New York Yankees captain Aaron Judge set the baseball world on fire last year with his 62 home runs breaking Roger Maris’s AL homerun record along with being named the American League Most Valuable Player.
Not long after he broke the record, rumors swirled about where he would sign as a free agent. New York fans held their breath as reports broke repeatedly about different teams he might sign with. Reports went as far as to link him agreeing to terms with the San Francisco Giants. In the end, though Judge showed just what is missing in the game today.
Loyalty to the team gave him a shot to become the big name he had become, but also the opportunity to grow his legacy. At his contract signing, the Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman not only announced his contract being official but that Aaron was now the New York Yankees captain. That spoke more to how much the team believes him than his gigantic nine-year $360 million contract.
If Judge continues to play to the caliber over the next several years that he was able to last season could he become the greatest Yankee of all time? On the outside looking in, it seems like that is far-fetched with names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, and Derek Jeter. In reality, though, he could become the greatest Yankee captain in history.
The Greatest Qualities of Captain Aaron Judge’s Success
Big “Captain” Moments in The Bronx
One reason that Aaron Judge could become the greatest team captain of all time is just his sheer athleticism, and the ability to have big moments in The Bronx. Not that other captains and most namely Derek Jeter didn’t have their moments that are still talked about and watched repeatedly. But Judge can change games, if not end them with a swing of the bat.
Poised to average possibly 40 plus home runs over the next several seasons, one would anticipate that some might wind up being walk-off home runs. Judge brings more to the table than just his bat though. His fieldwork is some of the best in the game as well. Judge being 6’7” can cover a lot of field taking away hits that usually find the gaps for extra-base hits. The ability to pull off exciting plays both at bat and in the field is what fans love to see, and he will be providing many more over the next nine years. The scary part is he seems to just be finding his stride.
Always in the “Captain” Spotlight
One thing Judge has over past captains is the use of social media. Judge has had multiple appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” since he came into the league during his rookie season. Something about being in the spotlight makes him seem comfortable with the whole scene in New York.
The city has always been a brutal place to play in front of fans, but in this day in technology, Judge will be under a bigger and brighter spotlight than those before him. The thing about that is it has made “The Captain” more personable. More relatable. There are very few photos out there you won’t see him smiling, taking pictures with fans, signing autographs, or just cutting up with teammates.
Sure, fans that remember a guy like Thurman Munson will remember he was a no-nonsense type of player who would downright defend his team physically. That was what the fans wanted back then. This is not to say that Judge wouldn’t get in a good ole baseball scrap, but he doesn’t have to. He has for the most part won the league over, and gained the respect of the league through just being a really good baseball player and having a love for the game.
True “Captain” Leadership
Judge carries his leadership qualities differently than his predecessors. The biggest example of this was last season when the Yankees came out of the All-Star Break and their possible record season seemed to come crashing down. The streak seemed endless losing 11-14 games in August.
The record didn’t look great, but Judge’s bat kept the Yankees in a lot of games during the slump giving fans hope that is until the rest of the offense picked back up. Just carried what he could on his back, and continued to speak highly of his teammates. He was a true leader answering the media’s questions in the face of what was slowly becoming a disaster. The Yankees did turn things around after losing to the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series. Even in the face of defeat Judge shows humbleness in defeat, but the grit to want revenge.
A quote from Michael King probably describes it best last week in an interview with MLB.com in spring training.
“He’s unlike anybody I’ve ever met because he’s such a superstar, but he treats everyone like they’re the star. I remember I got called up in 2019 and didn’t know anybody. He came up to me in the trainers’ room and said, ‘About damn time you’re here, Kinger!’ It made me feel so good about myself. I absolutely love that about him.”
Things are bright in the Bronx, and Aaron Judge is going to be the kind of leader that shares the spotlight. Something that will go a long way in bringing talent to New York and the Championships with it.
Main Image: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY