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Aaron Judge made history last season. What’s next for the reigning MVP?

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 2/1/2023 Dan Martin

Aaron Judge picked up his American League MVP award in midtown Manhattan on Saturday night from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to complete what was an eventful 2022.

Judge broke Roger Maris’ AL home run record, won his first MVP award and then won the offseason by signing a nine-year, $360 million contract to stay in The Bronx.

Now, with February here and the start of spring training just two weeks away, the spotlight will be on Judge again: What will he do for an encore?

Judge turns 31 in April and has spent part of the offseason in Tampa, where he has a home, training at the Yankees’ player development complex — along with DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres.

He also has spent time, as he has for much of his major league career,  working with Richard Schenck, a personal hitting coach not affiliated with the team.

© Provided by New York Post Aaron Judge serving a smile and pointing a finger after hitting in the batting cage during spring training last year.Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The efforts paid off last season, when Judge hit 62 homers and his chase of Maris’ AL record — considered by some to be the true single-season home run mark because every hitter who surpassed it prior to Judge had links to PED usage — became the biggest story in the game.

Asked what the two have focused on coming off Judge’s historic season, Schenck kept it simple.

“He’s just working to be more consistent,’’ said Schenck, who is based outside of St. Louis.

Shohei Ohtani’s impending free agency — which could impact both the Yankees and the Mets — is likely to grab the game’s attention at some point, but the spotlight Judge found himself in for much of 2022 figures to continue shine on him at least through the early part of the season, especially now that he has signed his mammoth contract.

“He doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat,’’ said Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson, who’s been with Judge in Tampa this offseason. “One of the things that makes him unique is how hard he works. There are a lot of talented guys that work hard, but to put his amount of talent with his level of work is rare. He’s got both, and he’s never satisfied.”

That includes keeping the mindset he had last season.

“He wants more, even though he’s really pushing up against the ceiling,’’ Lawson said. “He set the bar really, really high last year.”

© Provided by New York Post Aaron Judge hopes to improve on the career-best .311 batting average he posted last year.Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

So what can he improve?

“I’m sure he thinks [he can hit] .320 or .330,’’ Lawson said. Judge hit a career-high .311 in 2022, which kept him in the Triple Crown race until the final weeks of the season. “Who knows? That’s probably within reach for him, too.”

Essential to that effort will be maintaining, or improving, the plate discipline he exhibited last season, when Judge’s strikeout rate was 25.1 percent (just off his career-low of 25.0 percent set in 2021) and his 16 percent walk rate was his best since his rookie year of 2017 (18.7 percent).

The Yankees will need any and all improvements Judge can make after an offseason in which the most significant lineup moves were retaining Judge and Anthony Rizzo, meaning their offense doesn’t look much different than it did last season.

For now, then, the Yankees are counting on Judge to carry the club at the plate once again.

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At least they have their health…for now

Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes both entered their conference championship games nursing injuries: Hurts was dealing with a bad right shoulder that cost him two games late in the Eagles’ regular season and Mahomes having been knocked out — briefly — in Kansas City’s divisional round win over the Jaguars after suffering a high right ankle sprain.

The two QBs not only made it through the championship games, but played well, too.

© Provided by New York Post Patrick Mahomes heads out of bounds in front of Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai during the last seconds of the AFC Championship.Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Still, as the Eagles and Chiefs prepare to face off against each other in Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12, questions surrounding their health will linger. A title matchup billed as Hurts vs. Mahomes could turn into Gardner Minshew vs. Chad Henne with just one unfortunate play on either side.

Just think of what happened in the Eagles’ NFC title game win over the 49ers, which became a mismatch when Brock Purdy, once San Francisco’s third-string QB, and his replacement, Josh Johnson, went out with injuries.

What happened to the 49ers — who had already lost Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to injuries earlier in the season — in the NFC Championship has renewed the debate about whether teams should be allowed to carry a third quarterback as an emergency option, especially after Purdy was forced to return to the game with what turned out to be a torn UCL in his elbow when Johnson was sidelined due to a concussion.

Teams had been permitted to have an emergency third QB on their rosters until the rule changed in 2011.

© Provided by New York Post Jim Kelly grabs his leg after being sacked by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Ken Norton during the second quarter of Super Bowl XXVII.AFP via Getty Images

The Chiefs and the Eagles at least have history on their side. It has been 30 years since a starting quarterback was knocked out of a Super Bowl, when Buffalo’s Jim Kelly was forced to exit Super Bowl 27. A hit from the Cowboys’ Ken Norton, Jr. aggravated a right knee injury that had sidelined Kelly for much of the playoffs before he returned for the AFC Championship. It’s unclear if the decisive hit ultimately made that much of a difference in what became a 52-17 Dallas rout, but at the time of the hit, Buffalo trailed just 14-10 (Kelly had already thrown two interceptions).

Frank Reich had played well in place of Kelly earlier in the playoffs — including leading the Bills to a historic comeback from a 35-3 deficit against the Houston Oilers in the wild-card round — but he had no magic in this game.

The only other Super Bowls impacted by quarterback injuries were Super Bowl 10, when Terry Bradshaw suffered a head injury late in the Steelers’ win over the Cowboys, and Super Bowl 5, in which Johnny Unitas was removed in the second quarter with injured ribs and Earl Morrall led the Baltimore Colts to victory against Dallas.

Numbers to know: Lakers 129, Knicks 123 © Provided by New York Post Julius Randle unsuccessfully tries to attempt a game-winner at the end of regulation.Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Another day, another bitter home loss for the Knicks, who fell two full games back of sixth place in the East at 27-25 following a 129-123 overtime defeat to the Lakers. This one was different because it featured LeBron James, who posted a triple-double and continued to close in on the NBA’s all-time scoring record. Here’s a quick numerical look at the game:

8️⃣9️⃣ Points that LeBron needs to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA points record after James hung a triple-double line of 28 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists at the Garden.

4️⃣ James passed Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to move into fourth place on the all-time assists list. He trails John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Chris Paul.

3️⃣7️⃣ Points for Jalen Brunson, who shot 13-of-29, in the losing effort.

4️⃣.4️⃣ Seconds remaining in regulation in a tie game when the Knicks inbounded the ball with a chance for a game-winner. Instead, Julius Randle could not even get a shot off against the defense of Anthony Davis and James, sending the game to overtime. Randle also committed two crucial turnovers in the extra frame.

0️⃣ Minutes played for RJ Barrett in the final 11:51. Barrett was subbed out with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter, and Tom Thibodeau went with a crunch-time lineup of Brunson, Randle, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Isaiah Hartenstein. Barrett declined to speak to reporters after the game.

Jonathan Lehman

Subtraction by addition © Provided by New York Post The Yankees may not miss Chad Green this season, but they might feel the pain of his loss when he is back on the mound for the Blue Jays in 2024.Getty Images

With Chad Green signing a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Blue Jays on Tuesday, the Yankees’ longest-tenured reliever is gone. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in June and could miss all of next season, but before that elbow injury, Green was perhaps the team’s most reliable relief pitcher from 2017-21.

After a breakout season in 2017, when Green had a miniscule 0.739 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 69 innings over 40 appearances, he followed up with a strong 2018 before struggling early the following year. He regained his form by May 2019 and kept it until his final season as a Yankee was cut short by the elbow injury.

Green could miss all of 2023, but the Blue Jays are looking to have Green return to form in 2024, when he could prove to be a problem for the Yankees.


New York Post

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