About Boardroom

Boardroom is a media network that covers the business of sports, entertainment. From the ways that athletes, executives, musicians and creators are moving the business world forward to new technologies, emerging leagues, and industry trends, Boardroom brings you all the news and insights you need to know...

At the forefront of industry change, Boardroom is committed to unique perspectives on and access to the news, trending topics and key players you need to know.

All Rights Reserved. 2022.

Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani? Let’s Settle This.

Who deserves AL MVP? Who’s the superior franchise cornerstone? Boardroom convened its first-ever hardball roundtable to answer the Ohtani vs. Judge question once and for all.

Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. Kramer vs. Kramer. Graft vs. host. These are all epic clashes, but even when combined and multiplied by 10, they muster zero comparison to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge vs. Angels two-way alien Shohei Ohtani in the race for not just the 2022 American League MVP award, but quite possibly the biggest contract in baseball history and the title of ultimate franchise cornerstone besides.

That got us thinking, and Boardroom has convened its first-ever hardball roundtable featuring Sam Dunn, Michael Ehrlich, Anthony Puccio, Shlomo Sprung, and Russell Steinberg to answer three questions:

  1. Which of these two superstars should win AL MVP?
  2. Who will win AL MVP?
  3. Which player would you rather build a team around going forward?

Call it a matter of taste. Call it an intellectual stalemate. Call it a dense morass of ideology. Whatever it is, baseball writers and front offices alike will have to find their own solutions here — and the decisions therein figure to bend the arc of baseball.

And here we go: Aaron Judge vs. Shohei Ohtani for all the Boardroom marbles.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Who should win AL MVP?

RUSSELL STEINBERG: Aaron Judge, and honestly it’s absurd that this is even a debate. He leads the league in the following categories:

  • Home runs
  • RBI
  • Runs scored
  • Walks
  • On Base Percentage
  • Slugging Percentage
  • OPS
  • OPS+
  • Total Bases
  • WAR
  • wRC+
  • Win Probability Added
  • wOBA

That enough for you? Because if not, he stands a very real chance at both shattering the American League home run record and winning the Triple Crown in the same season. And he’s doing it for a first-place team. I know you can’t directly take a player’s WAR and say their team would have that many fewer wins without him, but if you’ve watched the Yankees this year, you’d know there’s no way that team is in first without Judge. No matter how you define most valuable, he’s the guy.

ANTHONY PUCCIO: Aaron Judge. He’s arguably had the best season in MLB history and unlike Ohtani, his team is in the playoffs.

SHLOMO SPRUNG: I don’t want to take away anything from what Ohtani has accomplished this season, but Aaron Judge has been nothing short of spectacular. He might not just win the AL Triple Crown of home runs, RBIs, and batting average, but the “Baker’s Dozen Crown” featuring all those stats Russ listed above. His position player WAR on a World Series contender is higher than ShoTime’s hitting and pitching WAR figures combined, making this an easy choice.

MICHAEL EHRLICH: Although there has been much debate about the definition of “most valuable” vs. “best player” when it comes to individual awards, this year’s MVP choice is an easy one. Judge is the best player on one of the best teams, he’s heading for the playoffs, and he’s putting up historic numbers — Shlomo has a great recap of all that’s at stake therein — and he’s doing it in what surely must be the among the greatest contract years sports have ever seen.

Although the dual-threat Ohtani is the league’s best player and his value is clear to this team, the reigning MVP’s Angels squad is nowhere near the playoffs. That hasn’t hurt teammate Mike Trout in the past (AL MVP in 2014, 2016, 2019) nor Ohtani a season ago, but Judge’s home run record and Triple Crown chase ahead of the playoffs is too strong a case this year.

SAM DUNN: Dylan Cease.

Well, no. But yes, but no.

Just so I don’t get burned in effigy in the South Bronx just a bit up the road from the stately 35V campus, it’s got to be Shohei Ohtani. The weird politicking that makes us (mostly) allergic to awarding back-to-back MVPs or Heisman Trophies or Great British Bake Off “Golden Crumpets” needs to die; just give the trophy to the most valuable player and call it a day.

And while we will never, ever agree on a single, unified definition of “valuable” in the context of baseball, several things are true here and now:

  • Aaron Judge is having an incredible season, the likes of which we have seen before.
  • We have truly never seen anything like Ohtani, who is somehow No. 2 in the AL in bWAR for pitchers, No. 2 in the MLB in FIP, and No. 3 in the MLB in Adjusted ERA+ while doubling as one of the most fearsome hitters in the game.

Don’t overthink it. Give the trophy to the alien.

Who will win AL MVP?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Judge is an astronomical -20000 favorite to win according to FanDuel Sportsbook; Ohtani checks in at +2500. Just let us have our fun with this.

ME: Judge, but crazier things have happened — especially in baseball.

AP: Judge. Next question.

RS: I do think it will be Judge, but Ohtani will get some votes because people can’t get over how transcendent he is as a two-way player, which he is. But if you’re talking about value, there’s a few things you have to remember:

  1. Shlomo noted that based on WAR, Ohtani’s pitching and hitting totals together don’t equal Judge’s; more specifically, while he leads by an entire run in Baseball-Reference WAR (9.9 to 8.9), the advantage explodes to nearly two runs in Fangraphs WAR (10.5 to 8.7). That just doesn’t happen.
  2. The Angels’ advantage of having one guy who pitches AND hits is negated by Ohtani not being able to pitch every five days, meaning the Angels have needed an extra pitcher to make up for it.
  3. Ohtani has played in precisely 0 important games this year. Judge carried the Yankees for months on end.

SD: Judge in a landslide. Perhaps unanimously.

SS: Is it good that MVP awards in sports are more narrative-driven than they should be? Yes. Is it good that Judge will win based off his chase of Roger Maris and carrying the sport’s biggest team in its largest market? Also yes.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Which player would you rather build a team around going forward?

SS: Ohtani is two years younger and can give you not only a .900 OPS with 35 home runs as a hitter, but also 150 innings of sub-3.00 ERA. To say he’s the rarest combination of two-way excellence we’ve ever seen is a clumsy understatement. This is an easy choice.

SD: I’m contractually obligated to mention Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II here. Now that I have, the answer is clearly and powerfully Ohtani, who’s not due for free agency until after the 2023 season, more than 26 months younger, and the most utterly unique box office draw in a sport absolutely starving for marketable personas.

And not for nothing, Judge is going to sign the biggest contract in the history of baseball this offseason. Less than one month into the first year of that contract, he will turn 31. How is, say, a 10-year, $430 million deal going to look even halfway through its duration, at which point it’s likely that the big man will be unable to play outfield on an everyday basis?

RS: The correct answer is neither, though both are awesome and all 30 MLB teams would be lying if they said they didn’t want either or both for a handful of seasons. But if we’re looking at building a franchise for the long haul, consider that Judge is 30, and as great as he is, we don’t know how many more superhuman seasons he has left.

Ohtani, though modestly younger, is also a question mark — not only does he have a documented injury history, but because he is unique, we don’t really know how being a two-way player affects longevity. What happens if he ultimately has to choose between hitting and pitching for the sake of prolonging his career, or a team (the Angels or otherwise) pre-emptively tries to force a decision upon him?

If I’m required to choose a franchise cornerstone, however, I’d go with Ohtani. While there might not be a hitter as good as Judge right now, we don’t know how long that’ll be the case; it’s also easier to approximate something close to his value with other sluggers. There’s only one ShoTime.

AP: Ohtani is the obvious answer, but the one blip on his resume — he hasn’t made it to the playoffs in his 5 MLB seasons, whereas Judge’s Yankees have made the postseason five straight years and six of the last seven.

ME: If it’s my front office, I’m investing in Ohtani. The opportunity to get a slugger AND an ace pitcher for the potential “low” price of $45 million or even $50 million per season is still a great deal in today’s market. Beyond the diamond, his marketing ceiling is higher than that of Judge’s based on currently available data, and he would bring any ballclub that rosters him the sort of international profile that opens them up to entirely new audiences.

I’d pay Ohtani whatever it takes and smile as the revenue from new global brand sponsorships floods in. Although Judge is finishing up a historic season and should have a few more great years ahead of him, the opportunity to have the most unique and potentially best all-around player ever at age 28 is an easy choice.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.