Aaron Judge has carved a permanent place in baseball fans’ memories as he set the American League single-season home run record and chased a Triple Crown. Now he has one last accolade to surpass his historic 2022.
The New York Yankees slugger was crowned AL Most Valuable Player Thursday night, defeating 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, beating Ohtani (280) by 130 points. Ohtani was the only other player to take first place, with two. Alvarez had 232 points to finish third.
Judge led the AL in numerous offensive categories, including home runs (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 only the fourth major leaguer to hit more than 62 homers 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 just five runs shy (.311) of Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez for the batting title, which would have completed the Triple Crown.
The honorary title MVP caps off a season that began with tumult 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 possible extension, but the parties failed to come to an agreement. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman then took an unusual step by publicly disclosing the terms of the contract the team offered Judge – an eight-year, $230.5 million extension. Judge declined the offer, expecting more when he entered the free agent market after this season.
The season started relatively slowly for Judge, as he hit six home runs in 75 at bats in April. But as the calendar turned to May, Judge took off. The Yankees outfielder hit 12 home runs that month, 11 in June, 13 in July, nine in August, and 10 in September, before hitting number 62 on the last day of the regular season in October. Judge’s 157 games in 2022 were his most since his rookie season, the previous best year of his career according to bWAR (8.1).
Judge’s month-to-month consistency served as the backbone for a New York bout that struggled at times to stay sane and produce around him. By season’s end, it ranked second behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in baseball, scoring 807 runs.
As Judge approached Roger Maris’ AL record of 61 homers, each of his at bats became an event. At games at both Yankee Stadium and on the road, fans stood up and stood for every pitch every time he stepped into the batter’s box. Members of the Yankees jostled for spots on the top step of the dugout to secure a spot to potentially watch their teammate make history.
Judge hit the record-tying 61st home run on September 28, beating Toronto Blue Jays’ successor Tim Mayza deep in the seventh inning in game No. 155 for the Yankees. The historic homer ended a seven-game goal drought.
No. 62 did not come until October 4, in the Yankees’ penultimate game of the season. The record breaker came from Texas Rangers pitcher Jesus Tinoco, an opening shot into left field.
While Judge put together a regular season for the record book, he came up short during the postseason and hit his worst part of the season when the Yankees played 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 homers on 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, ready to land one of the biggest contracts of the off-season. Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner has said publicly that he wants Judge to remain pinstriped for the rest of his career.