It was early in the penultimate week of the regular season. The Los Angeles Angels were flailing toward the end of another disappointing campaign, and yet Joe Maddon seemed shocked at the suggestion that anybody but Shohei Ohtani could capture the American League's Most Valuable Player Award.
"It's one of the best years -- maybe the best year, in the history of the game -- by a baseball player," Maddon, the Angels' manager, was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 21. "If that's not recognized independent of championships, then I don't know when it would be."
Ohtani has done it all in 2021, at a simultaneous level that not even Babe Ruth ever reached. He has crushed monster home runs and uncorked devastating splitters, reared back for triple-digit fastballs and run fast enough to beat out ground balls to first base. Just as important: He has sustained a full season as a two-way player, captivating baseball fans all over the world with stirring performances both on the mound and in the batter's box.
With the season nearing its conclusion, here's our running top-five lists of Ohtani's best moments -- on both sides -- this year.