Shohei Ohtani, baseball's 2-way star, becomes first 2-time unanimous MVP

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FILE - Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani smiles before a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in Philadelphia. Shohei Ohtani is a favorite to win his second AL Most Valuable Player award, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, and is likely to speak publicly since tearing an elbow ligament on Aug. 9, an injury that required surgery and will keep him off the mound next year. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

NEW YORK – Shohei Ohtani's injury remains mysterious. His dominance is clear.

After captivating baseball with his unprecedented combination of high-level hitting and premium pitching, the two-way star became the first two-time unanimous Most Valuable Player when he won the American League honor on Thursday.

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While Ohtani appeared on the televised Major League Baseball Network announcement, with a dog in his lap, the prized free agent 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.

Before Ohtani got hurt while playing for the Los Angeles Angels and had right elbow surgery on Sept. 19, there was wide speculation he could gain the first $500 million contract in baseball history. Ohtani had Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and his agent, Nez Balelo, did not specify complete details after the latest operation.

Ohtani 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, and this year marked the first time since the awards began in 1931 that the winner in each league was unanimous. There have been 21 unanimous MVPs.

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.

He 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 Acuña. Ohtani led the majors with a 10.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

A left-handed batter and right-handed pitcher, Ohtani is a three-time All-Star. He 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.

Seager earned a $200,000 bonus for finishing second, and Semien got $150,000 for finishing third.

Seattle's Julio Rodríguez was fourth with 197 points. Houston's Kyle Tucker got one second-place vote and was fifth with 178 points.

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