Before tonight’s opening World Series contest, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he was awarding Angels star Shohei Ohtani an Historic Achievement Award. Ohtani becomes the 16th recipient of the award, which was first given to Cal Ripken Jr. in 1998 in honor of his consecutive games streak.
The Historic Achievement Award is granted at the commissioner’s discretion to individuals and teams who made an historically significant impact on the game. Ohtani is the first honoree of Manfred’s tenure as commissioner; the most recent recipients had been Derek Jeter and Vin Scully, who were recognized in 2014 by then-commissioner Bud Selig.
Ohtani’s two-way promise has been lauded for years, but 2021 was the first time he was able to stay healthy and put together a great season on both sides of the ball. Over 639 plate appearances, the 27-year-old hit .257/.372/.592 and blasted 46 home runs, the third-highest mark leaguewide. He also stole 26 bases and hit an MLB-best eight triples. Only Bryce Harper, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatís Jr. topped Ohtani as overall hitters by measure of wRC+.
Ohtani also worked 130 1/3 innings on the mound, pitching to a 3.18 ERA while striking out 156 batters. He was selected to the All-Star Game as both a pitcher and position player, and manager Kevin Cash allowed him to start the contest for the American League in both roles. Unsurprisingly, Ohtani’s two-way exploits made him one of the game’s most popular players. According to MLB.com, he had the ninth highest-selling jersey of the 2021 season.