This saga took a turn last night when reporters noticed that his locker was empty, but there was no information on why. The angels wouldn’t say anything about it, leaving the baseball world to speculate. Today, it was announced that he was dealing with an oblique issue and would miss the rest of the campaign.
Here’s what I know about oblique injuries: They linger — and apparently, that’s exactly what happened with this one. Maybe he could have tried to wait until it feels perfect, but Ohtani is already 12 days removed from playing in games. It makes no sense at this point to push things and risk further injury at this point in that season, after already tearing his right UCL.
With that in mind, I absolutely believe it is the right decision for him to shut down for the remainder of the season, have his health fully evaluated and assess what his recovery plan looks like. Obliques are really, really tricky and they just continue to linger. Ohtani’s clearly did.
Ohtani is such a gamer. He obviously wanted to come back and whether anybody thought that was the right or wrong decision for a team that’s not going to make the playoffs doesn’t really matter. He wanted to play. He wanted to continue this season offensively and put up even better numbers. Unfortunately, this oblique injury just didn’t allow that to happen.
This is the right call, particularly because it allows him to address his arm issues sooner. But let’s go over what he accomplished before injuries set in.
I believe Ohtani will win his second MVP award this winter. Had the arm injury not happened, we were on pace to see the greatest season of all time. I said that in 2021, when it absolutely was the greatest season we’ve ever seen. And this season was certainly one-upping that.
Ohtani was fantastic on the mound — he finished with 10 wins and a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings. But he did his best work at the plate. He hit for a .304 batting average, smashed 44 homers, stole 20 bases and drove in 95 RBIs. He easily put up his highest batting average, on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.654) in a season. He hit 40 homers and struck out 150 hitters. Nobody else has ever done it; Ohtani just did it for the second straight year.
I think he was the best offensive player in the American League this season. Now, we can’t have that conversation without discussing Corey Seager and what he’s done this year for the Rangers, hitting .344 with 31 homers on the year. It is ridiculous with the amount of games that he has played (104 going into Saturday’s game), but that has to be factored in as well. Shohei will ultimately have played more games than Seager, and that has to be taken into consideration.
If Seager played a full season with a .340 average and 40-plus home runs as a shortstop, that would go down as an all-time campaign. But Ohtani’s offensive impact was comparable and he kept it up over more games.
I think even without throwing a pitch, Ohtani is the AL MVP. But he did throw a lot of pitches, and they were good ones. And that’s why in my opinion, he is absolutely the American League MVP.
I do think there’s a conversation to be had still about the best offensive player in the league; the Hank Aaron Award. This would be Ohtani’s first, but it could be neck and neck between him and Seager.
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Shutting Ohtani down now is the right decision. He put up one of the greatest seasons we’ve ever seen; missing a few weeks late should not change who’s going to be the AL MVP this year.
I very much look forward to seeing Ohtani back out on the field in 2024, wherever it may be. He’ll reinforce his trophy case with some new hardware before picking a destination.
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