Had Tuesday evening not been the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, my blog post that night would have begun thusly: “On the eve of the Day of Judgement, Aaron Judge inscribed his name in the American League record books, surpassing Roger Maris’ single season mark by clouting his 62nd home run, the culmination of a remarkable personal year of achievement.”
If you’ve watched him in what should be recognized as a Most Valuable Player season, he has become a compleat ballplayer. He hits for average. He hits for power. He drives in runs. He steals bases. He is a superb defensive outfielder, often using his 6’7” frame to rob opponents of home runs. He has an accurate cannon of an arm.
From his very first major league at bat—naturally, a home run—watching Judge has been worth the price of admission.
He plays the game the old fashioned way. Unlike other players who display swagger and exuberance that diminishes their home run prowess, Judge acts like he’s done that before, which he has 220 times in his 729 games.
Judge doesn’t flip his bat after launching a home run. Doesn’t stare at the mammoth distances they usually traverse on their way out of the ballpark. Doesn’t showboat. He smiles a lot. He is a mensch.
He has made watching the New York Yankees fun again, as in the days when Derek Jeter ruled the Bronx. Like Jeter he is biracial, though Judge is adopted. Like Jeter his parents have been major influences on his life and career.
Many non Yankees fans and players derided Jeter’s accomplishments. They questioned his fielding, his lack of home run production, even, despite his 3,000-plus hit career, his ability to hit.
Judge, on the other hand, is well-liked. He is not just the face of the Yankees. He is the face of baseball. No team would not welcome him into their ranks. If they could afford him.
Which is a problem for the Yanks. After the World Series, like all free agents, Judge can sell his services to the highest bidder.
Would Judge take less to stay a Yankee forever? Perhaps. But it would have to be a contract within the ballpark of respect compared to other offers.
Judge has shown the ability to put fannies in the stands. If the Steinbrenner family lets him take his talent to another dugout the reaction from Yankees fans will be cataclysmic. One could envision boycotts of games and the YES network.
Don’t despair for the Yankees. They’re one of the richest ball clubs of any sport. Worth billions. A player of Judge’s talent and temperament is a once in a generation asset. The Steinbrenners can afford to pay him, even if it means paying a luxury tax on the team payroll and signing him to a risky 8-10 year contract.
Can they afford not to?