Predictably, things have settled in August and September, and 2021’s runaway winner Shohei Ohtani has reentered the conversation and steamed to the top. After all, Ohtani’s been better on the mound this year than last year (2.55 ERA vs. 3.18 ERA), making up for some of the offensive “drop-off” (.75 dip in OPS).
Are you voting for the single most impactful player in baseball? That just might be Ohtani. After all, it’s not like he pitches as a novelty. He’s an ace and a cleanup hitter rolled into one. We get it. But are you voting for the player who’s swung the most important games this season? Then Judge is your MVP. After all, in a season with a deadened baseball, he’s still approaching 60 home runs, and currently outpaces the man with the second-most bombs by 20 homers (Kyle Schwarber, 37), a gap that hasn’t been seen since the days of Babe Ruth.
Plus, he’s doing it for the Yankees, which typically dings players in award races, but should give Judge the extra burst he needs. As the Bombers have threatened to collapse all second half long, Judge has remained their singular steadying force, even as all his insurance has hit the IL.
One legendary Yankee doesn’t seem swayed by Judge’s argument, though. CC Sabathia, on MLB Network’s Showcase game this week between the Guardians and Angels, admitted that while Judge is like his “little brother,” Ohtani’s dominance just seals it for him.
Former Yankees ace CC Sabathia picked Shohei Ohtani over Aaron Judge
Man, this was all so much simpler when it was Judge vs. Altuve.
So, it’s clear Sabathia’s not a “Value = Team Record” guy. Nobody’s more valuable than Ohtani, who can pitch like an ace and hit like a superstar, because he’s the best baseball player alive right now.
And, as spectacularly as Aaron Judge has played, it’s very difficult to rebut those who believe Ohtani’s the shoo-in winner. He really could take the crown every single year he’s active and doing both of these things at an elite level.
That said, fully acknowledging that the narratives can sway this thing, Judge chasing Roger Maris while keeping the potential AL East champion afloat has more value — to me — than Ohtani’s insane exhibition during meaningless midsummer losses.
If there weren’t a 60-homer threat singlehandedly leading a struggling team back to potential October prominence, my vote would go to Ohtani, too. But Judge’s season is too special to be ignored — especially when it seems like Ohtani will be doing this exact same thing next season, too. Heck, he’s even got a massive WAR advantage! Didn’t that used to matter?
It’s difficult to argue with Sabathia that Ohtani is the most talented baseball player in the world, and possibly in the game’s long existence. It’s a kinder version of Andy Martino’s eloquent, “Hey, why doesn’t Aaron Judge pitch?” rebuke.
But for years, MVP voting was beyond subjective. Then, around Mike Trout’s emergence, it basically became the WAR Award. Now that a Yankee has piled up enough WAR to blitz past someone who’s pitching and hitting, the pendulum has swung back? Frustrating, to say the least.
MLB needs Ohtani to play in the postseason for so many reasons, but re-settling the MVP debate is certainly one of them. Until then, this has to be Judge’s award to lose. It just has to be.