Matthews: Judge: Baseball's Biggest Bargain


New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge is one of baseball’s the largest players – roughly 6-foot7 ½ and 280 pounds. He’s also baseball’s biggest bargain this season.

Judge’s salary is $544,500. That’s 0.24 percent of the team’s $233,321,195 total player payroll. That’s pretty amazing for a guy who I figure deserves to finish second in American League MVP balloting (behind only Houston’s Jose Altuve).

The top-paid Yankee this season is CC Sabathia at $25 million. That’s not his fault. He’s been around for a long time and he has a hefty grocery bill.

Here are the 2017 player payrolls for the nine teams that have clinched or entered Thursday still battling for post-season berths (courtesy of among the 30 MLB teams in parentheses):

Los Angeles Dodgers (1)...$260,640,523

New York Yankees (2)...$223,321,195

Boston Red Sox (3)...$222,102,008

Washington Nationals (7)...$187,892,654

Chicago Cubs (10)...$182,400,336

Houston Astros (16)...$148,089,163

Colorado Rockies (17)...$139,651,941

Minnesota Twins (18)...$138,629,177

Cleveland Indians (19)...$138,575,884

Arizona Diamondbacks (20)...$118,648,775

Milwaukee (30)...$82,988,679.

The most-overpaid flop teams this season were Toronto (4th; $199,421,718)...Detroit (5th; $198,716,188)...San Francisco (6th; $188,762,595).

Milwaukee was the biggest surprise. The Brewers have hung tough all season with MLB’s lowest player payroll.


I’m a huge Adam Judge fan, but I’m not buying the media buzz out of New York City that the rookie slugger should be American League Most Valuable Player. Second place? OK. But Houston’s sparkplug second baseman and batting champion Jose Altuve has been the league’s best player from start to finish this season. I assume Altuve will easily win the MVP balloting, with Judge a healthy second.

National League MVP is a different story.

Some writers are touting Giancarlo Stanton (Miami) if he reaches 60 home runs. He hit No. 58 and No. 59 Thursday night. That would be quite a feat. He has been sensational since the All-Star Game break. But his Marlins have been a disappointment this season. Obviously, it wasn’t his fault. But I tend to favor MVP candidates that played under the pressure of making the playoffs. For example, Joey Votto has had a terrific season (.319; 36 HRs; 99 RBI; 1.031 OPS) but his Cincinnati Reds were an also-ran and that will cost him MVP support.

Here are my four NL MVP finalists -- apologies to Washington’s Bryce Harper; he had MVP numbers before a knee injury cost him 50-plus games. I believe any one of these players would be a worthy MVP (stats entering Friday):

Giancarlo Stanton (Miami) -- .290 batting average; 59 HRs; 129 RBI; 1.012 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).

Charlie Blackmon (Colorado) -- .328; 36 HRs; 100 RBI as a leadoff man; .995 OPS.

Nolan Arenado (Colorado) -- .305; 36 HRs; 129 RBI; .951 OPS.

Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona) -- .302; 36 HRs; 120 RBI; .980 OPS.


It was a rough Week 3 for many NFL bettors. The sports books in Las Vegas had a banner Sunday, as favorites took a beating and a huge number of parlay bets (coupling multiple teams) included the Denver Broncos (favored by 3 points at Buffalo; lost 26-16). The Bills joined Kansas City as the only 3-0 teams against the Las Vegas point spread (ATS) this season.

“Best Bets” took a beating – 8-8 outright (27-20 this season) and 4-12 ATS (17-29-1 this season). The “Best Bet’ is 2-1 SU/1-2 ATS.

 Like the Trumpster’s favorability ratings, we have nowhere to go but up.

This week’s “Best Bet” is Cincinnati 30, CLEVELAND (+3) 17 – The Browns are 0-13 outright and 2-11 ATS in their last 13 AFC Central games. They’re also 0-5 SU and ATS in the last five games in this series. I hate to root for Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, my least-favorite NFL quarterback, but even he can’t botch this one up.

Sunday’s other games

(home teams in CAPS)

New Orleans 28, MIAMI (+3) 20 – This game is in London. I’d take Drew Brees over Jay Cutler in any city in the world...or on the moon...or Mars...or anywhere.

ATLANTA (-8) 30, Buffalo 7 – The Bills are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games against the NFC. But the Falcons have a huge advantage in firepower. I respect Buffalo’s defense. I respect Atlanta’s offense more. If the Bills pass this test, I flunk mine.

DALLAS (-6 1/2) 33, Los Angeles Rams 20 – The Rams are on the upgrade but I don’t think they’re quite ready to win on the road against a team as strong as the Cowboys.

MINNESOTA (-2) 24,  Detroit 15 – My pick is the Vikings with Sam Bradford or Case Keenum at QB. Minnesota’s advantage on both lines should be the difference.

NEW ENGLAND (-9) 35, Carolina 17 – Patriots QB Tom Brady shouldn’t need any fourth-quarter heroics to pull off a victory here. Panthers QB Cam Newton hasn’t been sharp and misses injured favorite target Greg Olsen.

Jacksonville 28, NEW YORK JETS (+3 ½) 15 – The Jaguars are coming off a 44-7 romp over Baltimore. They can’t play in London every week but they don’t get a chance to play the Jets every week, either.

Pittsburgh 24, BALTIMORE (+3) 17 – The Ravens are 9-4 SU and 7-4-2 in this series since 2011 but the Steelers should be in an ornery mood coming off an OT loss in Chicago and Baltimore is hurting on the offensive line and in the secondary.

Tennessee 27, HOUSTON (+1 ½) 20 – The Titans figure to win the battle in the trenches and I much prefer Marcus Mariota over rookie Deshaun Watson (proud to say he got my Heisman vote) at this stage of their NFL QB careers.

ARIZONA (-7) 28, San Francisco 14 – I keep waiting for the Cardinals to play a solid all-around game. The young 49ers provide them with that opportunity. Warning: Arizona is 3-9 ATS in the last 12 home games in this series.

Philadelphia 24, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1 ½) 20 – Hard not to like clearly the better team as an underdog against a struggling opponent.

TAMPA BAY (-3) 27, New York Giants 17 – The Buccaneers are 10-0 in 2016-17 when they allow 24 or fewer points. The Giants would need a huge improvement in their feeble ground attack to score more than three TDs.

DENVER (-2 ½) 28, Oakland 20 – I fully expect the Broncos to improve off last week’s loss in Buffalo. The Raiders can’t be as lousy as they looked in their 27-10 loss in Washington.

SEATTLE (-13) 35, Indianapolis 14 – I’m giving the disappointing Seahawks one more chance. The Colts are coming off a 31-28 home win over Cleveland. Were you impressed?

Monday night’s game

KANSAS CITY (-7) 24, Washington 13 – The Chiefs are very tough to beat at Arrowhead Stadium and 6-0 ATS in the last six games in this series. Did the Redskins catch the visiting Raiders at the right time?


Friday, September 29

Cardale Jones (25)...Kevin Durant (29)...Benoit Pouliot (31)...Calvin Johnson (32)...Jake Westbrook (40)...Calvin Pickering (41)...Ken Norton Jr. (51)...Hersey Hawkins (51)...Ray Buchanan (46)...Dave Andreychuk (54)...Rob Deer (57)...Warren Cromartie (64)...Bryant Gumbel (69)...Walt Tkaczuk (70)...Mike McCormick (79). Andrew Dice Clay (60) and Jerry Lee Lewis (82) are invited to the birthday party...Gene Autry was born on this date 110 years ago (1907) and died in 1998.

Saturday, September 30

Kenley Jansen (30)...Lauren Holiday (30)...Cal O’Reilly (31)...Alan “Pacman” Jones (34)...Seth Smith (35)...Dominique Moceanu (36)...Martina Hingis (37)...Justin Smith (38)...Jamal Anderson (45)...Jose Lima (45)...Ricky Sanders (57)...John Drew (63).

Sunday, October 1

Xander Bogaerts (25)...Robbie Ray (26)...Matt Cain (33)...Curtis Axel (38)...Domenic Pittis (43)...Art Long (45)...Alexei Zhitnik (47)...Cliff Ronning (52)...Roberto Kelly (53)...Mark McGwire (54)...Conrad Dobler (57)...Jeff Reardon (62)...Grete Waitz (64)...Cliff Koroll (71)...Rod Carew (72).  Julie Andrews (82) and Jimmy Carter (93) are invited to the birthday party.

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