.22 ERA for Boston, then hit .322 with 29 homers and 113 RBIs in 1919 while going 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA. He made just five mound appearances in his final 16 seasons.

Ohtani averaged 96.8 mph with his four-seam fastball, 26th among qualified pitchers, and a 94.4 mph exit velocity off his bat, third among qualified batters behind Judge and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. Ohtani led the majors with a 10.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

A left-handed batter and right-handed pitcher, Ohtani had right elbow surgery on Sept. 19. He underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, did not specify details of the latest operation.

Before the injury, it appeared Ohtani could gain the first $500 million contract in baseball history. The three-time All-Star has a .274 average, 171 homers, 437 RBIs and 86 steals in six major league seasons and is 38-19 with a 3.01 ERA in 86 starts with 608 strikeouts in 481 2/3 innings.

Ohtani won AL Rookie of the Year in 2018 after leaving the Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to sign with the Angels. He was voted the Pacific League’s MVP in 2016.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB

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