Aaron Judge made a lasting impression on baseball fans when he set the American League single-season record and chased the Triple Crown down the stretch. He now has one last shot at surpassing his historic 2022.
The New York Yankees manager was named the AL Most Valuable Player on Thursday night, beating out Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Jordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros. He is the first Yankee outfielder to win the award since Mickey Mantle in 1962.
Judge received 28 first-place votes and 410 points, ahead of Ohtani (280) by 130 points. Ohtani was the only other player to receive first-place votes, with two. Alvarez had 232 points for third place.
Judge led the AL in a number of offensive categories, including home runs (62), RBI (131), slugging percentage (.686), on-base percentage (.425), OPS+ (211) and total bases (391). He previously finished as AL MVP runner-up in 2017, when he was unanimously named AL Rookie of the Year.
He became just the fourth major leaguer to hit more than 62 home runs in a 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 is just five points shy (.311) of Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Araez for the hitting title, which would complete the Triple Crown.
The MVP honor caps a season that began in turmoil over contract negotiations with the Yankees as he entered the final year of his contract. The judge himself set a deadline for opening negotiations on a possible extension, but the parties failed to reach an agreement. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman then took the unusual step of publicly disclosing the terms of the contract the team had offered Judge — an eight-year, $230.5 million extension. Judge declined the offer, expecting bigger things if he hits 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 when the calendar turned to May, the Judge was gone. The Yankees hit 12 homers that month, 11 in June, 13 in July, nine in August and 10 in September before hitting No. 62 on the final day of the regular season in October. Judge’s 157 games played during 2022 were his most since his rookie season, the previous best year by bVAR (8.1).
Judge’s month-to-month consistency served as the backbone of a New York offense that at times struggled to stay healthy and produce around him. By the end of the season, he was second in baseball behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, scoring 807 runs.
As Judge approached Roger Maris’ AL record 61 homers, each of his at-bats became an event. In games both at Yankee Stadium and on the road, fans stood up every time he entered the batter’s box and remained standing for every game. Members of the Yankees fought for seats on the top step of the dugout to get a place to watch their teammate potentially make history.
On September 28, Judge hit a record 61st home run, driving Toronto Blue Jays reliever Tim Maze deep into the seventh inning in game 155 for the Yankees. The history-making homer ended a seven-game home run.
No. 62 didn’t come until Oct. 4, in the penultimate game of the Yankees’ season. The record came off Texas Rangers pitcher Jesus Tinoco with a shot to left field.
While Judge put together a record-breaking regular season, he came up short during the postseason, hitting his worst stretch of the season as 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 among 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 hits the free agent market poised to land one of the biggest contracts of the offseason. Yankees general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said publicly that he wants Judge to be in pinstripes for the rest of his career.