Judge, Bellinger unan­i­mous win­ners

Two rook­ies com­bined for 91 homers this sea­son

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

(WPNS) — They com­bined for an as­ton­ish­ing 91 home runs, shat­ter­ing rookie records in each league. They helped lead two of baseball’s most sto­ried fran­chises to postseason berths and deep play­off runs. And on Mon­day, New York Yan­kees right fielder Aaron Judge and Los An­ge­les Dodgers first base­man Cody Bellinger were named unan­i­mous win­ners of the Amer­i­can League and Na­tional League rookie of the year awards.

It was only the fourth time in his­tory both leagues’ rook­ies of the year were awarded unan­i­mously, and the first time since Scott Rolen and No­mar Gar­ci­a­parra in 1997.

Judge, 25, be­came the Yan­kees’ ninth rookie of the year honoree, but their first since Derek Jeter in 1996. He didn’t earn his spot on the Yan­kees’ ros­ter un­til the

fi­nal days of spring train­ing, but by July — af­ter win­ning the Home Run Derby and start­ing in the All-Star Game — he was be­ing dis­cussed as the new face of baseball, thanks to his mar­ketable mix­ture of prodi­gious power, ex­treme size (6-foot-7, 280 pounds) and hum­ble per­son­al­ity. It also didn’t hurt that he played for baseball’s flag­ship fran­chise.

Though his sea­son was marked by acute peaks and vi­cious slumps, when it was fin­ished Judge had 52 homers, break­ing a big league rookie record — 49 by

Mark McGwire — that had stood for 30 years. He also led the AL in walks (127) and runs scored (128).

Bellinger, 22, be­gan the sea­son in the mi­nors and was called up on April 25. From that point on, he smashed 39 homers in only 132 games, ex­ceed­ing the NL mark of 38 by Wally Berger ( 1930) and Frank Robin­son ( 1956), while lead­ing a 104- win Dodgers team in homers, RBIs ( 97) and slug­ging per­cent­age (. 581). Mon­day’s honor made him the Dodgers’ 18th rookie of the year win­ner, by far the most of any fran­chise, and their sec­ond in a row, af­ter Corey Sea­ger in 2016.

“Now that the sea­son is over, I’m tr ying to re­flect

on how crazy this sea­son was,” Bellinger said on MLB Net­work. “To have this award to top it off . . . is re­ally special for me.”

Though both Judge and Bellinger struck out at prodi­gious rates in 2017 — and each set records for whiffs in a sin­gle postseason, with Bellinger ( 29) top­ping the record Judge ( 27) had set ear­lier in Oc­to­ber — both also col­lected huge hits in the play­offs, with Judge’s Yan­kees ad­vanc­ing via the wild card to the Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries and Bellinger’s Dodgers earn­ing their first World Se­ries berth since 1988. Both teams were elim­i­nated in Game 7s against the Hous­ton

Astros.

Bos­ton’s Andrew Ben­in­tendi was run­ner- up in the Amer­i­can League, with Bal­ti­more’s Trey Mancini fin­ish­ing third, while St. Louis’ Paul DeJong and Pitts­burgh’s Josh Bell were sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively, in the NL. Vot­ing was done by mem­bers of the Baseball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica and was com­pleted be­fore the start of the postseason.

For Judge, Mon­day’s honor may have been a mere ap­pe­tizer to a main course that could ar­rive Thurs­day, when he is considered a lead­ing con­tender, along with Hous­ton’s Jose Al­tuve, for AL most valu­able player.

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