Aaron Judge etched a permanent place in baseball fans’ memories when he set the American League single-season home run record and chased a triple crown in the process. Now he has one final accolade to cap off his 2022 history.
The New York Yankees slugger was crowned the AL Most Valuable Player on Thursday night, beating Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros. He is the first Yankees outfielder to win the award since Mickey Mantle in 1962.
Judge received 28 first-place votes and 410 points, edging out Ohtani (280) by 130 points. Ohtani was the only other player to receive first place votes, with two. Alvarez had 232 points to finish third.
Judge led the AL in a host of offensive categories, including homers (62), RBIs (131), slugging percentage (.686), on-base percentage (.425), OPS+ ( 211) and total bases (391). He previously finished second for AL MVP in 2017, when he was the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year.
He became the fourth major league player to hit more than 62 home runs in a single season, joining Barry Bonds (73 in 2001), Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999). He fell to just five runs (.311) behind Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez for the batting title, which would have completed the Triple Crown.
The MVP honor caps a season that began with an uproar over contract negotiations with the Yankees as he entered the final year of his contract. The judge set a self-imposed opening day deadline to negotiate a potential extension, but the parties failed to reach an agreement. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman then took the unusual step of publicly revealing the terms of the contract the team offered Judge – an eight-year, $230.5 million extension. Judge turned down the offer, expecting bigger things if he hit the free agent market after this season.
The season got off to a relatively slow start for Judge, as he hit six homers in 75 at bats in April. But once the schedule shifted to May, Judge took off. The Yankees outfielder hit 12 homers that month, 11 in June, 13 in July, nine in August and 10 in September before hitting No. 62 on the last day of the regular season in October. Judge’s 157 games played in 2022 were his most since his rookie season, the previous best year of his career by bWAR (8.1).
Judge’s consistency from month to month served as the backbone of a New York offense that at times struggled to stay healthy and produce around him. At the end of the season, he ranked second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in baseball, scoring 807 points.
As Judge neared Roger Maris’ AL record of 61 home runs, each of his batting hits became an event. In games at Yankee Stadium and on the road, fans would stand up every time he entered the batting box and stay up for every pitch. Members of the Yankees jostled for places on the top step of the dugout to secure a spot to watch their teammate potentially make history.
Judge hit the record 61st homer on Sept. 28, taking Toronto Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza deep in the seventh inning of Game 155 for the Yankees. The historic circuit ended a seven-game drought at home.
Number 62 didn’t arrive until October 4, in the Yankees’ penultimate game of the season. The record holder beat Texas Rangers pitcher Jesus Tinoco, a first shot to left field.
While Judge put together a regular season for the record books, he faltered in the playoffs, hitting his worst streak of the season as the Yankees faced the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Division Series and the Astros in the AL Championship Series. . In nine games, Judge hit .139/.184/.306 with two home runs among five hits in nine games. The eventual World Series champion Astros finished the Yankees season with a four-game sweep in the ALCS.
Judge is now entering the free agent market, poised to land one of the biggest deals of the offseason. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has publicly stated that he wants Judge to be pinstriped for the rest of his career.
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