The AL race for the MVP award is tight. It boils down to a choice between Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve. But here’s why Judge makes the cut.
The criteria for Most Valuable Player has never been spelled out by Major League Baseball. As a result, it’s become an award based on “feel” more than science, and even the stats that the Elias Sports Bureau bombards us with. When you strip away everything, though, Aaron Judge deserves the award.
The contest for the American League Most Valuable Player comes down to a midget vs. a giant. The choice between five-foot-six Jose Altuve and six-foot-seven Aaron Judge recalls a time in 1960 when the world of baseball was lit up by a trade between the Cleveland Indians, who dealt their matinee idol and home run slugger Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn, a singles hitter who had all the appeal of the tobacco chaw in his cheek.
Kuenn was no slouch, and in Detroit, he had batted a league-leading .353, with nine homers, 42 doubles, and 71 RBI. But even then, the lure of the home run was as enticing as a measure of a player’s value as it is today. There are Indians fans who still rant against the trade.
Altuve is no slouch either. He may even be the best all-around ballplayer in the major leagues today. And indeed he didn’t diminish himself with his performance in the playoffs and World Series.
Aaron Judge Separates Himself From Altuve
Before we get to the question of how Judge separates himself from Altuve, though, the point is made more comfortable in the National League where the MVP finalists include the two candidates expected to battle it out for the award, Joey Votto and Nolan Arenado.
Both are among the best players in the game today. And if you put the numbers on each side by side, you’ll lose a lot of sleep trying to separate the two. But ask yourself this question, and the choice becomes clear: Without Joey Votto on their team, could the Cincinnati Reds have been any worse than they were in 2017? Did Votto make a difference? Hardly. With or without him the Reds were the same miserable team.
Turning then to Arenado, what would the Rockies season have looked like without him, save for the contributions of Charlie Blackmon in the lineup? Arenado, with another Gold Glove Award thrown in with his offensive numbers, insured the Rockies would make it the Wild Card shootout they eventually lost, but not without Arenado contributing a home run to the cause.
Aaron Judge Made All The Difference For The Yankees
Ironically, Judge showed both sides of the coin when it comes to “making a difference” on the Yankees team. During the two months he struggled after the All-Star Game, the team struggled with him, barely playing .500 baseball as you’ll recall.
And then, in August and September, as soon as Judge showed signs of life, the Yankees did too. Even to the point of making a run at the Red Sox for the Division title.
Moreover, his demeanor over the course of the season was unparalleled for a young man in his first big league season. And if you don’t buy into that, name one instance over the course of the 2017 season in which Aaron Judge embarrassed himself, the New York Yankees, or Major League Baseball. You can’t find one.
To reiterate, we’re talking about Judge and the Yankees, not Altuve and the Astros. Judge walked a much tighter tightrope over the course of the season than Altuve. At the All-Star Game when the spotlight of America was shining, it was Judge, not Altuve who performed before the media, and somehow even won the Home Run Derby.
Look, it’s a close vote. And after watching this little guy in the playoffs and World Series, I am enamored with his style of play and what he produces on the field.
But in the end, if you remove Aaron Judge from the Yankees and Jose Altuve from the Astros, it’s the Yankees who would have been hurt the most. Thus, by definition, Judge deserves the MVP Award in 2017.