Cody Bellinger: Jose Altuve "Stole" MVP From Aaron Judge in 2017

Max Goodman

TAMPA, Fla. – Of all the comments on the Astros' sign-stealing debacle from players around Major League Baseball, Cody Bellinger's remarks on Friday featured arguably the strongest condemnation to date.

Although the Yankees and Dodgers are pinned against each other as World Series front-runners, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player went to bat for New York's star outfielder Aaron Judge.

"These guys were cheating for three years," Bellinger said. "I think what people don't realize is [Jose] Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in '17."

Inside The Pinstripes revisited the 2017 AL MVP race last month, breaking down a head-to-head statistical comparison of Judge and Altuve's campaigns. As all Yankees fans recall, Judge had a historic season in pinstripes, securing the AL Rookie of the Year Award while setting a new single-season record for most home runs hit as a rookie (52). That being said, and despite leading Altuve in most offensive categories, he fell short to the second baseman in the race for Most Valuable Player.

With Houston's sign-stealing scandal in mind, however, it's impossible to look past what Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman called "a distinct advantage" for hitters stepping into the box in an Astros uniform.

READ: Cashman believes Astros' cheating "without question" impacted New York in 2017

Bellinger went on to address Altuve's actions following his decisive walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS – a blast off Yankees' closer Aroldis Chapman.

"I don't know what human hits a walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman to send your team to the World Series, and, one, has the thought to say, 'don't rip my jersey off,' but, two, go into the tunnel, change your shirt, and then come out and do your interview. That makes no sense to me," Bellinger exclaimed.

Altuve held his jersey tight, shaking away his teammates to ensure they didn't rip it off as he crossed home plate – the video below of that play has been replayed and analyzed all offseason long. After scoring, he proceeded to avoid celebrating with his team until returning from the clubhouse with a new shirt.

Chapman had called Altuve's celebration (or lack thereof) "suspicious" when revealing his thoughts on the controversy a few days ago.

Gary Sánchez was behind the plate as the Astros' second baseman mashed the final pitch of the Yankees' season. He told reporters through an interpreter on Wednesday that he'd be okay with his teammates taking all his clothes off if he had hit a walk-off homer like Altuve did.

"I can tell you that if I hit a homer and I get my team to the world series, they can rip off my pants,” the Yankees' backstop joked. ”They can rip everything off.”

Bellinger agreed.

"Gary Sánchez said yesterday you can rip my shirt off, my pants off. I send my team to the World Series off Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning at home? I'm going crazy."

As position players continue to report to Spring Training around the Majors – infielders and outfielders are scheduled to arrive at the Yankees' facility on Monday – it's safe to say more disproval and denunciation of the Astros and their players involved in this scandal are on the way.

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