This is a blog I was hoping I would never have to write. After much consideration and denial, I am ready to make a confession. Aaron Judge is good at baseball. There, I said it. Now quit giving me that look, Yankees fans.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Uhhh thanks Copernicus, everyone in the world knows that already.” But let me give you a little insight as to why I thought otherwise. First and foremost, I am a Boston Red Sox fan. And like any Red Sox fan should, I am experiencing the stages of Aaron Judge-induced grief. The idea that the New York Yankees have found a way to genetically engineer a species of superhuman baseball players is scary to me. Secondly, I am, as they say, not tall. Not short, but certainly not tall. This allowed me to make statements such as “If I was that big I could hit the ball 500 feet too”. I was in denial.
In the first half of the 2017 season, Judge hit .329 with a 1.139 OPS. Oh, and he also leads the MLB in home runs with 30. Other categories he leads the league in consist of, but are not limited to SLG (.691), WAR (5.3), and times on base (164). These are, uh, really good numbers. But, being the skeptic and Yankee hater that I am, I was willing to look past this. I saw a behemoth wearing pinstripes and was willing to chalk up his success to sheer size and brute strength. Surely there was beginner’s luck involved and the rookie would slow down. God dammit why won’t he slow down?
My epiphany came during the home run derby. I knew Judge had power. He’s 6 foot 7, 282 pounds and apparently not an ounce of that is fat. He’s basically Fessik from The Princess Bride. But what stood out to me was his effortless swing. God damn it was so easy. It was a short swing with no Donaldson-esque frills, and it generated more power than anyone I’ve seen since the steroid era (see Sosa, Sammy).
I remember early on in the season I watched Joe Kelly strike Judge out on a nasty slider, but before that Judge fouled off a letter high fastball that came in at 104(!) mph. The fact that he was able to fight off that kind of velocity shows that he not only has tremendous hand-eye coordination, but that he isn’t trying to do to much at the plate. He understands his power and the fact that he doesn’t need to swing for the fences. At the time I didn’t think much of it because “Ha! Judge struck out! This guy is overrated”. But that was the Red Sox fan in me talking. Having had the chance to watch Judge in the derby brought out the rational baseball fan in me, and I have to admit… this kid is the real deal.
In a recent interview, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that Aaron Judge has the opportunity to “become the face of the game”. I absolutely agree. So far, nothing has been able to stop Judge. He’s likable (to the public, not to Sox Nation), he’s exciting, and he’s got the talent to be one of the all time greats. I have reached the acceptance stage of my Judge-induced grief. Aaron Judge is good at baseball, and no amount of ignorance can hide that fact from me. But the Red Sox are young and talented too. Maybe this is exactly what baseball needs to reignite one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. Bring it on. Here’s an actual visual representation of how I feel about Aaron Judge moving forward.
P.S. The name “Judge” is so conducive to great catch-phrases that I can’t even be mad about it. “All Rise, Here Comes The Judge” is phenomenal. The “Judge’s Chambers” at Yankee Stadium, phenomenal. I can’t hold that against him.
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