The American League MVP race is a two-horse race between the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. Depending on who you ask, the award could go to either person. However, the adamancy of Ohtani fans is far greater than that of the fans backing Judge.
While the consensus among Judge backers seems to be “Sure, Ohtani can hit and pitch, but I believe Judge should win the MVP,” the Ohtani defense seems to lie more along the lines of “If you don’t vote for Ohtani, you should be banned from having an opinion on baseball forever” or “If he was the unanimous MVP last season, any season even close to 2021 should result in an MVP for Ohtani as well.” Obviously, those are hyperboles, but neither is too far off 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 unique snowflake or play devil’s advocate. The fact of the matter is that both Judge and Ohtani are having insane, historic seasons and both should be given MVP recognition. However, denying one of these players’ greatness only makes your side of the aisle look insecure. Refusing to give anyone with an opposing viewpoint the light of day and claiming that they just “don’t know baseball,” can only harm 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 to their own players and their award candidacies. However, other factors can play a role as well: Rivalries, public perception, public outcry, and personal biases. For me, I love plate discipline. I have also always hated Bryce Harper (don’t ask why). Hence, had I had a vote in last year’s National League MVP race, I would’ve put Juan Soto in first place.
In essence, the public’s attachment to Shohei Ohtani is well-deserved. He’s the best baseball player on the planet in my eyes and he’s doing things nobody alive has ever seen. However, dismissing Judge entirely will only push the people that are on the fence about him. It’s like any argument. It’s human nature to side with the argument that seems more rational, and the narrative of “if you don’t believe this, you shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion” is not only harsh, but unfair, and will push people still trying to decide toward your opposition purely out of spite.
I understand that other factors may be at play too. Old school voters love team success. Seeing as how the Angels have already been eliminated from playoff contention, that will probably hurt Ohtani’s chances immensely. The fact that Judge plays on the Yankees will also be a factor. He’s putting together one of the greatest offensive seasons ever (he’s solid defensively and on the basepaths, too) in the biggest market in America. He’s center stage for the entire nation to see basically every night and has a lot of drama surrounding him regarding his upcoming free agency. That makes him marketable. That makes him eye-popping and intriguing. He also has never won an MVP before, and voters tend to shy away from people who’ve already amassed incredible success and award recognition as Ohtani has.
Essentially, as one-sided as it may seem to some people, the voting will be close, really close. As an Ohtani backer myself, I implore anyone who wants to dismiss Judge’s 60 home runs to reconsider for Ohtani’s sake. Blame Yankee Stadium for its dimensions all you want, but Judge is having a historic season. Recognize that, and if the voters do wind up choosing Judge, walk away with grace. Ohtani’s skillset will make him an MVP candidate every year. Judge will not hit 60 home runs every season, especially if he leaves the Yankees this offseason. He’ll be back, and he’ll likely earn several more MVP awards by the end of his career.