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The Sports Report: It seems the AL MVP award is destined for Shohei Ohtani

Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani runs to first.
Shohei Ohtani
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jack Harris on the Angels: As Shohei Ohtani climbed the dugout steps, some 50,000 spectators rose to their feet.

In Saturday night’s game between the Angels and Dodgers, just the sight of the two-way star was enough to cause a stir.

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Though Ohtani didn’t start any of the three games, with his designated hitter spot unavailable in the Dodgers-hosted Freeway Series and his turn in the rotation not due up, he pinch-hit each day. And when he walked to the plate Saturday, a tied score hung the balance. Chavez Ravine came to life.

Part of the crowd broke out in cheers. Others desperately booed. Some began chanting “M-V-P!” But all admired, either in fear or anticipation or simple awe at a player who, even four months into an historic season, continues to perform in a way the sport has never seen.

“I know there’s other guys having good years, but you have to stop and really analyze and think about what’s going on here,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said recently, when asked to evaluate Ohtani’s chances of winning the American League most valuable player award. “There’s nobody who even comes close to what he’s doing.”

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose team opens a four-game series in Anaheim on Tuesday, presents the most compelling case.

The 22-year-old son of the Angels’ Hall of Fame legend, Guerrero entered this week leading all batters in wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs. With a .318 average (fourth in the AL), 35 home runs (second) and 87 RBI (first), he has an outside shot at winning the triple crown.

And yet, with less than two months to play, it seems like Ohtani already has one hand on the plaque.

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Angels’ future: promising young arms and Corey Seager at shortstop?

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DODGERS

Bill Shaikin on the Dodgers: When the Dodgers acquired Danny Duffy from the Kansas City Royals last month, they traded for a pitcher on the injured list. They hoped to activate him for the final weeks of the season.

The final two weeks, as it turns out.

The Dodgers put Duffy and Clayton Kershaw on the 60-day injured list Monday, creating 40-man roster spots for catcher Anthony Bemboom and pitcher Conner Greene, each of whom they claimed off waivers. For Kershaw, who already has missed a month because of what the team says is elbow inflammation, the move amounts to paperwork: Manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that Kershaw would not return until “sometime in September.”

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Duffy, who has not pitched since July 16 because of a strained left flexor muscle, said last week he had been advised he could return anywhere from late August to early September. The move to the 60-day IL means he can return no sooner than Sept. 15. At that point, the Dodgers would have 16 games left in the regular season.

UCLA FOOTBALL

Thun Nhi Nguyen on the Bruins: Chip Kelly’s first recruiting class signaled the beginning of a new era for UCLA football. The 2018 group headlined by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson signed with immense promise and high expectations but carried a large warning label.

Some assembly required.

Three years of program building later, the Bruins have grown into one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12 with Kelly’s first recruiting class entering its senior year. The table is set for what should be their long-awaited breakout season.

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“We’re all old now,” senior offensive lineman Jon Gaines II said. “It’s on us to have the standard that we hold ourselves to. … The time is now.”

UCLA lost just two starters on offense and defense combined — the fewest of any team in the Pac-12 — and is tied with California for the third-highest percentage of upperclassmen in the conference, trailing just Stanford and USC.

LAKERS

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: Carmelo Anthony is 37, was how the question began, and LeBron James turns 37 on Dec. 30 …

“We don’t care,” Anthony answered before the question was finished.

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Dwight Howard is 35, Trevor Ariza is 36, Marc Gasol is 36 ….

“We … don’t … care …” Anthony said, smiling. “We make our own narrative.”

The story line is that the Lakers are old by NBA standards or they are a very experienced team, depending on your view.

The truth is that eight of the 12 players on the Lakers’ current roster are 30 or older, six of them joining the team this summer.

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With the 20-something players of Anthony Davis (28), Talen Horton-Tucker (20), Malik Monk (23) and Kendrick Nunn (26), the Lakers’ average age is 31.2 years.

Anthony in his first news conference with the Los Angeles media on Monday since joining the Lakers on a veteran minimum deal talked about how players of his generation have taken care of their bodies and that has allowed them to extend their careers.

“I think just the concept and the seriousness behind taking care of yourself, like, we really understand what that means from a holistic standpoint — the mind, body and soul,” Anthony said. “We are there at that point of our career where we understand the importance of what it means to take care of your body. What it means to take care of your mind. And in this situation, experience comes into play.”

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: For the first time in five weeks, the Clippers are playing basketball again. At least one version of them, anyway.

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The roster coached by assistant Jeremy Castleberry during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is hardly the same that will begin training camp in late September under the guidance of coach Tyronn Lue, of course. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens over the course of the next week-plus in Las Vegas will stay inside Nevada Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. The Clippers are hoping that the development shown there carries into the fall and winter.

With the Clippers playing five games during their stay — a schedule that begins Monday night against Milwaukee — here are five reasons to watch their action closely.

Click here for the list.

SPARKS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: When Nneka Ogwumike had every reason to shrink away from the spotlight, the Sparks forward kept a brave face front and center.

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Nursing a knee injury last month, she was still cheering and coaching her teammates during a six-game losing streak. She did media events as a star in “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and spoke to kids about her experience in the movie. She never let on that she was dealing with the personal and professional disappointment of a third consecutive Olympic snub and the longest injury absence of her career.

On Monday, it became too much to bear.

“I just want to play basketball,” Ogwumike said through tears while discussing the last two months that have been among the most trying of her illustrious career.

First there was a Grade 2 knee sprain that sidelined the star forward for more than a month. Then came USA Basketball’s controversial decision to keep Ogwumike off the Olympic roster despite earning most valuable player of the 2019 qualifying tournament. When she tried to make lemonade out of the sour situation by looking for an opportunity to play for Nigeria, FIBA denied her waiver request. She is still the only WNBA MVP to not be named to an Olympic roster.

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1900 — The first Davis Cup is held with the United States beating Britain, 3-0.

1949 — Ezzard Charles knocks out Gus Lesnovich in the eighth round at Yankee Stadium in his first world heavyweight title defense.

1975 — Jack Nicklaus wins the PGA Championship for the fourth time with a two-stroke victory over Bruce Crampton and Tom Weiskopf.

1980 — Jack Nicklaus wins his fifth PGA Championship with a record score of 274, seven strokes ahead of Andy Bean.

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1984 — The much anticipated matchup between American world champion Mary Decker and South African Zola Budd in the women’s 3000-meter race at the Los Angeles Olympics ends in controversy. Just past the midpoint of the race, Decker steps on Budd’s heel, causing Budd to stumble and Decker to trip over Budd. Budd gets back into the race and Decker goes down with an injured thigh. Romania’s Maricica Puica, who had set the fastest time in 1984, wins the race and Budd finishes seventh.

1995 — Michael Bradley, a third-year pro without a tour victory, shoots a record-tying 63 in his first PGA round to lead the PGA Championship.

1996 — Cigar’s bid for a 17th straight victory ends when longshot Dare and Go passes the super horse in the upper stretch and pulls away to win the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Cigar, 3 1-2 lengths behind Dare and Go, fails to break a tie with Citation for the record winning streak by a North American-based horse this century.

2008 — In Beijing, Michael Phelps begins his long march toward eight gold medals by winning the 400-meter individual medley in 4:03.84 — smashing his own world record. The U.S. women’s 400-meter freestyle relay team, anchored by 41-year-old Dara Torres, takes the silver behind the Netherlands’ Olympic record effort. It’s the 10th medal of Torres’ career.

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2008 — Ireland’s Padraig Harrington rallies from three shots behind to win the PGA Championship, closing with a 4-under 66 at Oakland Hills to become the fourth player to win the British Open and PGA in the same year. Harrington, the first European to win consecutive majors, closes out Sergio Garcia with a 15-foot par on the 18th for a two-shot victory.

2012 — The United States wins the women’s 4x100-meter track relay in a world-record time of 40.82 seconds to give the Americans their first Olympic victory in the event since 1996. Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter combine for a perfect trip around the track that ends a string of disappointments for the U.S. in the marquee relay.

2012 — Maurice Purify catches a record seven touchdown passes and the Arizona Rattlers win the Arena Bowl with a 72-54 win over the Philadelphia Soul.

2014 — Rory McIlroy wins his second straight major championship and fourth of his young career, rallying on the back nine in the PGA Championship. The tournament finishes in near-darkness at Valhalla Golf Club, with the final two groups essentially morphing into a foursome as they race to beat nightfall. McIlroy rallies from a three-shot deficit at the turn, to shoot a 3-under 68 to beat Phil Mickelson by one stroke. McIlroy finishes at 16-under 268.

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2016 — Daryl Homer becomes the first American to win an Olympic silver medal in men’s individual sabre in 112 years.

2016 — Kristin Armstrong wins the road cycling individual time trial, finishing with a time of 44:26.42 for her third consecutive gold in the Olympic event.

And finally

Zola Budd and Mary Decker Slaney discuss their famous race. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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