Why Aaron Judge fits among the pantheon of Yankees greats
HOUSTON – He is quiet and he is unassuming, he is powerful and he sometimes defies description. He is Aaron Judge, and regardless of what happens Saturday night between the Yankees and the Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, regardless of what else is said about the 2017 Yankees, there is this:
Aaron Judge has made the Yankees the Yankees again.
Because while it is true, the first thing we associate with the Yankees is winning – they do have more championships than any other team in North American professional sports, after all – it has always been something more than that. The Yankees, after all, didn’t start winning championships until they acquired a fellow named Babe Ruth.
And that became the standard. The Yankees won a lot, sure. Sometimes it seemed they won every year. But they didn’t just win. They won with the stars. They won with the very biggest stars. They won with personality and panache, and every time the team train pulled into town it was an event.
So don’t think it hyperbole if Judge is ever compared to Ruth, because in the same way the Pittsburgh Pirates stood with their jaw agape as the watched Ruth (and the other members of Murderers Row) crush one batting practice pitch after anoher before Game 1 of the 1927 World Series, so too do opponents stare at awe at the amazing places Judge discovers with his own BP work.
Don’t think it ridiculous if Judge is ever compared to Joe DiMaggio, because for one thing Judge broke DMaggio’s rookie home run record, but also because in the same way fans could never take their eyes off Joe D whenever he took batting practice, fielding practice or simply walked down a city street, it’s the same with Judge: the same magnetism, the same flair, the same camera-ready smile.
Don’t think it absurd if Judge is ever compared to Mickey Mantle, the other fabled Bam-Bam of team lore, he of the 565-foot home run that you have to figure is eventually ticketed for second place whenever Judge really lays into some poor, straight fastball somewhere. Mantle was always Paul Bunyon, looked at as a physical freak, and he wasn’t 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds. Judge is.
Don’t think it preposterous if Judge is ever compared to Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, because while Judge has drowned in strikeouts this year he also had four postseason home runs heading into Saturday night and that, as they say, ain’t shabby for a kid. One thing is for certain: the reason why Jackson was able to become such a mainstay of October is because he got so many opportunities, first with Oakland, then with the Yankees. Judge is going to get plenty of his own.
Don’t think it fiction if Judge is ever compared to Derek Jeter because, let’s face it, he’s already been compared to Jeter, because he’s already the face of this most fabled of franchises, because this is his team now and for the foreseeable future, and Madison Avenue is going to fall over itself to make him someone you see in commercials for a decade to come.
None of that is crazy, because what Judge did this year was so brilliant. And the thing is: it’s as if the struggles he endured endeared him even more to the masses. What he was doing wasn’t easy, and when he scuffled it almost offered more proof of just how hard those labors were.
Yes. The thing we will take from this season, before we know where else it is to go from here, is that the Yankees have their new Ruth, their new Clipper, their new Mick, their new Reggie. Their new face. Fresh faced, too. And loaded for bear for 15 more years.