Aaron Judge set an American League record for home runs in a single season and chased the Triple Crown in the closing seconds, leaving a permanent mark on the memory of baseball fans. Now, he has the final honor beyond his historic 2022.
The New York Yankees slugger defeated Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros for the Associated Press Most Valuable Player title on Thursday night. He is the first Yankees outfielder to win the award since Mickey Mantle in 1962.
Judge received 28 first-place votes and 410 points, 130 points ahead of Ohtani (280). Ohtani was the only player to receive first-place votes, with two votes. Alvarez finished third with 232 points.
Judge leads the AL in a number of offensive categories, including home runs (62), RBIs (131), slugging percentage (.686), on-base percentage (.425), OPS+ (211) and total bases (391) . He was a runner-up 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 McGuire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sousa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999). He’s just five runs behind Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Alaz (.311) for the hitter title, which would have completed the Triple Crown .
As he enters the final year of his deal, that MVP honor caps off a season that began with an uproar over contract negotiations with the Yankees. The judge set a self-imposed deadline for an open house to negotiate a possible extension, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman then took the unusual step of publicly disclosing the terms of the team’s contract for Judge — an eight-year, $230.5 million extension. Judge turned down the offer, expecting to do better if he enters free agency after this season.
Judge got off to a relatively slow start to the season, hitting six homers in 75 at-bats in April. But once the calendar flipped to May, Judge took off. Yankee outfielders hit 12 home runs in the month, 11 in June, 13 in July, 9 in August, 10 in September and 62 on the final day of the regular season in October. Judge’s 157 games in 2022 are the most since his rookie season, and the best year of his career (8.1) last time in bWAR.
Judge’s month-to-month consistency has become the backbone of New York’s offense, working around him to stay healthy and make a difference. It finished the season second in baseball behind the Los Angeles Dodgers with 807 points scored.
As Judge approached Roger Maris’ AL record of 61 homers, every one of his at-bats became an event. At Yankee Stadium and on the road, fans stood up every time he stepped into the strike zone and stood at every pitch. The Yankees scrambled to grab a spot on the top step of the dugout to be able to watch their teammates potentially make history.
Judge hit a record 61st home run in September. On the 28th, in the seventh inning of Game 1, Toronto Blue Jays reliever Tim Mezza was in deep trouble. 155 Yankees. The historic home run ended a seven-game home run drought.
Do not. 62 doesn’t come until October. 4, in the penultimate game of the Yankees season. The record was broken by Texas Rangers pitcher Jesus Tinoko, who drove to left field.
While Judge set a regular-season record, he struggled in the playoffs, posting his worst performance of the season as the Yankees played against the Cleveland Guards in the AL Division Series and the AL Championship Series against the Astros. In nine games, Judge is hitting .139/.184/.306 with two homers in five hits in nine games. The eventual World Series champion Astros ended the Yankees’ season with a four-game sweep in the ALCS.
Judge now enters free agency poised to land one of the biggest contracts of the offseason. Yankees managing partner Halstein Brener has publicly stated that he wants Judge to wear pinstripes for the rest of his career.