The race for AL MVP is a two-horse race between the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. Depending on who you ask, the prize could go to either one. However, the steadfastness of Ohtani’s fans is far greater than that of the fans backing Judge.
While the consensus among Judge’s supporters seems to be “Sure, Ohtani can hit and pitch, but I think Judge should win MVP,” Ohtani’s defense seems to be more along the lines of “If you don’t vote for Ohtani, you should.” forbidden to have an opinion on baseball forever” or “If he was the unanimous MVP last season, any season, even close to 2021, should also result in an MVP for Ohtani.” Obviously, those are hyperbole, but they are not too far from reality. Like, geez folks, calm down.
Personally, I have Ohtani above Judge in my MVP rankings, not that that matters at all, but it just goes to show that I’m not trying to be a one-of-a-kind snowflake or play devil’s advocate. The fact is that both Judge and Ohtani are having insane and historic seasons and both should be receiving MVP recognition. However, denying the greatness of one of these players just makes your side of the aisle look unsafe. Refusing to publicize anyone with an opposing point of view and claiming they simply “don’t know baseball” can only hurt your candidate’s MVP case.
We know that the BBWAA can be very biased. Different reporters from different areas of the country tend to be more lenient with their own players and their award nominations. However, other factors can also play a role: rivalries, public perception, public outcry, and personal bias. For me, I love discipline at the plate. I’ve also always hated Bryce Harper (don’t ask why). Therefore, if he had had a vote in last year’s NL MVP race, he would have put Juan Soto in first place.
In essence, the public’s attachment to Shohei Ohtani is well deserved. In my eyes, he is the best baseball player on the planet and he is doing things that no one alive has ever seen. However, firing Judge entirely will only push people who are on the fence about him. It’s like any discussion. It’s human nature to side with the argument that seems more rational, and the “if you don’t believe this, you shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion” narrative is not only harsh, but unfair, and will push people still trying of deciding towards his opposition purely out of spite.
I understand that other factors may also be at play. Old school voters love team success. Given that the Angels have already been eliminated from playoff contention, that will likely hurt Ohtani’s chances immensely. The fact that Judge plays for the Yankees will also be a factor. He’s putting together one of the best offensive seasons in history (he’s solid defensively and solid on base) in America’s biggest market. He’s center stage for the entire nation to watch basically every night and he’s got a lot of drama going on around him regarding his upcoming free agency. That makes it marketable. That makes it eye-catching and intriguing. Plus, he’s never won an MVP before, and voters tend to shy away from people who have already racked up incredible success and award recognition like Ohtani has.
Essentially, as one-sided as it may seem to some people, the vote will be close, very close. As Ohtani’s sponsor, I implore anyone who wants to write off Judge’s 60 home runs to reconsider for Ohtani’s sake. Blame Yankee Stadium for its size all you want, but Judge is having a historic season. Acknowledge that, and if voters end up choosing Judge, walk away gracefully. Ohtani’s skill set will make him an MVP candidate every year. Judge won’t hit 60 home runs every season, especially if he leaves the Yankees this offseason. He will come back and probably win several more MVP awards at the end of his career.