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Aaron Judge, Juan Soto on verge of rare New York sports history



Aaron Judge, Juan Soto on verge of rare New York sports history

The Juan Soto-Aaron Judge duo promised to be something to behold from the moment the Yankees dealt for Soto this offseason. And it has been exactly that.

Soto started hitting line drives right from the opening series in Houston. Judge started slowly but over the past few weeks has been almost impossible to retire, and almost as impossible to keep in the ballpark.

Already, it has taken on a historical dimension because they have become one of the great 1-2 punches we’ve ever seen in New York. Entering Saturday’s game with Boston, they sat north of the holy grail of offensive stats, with both their OPS numbers north of 1.000. OPS is on-base percentage and slugging percentage added together. No stat is perfect. But OPS generally offers as full and helpful a glance as any offensive stat can.

Entering Saturday Judge was at 1.115.

And Soto was at 1.023.

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (99) congratulates New York Yankees outfielder Juan Soto (22) after a two-run home run. Robert Sabo for NY Post

By comparison, it’s worth noting that none of the Yankees teams that won four titles in five years from 1996-2000 had two players with a 1.000-plus OPS, and the only examples of even one player doing it were the smallish-sample sizes of Shane Spencer in 1998, Darryl Strawberry in 1999 and Glenallen Hill in 2000. None of the regulars for the 2009 champs made it to 1.000, nor did anyone on the 1977 or 1978 champs, either.

Remarkably, not even the famed M&M Boys in their prime seasons of 1960-64 ever had simultaneous 1.000 (partly because Roger Maris drew few walks hitting in front of Mickey Mantle). In ’61 they came close: Mantle’s OPS was 1.135 on the way to hitting 54 home runs, and Maris’ was .993 on the way to hitting 61.

The Mets have had exactly one player in their history — one — who finished a full season higher than 1.000: Mike Piazza, 1.012 in 2000. The Dodgers had six players do it when they played in Brooklyn — topped by Babe Herman’s 1.132 in 1930 — and the Giants did it nine times when they played in New York — six times by Mel Ott.

And that’s it.

Now it’s one thing to be over 1.000 in the middle of June and something else entirely to be there at the end of September. So both Soto and Judge have some work left to do. But as they do it, one of the nice perks is that we ought to regularly remember the hands-down, most-dangerous 1-2 punch in baseball history — in New York or anywhere else. And that’s Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig.

We know how great they were anyway, just with anecdotal evidence alone. And it’s a fair guess that there wasn’t one day from 1923 through 1934, the years when Gehrig and Ruth were on the same team, that there wasn’t even one discussion or newspaper story about their OPS. But that’s kind of what makes this study so fun: They are an historic pairing that measures up remarkably well to modern metrics.

Aaron Judge hits a two-run homer scoring against the Chicago White Sox. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST


In the seven years from 1927-33, Ruth and Gehrig each topped 1.000 in all seven years. That is a preposterous thing, and yet it happened, every year, seven straight years.

In those seven years, Ruth’s average season looked this way: .343/.472/.696, 47 HR, 146 RBI, an OPS of 1.169.

Gehrig’s average season: .350/.452/.659, 37 HR, 156 RBI, an OPS of 1.111.

Connie Mack, whose Philadelphia Athletics interrupted the middle portion of that stretch by winning three straight pennants ahead of the Yankees from 1929-31, once said, “You spend half the games you play against the Yankees worrying about what Ruth or Gehrig are going to do when they come up in a game against you, and the other half lamenting what they actually do to you.”

Yankees outfielder Juan Soto has been impressive during his first season in New York. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Measuring the best 1-2 punches in MLB history is a subjective thing, and the folks that do it usually use even more involved advanced stats. Even so, Ruth and Gehrig have the top four slots on almost every list, capped by the 1927 version which almost seems cartoonish. Ruth’s OPS was a staggering 1.258, as you might expect with a 60-homer season. But Gehrig was right on his heels — 1.240.

So yes, great as Judge and Soto have been, they have some work to do to reach even the periphery of the same rarefied air of the GOAT of 1-2 punches. But it’ll be a fun summer watching them try.

Vac’s Whacks

I must admit that shows co-starring furry monsters aren’t usually my thing. But I made an exception with “Eric,” the Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle on Netflix, and I’m really glad I did.

In 1996, the Philadelphia 76ers under John Lucas won 18 games, fewer than four college teams in the city that year. Two of the assistant coaches on that team: Tom Thibodeau and Mo Cheeks. Cheeks joined Thibs’ Knicks staff this week. They should be able to get a few more than 18 this time around.

Maurice Cheeks of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during a scrimmage against the Philadelphia 76ers on July 26, 2020 at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. NBAE via Getty Images

I was really looking forward to “Brats” on Hulu, the Andrew McCarthy project on the Brat Pack. And it was fine. But … I mean, I just have a hard time thinking what happened to these folks could exactly be considered an atrocity. The stuff with Rob Lowe was fun, though.

This should be a fun night: June 25 at Carmine’s on West 44th, a live Q&A with Jim Burt, Howard Cross, Leonard Marshall, Bart Oates and Joe Morris, and Gary Myers, author of “Once a Giant.” $45 covers food, a drink ticket and the discussion, and the book can be bought and autographed that night.

Whack Back at Vac

Robert Katz: Pretty obvious Aaron Rodgers missed the first session of the Jets’ minicamp because he went to get fitted for a new aluminum foil helmet, the Kyrie Irving model.

Vac: Though I suspect if Rodgers has a Next Chapter similar to the one Kyrie had this year, they will sign on the dotted line.

Elliot Levine: The Mets “softer” 35-game stretch of games consists of 11 series against eight teams who currently have better records than the Mets. A more favorable schedule would have to include the White Sox, the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Hartford Yard Goats.

Vac: Don’t sleep on the Yard Goats!

@PaulDunbar: Remembering the back and forth between Jerry West and Walt Frazier in the 1970 season. I will never forget Jerry West’s 60-foot buzzer-beater.

@MikeVacc: Which, as many have pointed out this week, would’ve won the game if there’d been a 3-pointer.

Dennis Daly: I was so busy taking bets on the Belmont that I just realized that Jayson Werth is one of the owners of the winner.

Vac: I must admit at first glance I found it interesting that Kid Rock was at Saratoga.

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