NEW YORK -- "All Rise" for the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
Aaron Judge’s 2022 season captured the attention and imagination of the baseball world at large, highlighted by his journey to shatter Roger Maris’ AL single-season record for home runs. That unforgettable campaign was recognized on Thursday, when Judge was crowned as the AL MVP Award winner, as voted by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“The motivation throughout the year, man, it goes to my teammates,” Judge said. “I said that all year; they constantly pushed me day in and day out to just show up and play, because I see the hard work they put in. I’ve got to show up, just like them. Without the special crew we had this year and the past couple of years, I know I definitely wouldn’t be in this position.”
Currently a free agent, Judge received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes, claiming the MVP over two-way player Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and outfielder Yordan Alvarez of the Astros. Ohtani received the other two first-place votes.
It is the first career MVP Award for Judge, who finished second to the Astros’ Jose Altuve in 2017, a year in which Judge unanimously claimed the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
“I was extremely nervous,” Judge said. “You’re going up against Yordan Alvarez, one of the top premier hitters in this game, and Shohei Ohtani is by far one of the best players on this planet. You never want to assume anything. Both of those guys had incredible years and it’s been fun competing with them over the years.”
Judge is the first Yankee to win AL MVP since Alex Rodriguez in 2007, and the first Yanks outfielder to win it since Mickey Mantle in 1962. Judge is the second player to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP with the Yankees, joining Thurman Munson, who won Rookie of the Year in '70 and AL MVP in '76. Judge is the 21st BBWAA MVP in Yankees history.
“He was incredible in every facet of the game in 2022, and put up a season that ranks with the very best of all time,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “Aaron’s success was especially meaningful for our organization, as we’ve been able to watch him grow throughout his professional career into the player and leader he has become -- an offensive force in the batter’s box, a run preventer wherever we’ve put him in the field and someone who sets the tone in the clubhouse with his relentless commitment to winning. He has been our MVP for quite some time now, and this honor couldn’t be more deserved.”
While Judge broke Maris’ record with a 62nd home run -- which came on Oct. 4 in his penultimate at-bat of the season off the Rangers’ Jesús Tinoco -- the 30-year-old’s stellar campaign was so much more than just crushing the long ball.
Playing in all but five of the Yankees’ games, Judge paced the Majors in runs (133), homers (62), RBIs (131), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111), OPS+ (211) and total bases (391), while earning the fourth All-Star selection and third Silver Slugger Award of his career.
Judge also paced the AL with 111 walks, finishing five batting points shy of the Twins’ Luis Arraez in his pursuit of a Triple Crown. In his sixth full season as a big leaguer, Judge played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field and right field, making a career-high 74 starts in center and 54 more in right.
“Congratulations to Aaron on one of the greatest seasons in the history of our sport,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m grateful that I got to witness it firsthand and share in his magical year, especially given how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person. I hope he can reflect on his extraordinary individual accomplishments and the impact he had on his teammates every single day and use them as fuel for continued excellence in the years to come.”
Though most of his big hits at Yankee Stadium were accompanied by chants of “M-V-P!”, Judge downplayed them in his aw-shucks style, remarking on more than one occasion that it was “just noise.”
Still, Judge’s performance helped power the Yankees to 99 wins; in fact, he kept them in the postseason chase throughout the team’s second-half swoon.
“I was trying to grind out the year,” Judge said. “I was focused on trying to win games for the Yankees and do whatever I can for that game tonight. It was tough to really enjoy it, because of the ups and downs throughout the year. You’re chasing the division, you’re chasing a good spot in the postseason. It wasn’t until the past couple of weeks where you can sit back, reflect on the year and see how good it was.”
The first player to lead the Majors (outright or tied) in homers, runs scored, extra-base hits and RBIs since Mantle in 1956, Judge’s 1.111 OPS was the highest by a Yankee since Mantle in '61 (1.135). Judge led MLB in homers by 16, the largest gap since the A's Jimmie Foxx led the Majors by 17 homers in '32.
Primed to enjoy what promises to be a lucrative journey through free agency, Judge's performance helped quiet critics who wondered about his durability. Injuries limited Judge to 242 of a possible 384 games from 2018-20 (63 percent) before he played in 148 and 157 games over the past two seasons.
Judge’s 11.99 AB/HR ratio is the third best in Major League history, behind only Mark McGwire (10.61) and Babe Ruth (11.76). Judge previously received MVP votes in ’17, ’18 and ’21.
Now with an MVP Award under his belt, the baseball world will be watching to see what Judge does for an encore -- and where. Judge said that he had “some positive talks” with Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner after the season, and now he will see what the rest of the market may offer.
“I’m really looking forward to getting this whole free agency process going,” Judge said. “A lot of baseball players really don’t get this opportunity to choose where they want to go or have a choice. I know it’s still pretty early, and a lot of stuff doesn’t start kicking up until the Winter Meetings in December. But it’s going to be a fun process that my family and I will definitely enjoy.”