In a year of unprecedented power for Major League Baseball, it was only fitting that the rookies of the year would be record-setting sluggers. The Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who bashed 52 homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, who hit 39, were named unanimous winners of their leagues’ awards on Monday.
Major leaguers combined for 6,105 home runs in 2017, the most for any season in history, and Judge and Bellinger helped lead the way. Judge set a home run record for American League rookies, and Bellinger did the same in the National League.
Each player received all 30 first-place votes for his league from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which has given the awards since 1947. Twenty-three players have won unanimously, including five Hall of Famers — Jackie Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Carlton Fisk and Mike Piazza — and more recent stars like Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Judge, a 25-year-old right fielder, started the season batting eighth and ended it as the A.L. leader in homers, runs scored (128), walks (127) and strikeouts (208), with a combined on-base and slugging percentage of 1.049, trailing only Trout in the A.L. He hit .284, drove in 114 runs and became the first Yankee to be rookie of the year since Jeter in 1996.
Jeter led the Yankees to a championship that season, and Judge came close this year, helping the Yankees reach Game 7 of the A.L. Championship Series, which they lost to Houston. Along the way, he won the All-Star Home Run Derby and inspired a wood-paneled cheering section at Yankee Stadium — the Judge’s Chambers, with fans wearing robes and waving foam gavels. A Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, even saw a game there in August.
Since the end of the season, Judge’s profile has continued to rise. Last week, Sony revealed him as the new cover star of its popular video game, MLB The Show. On Monday, Pepsi announced an endorsement deal with him.