For years, many believed that Aaron Judge had everything to become a true superstar, the face of MLB.
He is big, strong, and handsome. Plus, he swings a big home run bat. And best of all, he plays on the biggest baseball stage in New York at the most legendary franchise in American sports history.
It was only a few years ago that even MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was hoping out loud that it would happen after Judge won the 2017 HR Derby in Miami in a performance fit for framing. “He’s a huge talent on the pitch and very attractive off the pitch,” Manfred said at the time.
But it didn’t happen. Not next season or years to come.
Not because Judge was a flash in the pan. Instead, injuries prevented Judge from excelling and reaching his full potential.
You can’t impress people on the injured list.
Then came 2021. Not only did Judge finally stay healthy this season, but he truly grew into a superstar in the game.
Sure, all the buzz was about Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr. — and rightly so, both are studs. Still, it was impossible to ignore what Judge brought together in a team that played meaningful games all season.
Ohtani and Tatis Jr. are both at home when the late season gets underway.
Without a doubt, Judge and his New York Yankees would not participate in tonight’s American League Wild Card game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park without him.
And we mean it literally. It was only fitting that Judge sent the Yankees to a postseason berth on Sunday with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yanks won 1-0 and again Judge came out big in a big spot.
It’s been like this all year round. When the Yankees needed a big punch, in a tight spot, Judge of Giancarlo Stanton seemed to perform.
In the landmark playoff squad that likely brought the Yankees into the postseason, the Yankees won a three-game series in Boston.
To complete the sweep, the Yankees scored four runs in the eighth inning. With two outs, Judge delivered a clutch two-run double to give the Yanks a 4-3 lead in an eventual 6-3 win.
On Thursday in Toronto, Judge hit two homeruns, including his 39th of the season, in a much-needed win.
On September 11, Judge hit two home runs against the Mets in a comeback thriller. The Yankees needed that win at the time and Judge got it for them.
It’s really been a pairing season for the 6-foot-7 right fielder.
In the regular season, Judge batted .287 with 39 homers and 98 RBI.
He played in 148 games, the most since his first full season in 2017 when he played in 155 games to win the AL Rookie of the Year and finish second to the AL MVP. This season, Judge had the most at bats in a single season in his career with 550. His batting average this season was a career high.
Judge’s previous three seasons have been marred by injuries at every turn.
In the 2020 COVID shortened season, a 60-game season, Judge played in just 28 games. In 2019, he played in 102 matches, and in 2018 only 112.
Judge’s middle name was certainly frustrating.
Yankee fans already saw this potential, but it wasn’t realized because Judge couldn’t stay on the field.
A year or so ago, it was hard to imagine it would be a slam dunk for the Yankees to sign Judge, 29, to a lengthy extension this upcoming outdoor season. He has one year of arbitration to go before he can become a free agent.
It just seemed like a huge risk because of his injury history.
Have so far no contract talks, according to what he told the media.
‘The ball is in their court’ Judge told the New York Post. “I’m just a player. I just do my job every day.
“I’m not going to run up to someone and say, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ That’s their job. That’s what they get paid for. I get paid to be on the pitch here.”
Finally, Judge was able to do that and produce like the superstar most always thought he would be.