Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper claim 2021 MVP honors

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Time for a bigger trophy case, Bryce. Despite another frustrating season for the Phillies, owners of the National League’s longest playoff drought (10 seasons), Bryce Harper was phenomenal in 2021, leading the majors in both slugging percentage (.615) and OPS (1.044). For his efforts, the 29-year-old was awarded NL MVP, joining Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson and Jimmie Foxx as one of just five players in MLB history to win MVP for two different teams. Harper’s former Washington teammate, Juan Soto, finished runner-up, improving on his fifth-place finish in 2020. Padres slugger Fernando Tatis Jr. was third with Brandon Crawford of the Giants and Trea Turner—another former teammate of Harper—rounding out the top five.

Harper is the sixth Phillie to win MVP and the first since Jimmy Rollins in 2007. Signed to a landmark 13-year, $330-million contract, Harper earned his award with a monster second half, hitting an absurd .338/.476/.713 with 20 homers, 50 RBI, six steals, 28 doubles and 65 walks after the All-Star break. The former first overall pick also won MVP as a member of the Nationals in 2015.

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The AL announcement didn’t carry much suspense with Shohei Ohtani winning in unanimous fashion, receiving all 30 first-place votes. What Ohtani accomplished in 2021 was, by all accounts, unprecedented. The Angels slugger enjoyed a breakout year, dominating at the plate with 46 homers (one off the franchise mark held by Troy Glaus), 100 RBI, 26 steals and a league-high eight triples while also having his best season as a starting pitcher, logging a superb 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings (10.77 K/9).

Including Ohtani, Mike Trout (a three-time winner), Vladimir Guerrero and Don Baylor, the Angels have now produced four American League MVPs. Oddly enough, Guerrero’s son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was second in this year’s voting, the best finish by a Blue Jay since Josh Donaldson won in 2015. Vlad Jr.’s Toronto teammate (though maybe not for long with all the interest he’s garnering in free agency) Marcus Semien placed third on the strength of a career-best 45 homers, the most ever by a second baseman. Semien also finished third in 2019, albeit with a different team (Oakland). Ohtani becomes just the second Japanese player to win the award (Ichiro Suzuki was the first to accomplish that feat) and the first pitcher to claim MVP honors since Clayton Kershaw in 2014.

Other 2021 award recipients include Cy Young winners Corbin Burnes and Robbie Ray, Randy Arozarena and Jonathan India (AL and NL Rookie of the Year, respectively) and managers of the year Gabe Kapler and Kevin Cash, the latter winning for the second year in a row.

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