Baseball, Columnists, Sports

On-Deck Circle: Contrasting celebrations from the MLB MVPs

Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr.’s reactions to receiving their MVP awards were very different, to say the least. 

Acuña was surrounded by friends and family, with fans and cameras adding to the moment.

Ohtani sat for a previously scheduled interview, alone in his home with his dog on his lap. 

Chloe Patel | Senior Graphic Artist

Ohtani’s muted celebration came in stark contrast to the explosion of cheers during Acuña’s. Ohtani high-fived his dog, while Acuña was mobbed by everyone around him. 

While the two may have had very different award ceremonies, they did share success on the diamond in 2023. 

Two weeks ago, Ohtani was named American League MVP, while Acuña won the award in the National League.

The honor comes at a pivotal time in Ohtani’s career as his free agency decision looms. A name like his entering free agency has led to a flurry of rumors including, at times, half the teams in the league. 

Realistically, who wouldn’t want the best two-way player ever to take the field? In 2022, Ohtani played an unprecedented two-game stretch that challenged over a century of baseball history. He drove in eight runs in one game, including two home runs, and pitched an incomprehensible 13-strikeout game the next day. A player that can pitch and hit at this level will command an extraordinary contract.

However, his elbow surgery this past season may change how long that deal will be. Ohtani may have been in line for a decade-long deal before going under the knife. Now, the risk of signing Ohtani long-term when his pitching durability is up in the air may turn some teams off.

His nagging arm problems may limit his durability on the mound, but his ability at the plate will never be in question. His success mashing the baseball may be enough to warrant a contract as big as one based on both his hitting and pitching. 

That being said, no matter how good Ohtani is, he’s a risky investment for any team hoping to get a stud on both sides of the ball. Regardless of the length, Ohtani is likely to see a deal worth over half a billion dollars. 

While a return to the Los Angeles Angels seems unlikely, experts say the top suitors for the Japanese star include the crosstown LA Dodgers, reigning-champion Texas Rangers and the deep-pocketed New York Mets.

In the National League, Acuña Jr. faces a completely different future. 

In 2019, Acuña signed a eight-year deal worth $100 million. He will be a member of the Atlanta Braves for the foreseeable future, with the contract lasting through 2028 if the team chooses to exercise their club options. 

Last season, Acuña became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 70 bases in a single season. It was an unreal campaign for a player who missed most of the 2021 season due to a torn ACL and solidified him as an all-time great. 

But he wasn’t done yet. 

Moments after winning MVP, Acuña took the field once again, this time in the Venezuelan Winter League. It isn’t his first offseason spent playing in his home country. In fact, he credited playing over the winter in 2022 for his success this season.

A member of Tiburones de la Guaira, Acuña became the first Major League player to win MVP and then play in his country’s winter league since 2005, when Vladimir Guerrero Sr. played in the Dominican League after he won AL MVP.

While Acuña is showing that there is no offseason for the best players in baseball, Ohtani is taking a different approach, recovering at home with his dog during his time off. 

With headlines coming from free-agency signings, trades and offseason stats for players like Acuña, the MLB is becoming a year-round business. Fans are never short on drama to keep them invested in the game all year long.

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