There has always been this attitude that the most valuable players in the American and National Leagues should come from pennant-winning teams.
Of course, this philosophy is based on the solid premise that the best player on the best team should be considered the best player in the league.
We get it.
Sorry, but we don’t agree. Not even a little bit.
In our view, the most valuable player is the guy without whom a team withers like a geranium in the heat of summer. How better to measure a man’s worth then to see what chaos occurs when he is missing.
So we proudly cast our AL MVP vote for Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.
If you were watching the Yankees last weekend in Boston, it must have occurred to you how broken their lineup looked without Judge powering it. New York needed jumper cables.
When Judge went on the disabled list on July 27 with a broken wrist he was hitting .285 with 26 home runs and 61 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .398. His slugging percentage was .548.
Do you think the Yankees really would rather give Shane Robinson (.200) Luke Voit (.118) or Neil Walker (.227) those at-bats?
On the day Judge went on the disabled list the Yankees were 4½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Prior to their game Tuesday in Chicago, they were nine games behind and fighting to keep Oakland and Seattle off their tail for one of two Wild Card spots.
Since Judge went on the disabled list, the Yankees are 4-6.
But let’s not limit ourselves to just the 2018 season. Since Judge became a starter and star last season, the Yankees are 7-16 in games he has not started. And their average run production is down by more than one a game.
The Yankees have not been able to generate enough punch to compensate for this loss. Greg Bird, Gleybar Torres, Miguel Andujar, even Giancarlo Stanton, have had trouble delivering clutch hits during the team’s summer swoon.
Things did improve a bit on Monday night in Chicago when Walker and Torres hit eighth-inning home runs off Thyago Vieira to ice a 7-0 win. But let’s not get carried away here. Vieira (10.38 ERA) will never be mistaken for Mariano Rivera.
Look, Judge is the best thing that’s happened to the Yankees since the Fab Four (Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Rivera and Bernie Williams) disappeared from the scene. His character and demeanor are so solid that he very likely will be their next captain.
In 2017, he was an All-Star and became the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby. He hit a Major League leading 52 homers, smashing Joe DiMaggio’s (29) Yankees’ rookie record. Judge hit 33 homers at Yankee Stadium, more Babe Ruth hit in the Polo Grounds (32) in 1921.
Last season, Judge hit .284 with 154 hits, 114 RBIs, a .422 on-base percentage, a .627 slugging percentage, a 1.069 on-base plus slugging percentage. And this season, he hit is 60th career home in his 197th game, besting Mark McGwire’s MLB record of 202.
Judge stands 6-feet-7 and weighs 282 pounds. He is bigger than Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce, the NFL’s top two tight ends last season.
Judge is not a man as much as he is a mountain.
Do you think the Yankees are the same team without him? Come on, raise your hands if you do.
Now, this is not to say that Mookie Betts (26 homers, 58 RBIs, .342) or J.D. Martinez (33-93, .324) of the Red Sox do not deserve strong consideration. Martinez is a legitimate Triple Crown candidate, the most impactful free agent signed in the offseason.
This is not meant to disparage Mike Trout of the Angels (30-60, .309). He is Roy Hobbs, slugging away with his own Wonderboy, perhaps the greatest multi-dimensional talent in the game.
This should not underestimate the influence Jose Altuve (9-46, .329) has with the Astros, a fact one should be able to quantify now that’s he’s on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a bad knee.
This is only to say that the Yankees just aren’t the same with Judge in their lineup. Go take that to the jury.