COLUMN: Aaron Judge is Good at Baseball


James Brennan, Sports Editor

For Yankee fans, it feels like it’s been ages since the team has been a legitimate contender.  It was nice to pay respects to Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter and watch them go out on their own terms, but  Yankees fans know that it’s World Championships that matter.

Last season, we got a glimpse of the future when catcher Gary Sanchez went on a remarkable tear and cranked out 20 home runs in a two month span, and almost taking home the Rookie of the Year Award.  This season got off to a rocky start for Sanchez as he wasn’t finding any holes and the team started off losing 4 of their first five.  Not the ideal start for any Yankees fan.  Things seemed to get worse when Sanchez went down with a right biceps injury.  The Yankees needed someone to pick up the slack and get the team going in the right direction.

In comes Aaron Judge.  A 6-foot-7, 280 pound freak of nature that seemed lost in his short stint at the Major League level last season.  Judge was so bad that the Yankees went in to spring training unsure if he was even going to be at the Major League level to start the season.  It came down to the last couple of days before manager Joe Girardi made the decision that Judge would be the Opening Day right fielder.

Although Girardi was saying to the media that Judge was there for the long haul, everyone knew that if he did not perform there would be little hesitation to make the switch to have Aaron Hicks as the everyday starter.

Judge took advantage of his opportunity and essentially picked up right where Sanchez left off last year.  As of May 3, Judge is leading the league in home runs with 13 and there haven’t been too many cheap ones. When Judge hits a home run, they are usually over 400 feet long, jumping off the bat upward of 110 MPH, and breaking all of the TV’s and windows that Yankee Stadium has to offer.

Judge hit one home run against the White Sox a couple of weeks ago that I genuinely don’t think has landed yet.  He is an absolute spectacle and Yankees fans are salivating over the fact that both he and Sanchez appear to be determined to bring the Yankees back to the Fall Classic.

Judge has also been drawing comparisons to a Yankees legend recently.  “He’s a little bit like Derek to me,” Girardi said comparing the traits of Judge and former Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.

I definitely see some of the similarities between the two.

Anytime Judge is being asked by the media about his own personal accomplishments, he always brings it back to his teammates and shares the spotlight with all of them.  This is something Jeter was very well known for and was also a big reason why he was named  team captain.  You also see some similarities between the way they play the game.  They both are always hustling, never giving up on a play and sacrificing their body in an effort to help the team.  They are both very good at inside-outing the ball.

Now Jeter may have been punching the ball over the second baseman while Judge is punching the ball over the “Bleacher Creatures”, but nonetheless they both know how to go with the pitch. All of this aside, pressure like this should not be put on a rookie.  I know that Yankee fans have been desperately trying to find the next Derek Jeter since he retired, and for good reason as he was truly one of the most honorable players the game has ever seen.  But as Judge has said before, “there’s only one Derek Jeter.”  You have to just let this kid play his own game and make his own name.

I do not want to get ahead of myself as we are only one month into the season, but I really like what I have seen from this Yankees team.  They remind me of the 2009 World Series team, who never felt they were out of a game no matter what the score was.  You can only hope Judge keeps playing this well all year and Sanchez and company all play to their own potential.

Regardless of this season though, you have to be excited about the future of this team.  I mean, Judge started the season as the 4th best prospect in the Yankees farm system.  That means that there are 3 players in the minor leagues right now that may actually turn out to be better than him.  Then on top of that, you have impending free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both intrigued by what the Yankees have put together.  Machado already seems like a Yankee as he has been very vocal lately about his hatred for the Boston Red Sox.

And I wasn’t born yet when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were battling for the home run crown in 1961, but it sure would be a treat to see that recreated with Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper.  Yankees fans should be excited about what their team can do this year, and they should be absolutely ecstatic for what they have the potential to do in the upcoming years.