Aaron Judge is the face of the New York Yankees, no matter who the team might add today or tomorrow.
Aaron Judge came along as a surprise to Yankees fans. Highly touted, nevertheless his monstrous season in 2017 quickly supplanted the vacuum created when Derek Jeter retired in 2014 (yes, it was that long ago). The Yankees are Aaron Judge’s team now, and no one present or future will change that.
The face of any major league team has to be a player who shows up to play every day, contributing consistently as a winner with production, while not creating Page Six headlines that infringe on his team’s public image. He’s the player, who when you think of the Yankees, his name is the first to come to mind.
Mike Trout has it with the Angels, and Mookie Betts now claims the title for the Red Sox. In the same way, Aaron Judge has it with the Yankees.
And no matter who comes along shortly, a Manny Machado or Bryce Harper should the Yankees sign either of them, Aaron Judge is the man and the player his teammates look to as a role model.
The difference between Derek Jeter and Aaron Judge is that Jeter always said the right things about everything, but Judge says the same things, and there’s a sincerity behind it that matters. In the 1950s and ’60s, Judge would have been called a “square” – a misfit of sorts – a corny kind of guy. But for the Yankees, he’s the glue that holds the team together throughout a grueling six-month season.
Both Machado and Harper, perhaps rightly so, will expect to be the “Big Cheese” wherever they choose to sign. Put either one with the Phillies or White Sox (both contenders for their services), and thy will be done. Amen.
But if either is signed by the Yankees and far away from the dollar figure their contract would have on the team, they’ll merely be one of the more abundant smaller large fish in the pond. And I’m not sure either player is ready for that. Mike Trout would be – and no doubt all that would concern him is – put me in coach – I’m prepared to play – and win!
Aaron Judge would not create a problem for the Yankees should either player be added. It’s not his nature. But certainly, the “mix” in the clubhouse would be challenged. And when was the last time you’ve heard of any unrest in the Yankees clubhouse? Why risk it, especially when Judge is carrying the mantle well as the “leader” of the team?
With the Yankees apparent concern about Miguel Andujar‘s ability to handle third base, Machado would be a nice fit for the Yankees as a band-aid for Didi Gregorius at shortstop pending his return from surgery. After which, with Andujar presumably traded, Machado moves over to third (whether he likes it or not) for the next 8-10 years.
A question for the Yankees, though. Is Machado the “team guy” or the “me guy”? Machado tried to dress up his comments during the world series about not hustling, but here’s the best he could offer:
Does that sound like a mea culpa to you – a new Manny Machado? Not to me, and I hope the Yankees think seriously about who Aaron Judge is and what he represents to the organization before they delve into something long-lasting and possibly divisive.
Bryce Harper might be another matter, but it’s close regarding Harper being able to move to a team where he is no longer the head honcho. Between the two, I’d take Harper (even though I have reservations about him too), but again Brian Cashman must break through the Steve Boras protection net for a face-to-face with Harper before any commitment is made.
Aaron Judge is more than capable of leading the Yankees. He’s been there, done it. He has nothing to prove. Interlopers, maybe not as much, though.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor
Reflections On Baseball
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