Caulton Tudor

Bellinger, Judge could slug way to MLB history

Posted August 18

With slightly more than one month remaining in the Major League Baseball regular season, there’s a decent chance something will occur this season that’s not happened before and maybe never will be repeated.

Young sluggers – Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger in the National League and the New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge in the American League – could sweep both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same season.

The 22-year-old Bellinger, in only 99 games so far, has 34 home runs and 79 runs batted in for a Dodger team on pace to win more than 100 games.

Judge, 25, strikes out a lot but still leads the AL with 37 homers and has 80 RBI in 116 games. He’s batting .280, which is hardly bad for a guy who has fanned 162 times.

There have been two only cases of players having been MVP and top rookie previously – both in the American League. The first was Fred Lynn of Boston in 1975 and the last was Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle in 2001. But never has it happened in both leagues in the same season. And, of course, it’s never been done in the NL at all.

Lynn, 23 in 1975, did it by batting .331 with 22 home runs and 105 RBI on a Red Sox team that won the AL title but lost in seven World Series games to Cincinnati Reds.

Moreover, Lynn got a ton of batting-order support from rookie teammate and fellow outfielder Jim Rice, then a 22-year-old power hitter from Anderson, SC.

Rice batted .309 with 21 homers and 105 RBI, but Lynn was easy winner in the MLV vote conducted by members of the Baseball Writers of America Association. Rice finished third but almost outpolled Kansas City’s John Mayberry for second. In the rookie award voting, Lynn and Rice got all of the votes in the rookie polling.

Suzuki was 27 in 2001, long before earned stardom in the Japan majors and probably was less deserving for MVP than teammate Brett Boone, a second baseman who batted .331 with 37 homers and 141 RBI on a team that won as astounding 116 games but couldn’t get past the Yankees in the AL playoffs.

Suzuki won the batting crown with a .350 with eight homers and 69 RBI to barely edge Oakland’s Jason Giambi (.343, 41 homers, 129 RBI) and Boone in the MVP vote. In the rookie vote, Suzuki prevailed by a wide margin over Cleveland pitcher CC Sabathia.

How it all will play out for Bellinger and Judge will depend on what’s left of August and then all of September. And in Judge’s case, it will important for the Yankees to reach the playoffs if not work their way past Boston in the AL East race.

Were the votes taken today, Bellinger probably would win both. He’d get competition from Giancarlo Stanton, who has hit 44 homers on a weak team, and Washington stars Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper.

The AL MVP current leaders probably are Houston’s George Springer and Jose Altuve and Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop.

Bellinger caught an unwelcomed break when Dodgers’ pitching star Clayton Kershaw, who had a 15-2 record with a 2.04 earned run average and 168 strikeouts, went on the disabled list on July 25 and may not return for another few days.

But don’t rule out Bellinger and Judge writing some important baseball history this season. They’re genuine gate hits in two of the biggest and most established baseball markets. The sport couldn’t ask for much more right now.

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