Aaron Judge has given Yankees a season for the ages
Judge’s discipline, humility have been on display both on and off the field
The home runs that soar off Aaron Judge’s bat are things of beauty. Towering shots. Mammoth blasts. Scorching line drives. Over and over, Judge has driven the barrel of his bat through the baseball and turned it into another souvenir and another memory. Judge has created 50 memories this season, 50 and counting.
After Judge broke Mark McGwire’s rookie record and became the first rookie to hit 50 homers on Monday, he was his usually sheepish self. The Yankees had to nudge the gigantic Judge on to the field to embrace a well-deserved curtain call, and he later wondered if it had been an acceptable curtain call, as if there is any right or wrong way to wave to the fans. Of course, the respectful Judge was worried about disrupting the game.
We are witnessing an historic and magical season by Judge, a season that is one of the most glorious ever by a rookie and the type of epic season that we might never see again. Yes, we will obviously see rookies who perform at an incredible level in future seasons. Heck, Cody Bellinger is having almost as impressive a season as Judge with the Dodgers.
But, in terms of drama and excitement and handling all of the peaks and valleys of a season like a gentleman, I’m guessing Judge’s actions will stand alone for decades. When I watch Judge on or off the field, the word that typifies him more than any other is “disciplined.” Disciplined in his approach at the plate. Disciplined in the way he puts the focus on winning and credits his teammates. Disciplined in the way he answers questions, always pausing for a spell before offering his thoughts
In a season where the Yankees acknowledged they were “in transition” and where most observers didn’t expect them to compete for a postseason spot, Judge has been the guiding force in helping them secure a wild card berth. Judge leads the American League in homers, walks, runs, on base percentage and WAR and is second to Mike Trout in slugging percentage and OPS. He is as much of an MVP. as anyone in baseball, a list that includes Jose Altuve, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Trout.
During the first half of the season, Judge was the best player on the planet, a 6-foot-7-inch, 282-pound monster who was hitting monster shots. Commissioner Rob Manfred said he could become “the face of baseball.” After the All-Star Game, Judge vanished offensively for about seven weeks and was a lost hitter, chasing more sliders and showing susceptibility to high fastballs. Suddenly, the best player on the planet was one of the worst hitters in the Major Leagues, although he continued to pile up walks and maintain a solid OBP.
And then September rolled in and Judge has been amazing again, like Clark Kent turning back into Superman. He has 13 homers this month, the most he’s hit in any month in his phenomenal season and that includes four homers in his last six at-bats. If an MVP is supposed to be a player who has the strongest finish, well, Judge is finishing this race like Secretariat.
For me, Judge’s lull in July and August shouldn’t expel him from MVP consideration. While he wasn’t an MVP during his lengthy slump, he has been an MVP for the rest of the season and is one of the primary reasons the Yankees will play meaningful baseball in October. Study the statistics, analyze the impact and search for the player who has been the most valuable to his team. I think the search leads to one player, the one who has created 50 memories. And counting.