All rise, the honorable Aaron Judge, Yankees’ rookie slugger, presiding. This court is now in session for October baseball at Yankee Stadium, in Judge’s Chamber, three rows in section 104, not far behind his everyday spot in right field. With cameras at every corner and high praise from everybody around the majors, he swiftly ripened into superstar status and went from a home-run prodigy to one of the most recognized faces in baseball. It’s easy to see why.
The game’s newest star is set to plead his case on the big playoff stage. It was hard to miss baseball’s hotshot, a boy wonder and a superstar in the making this summer. The verdict, which a jury has not reached, won’t come until mid-October at the earliest. The Yankees outfielder, someone the organization could build around, was the author of New York’s best-selling storybook that attracted much notice, and engaged the attention of fans in every city. It’s a story about the Judge, this great player, and over the summer, he rocketed to stardom as fans absorbed the sudden popularity of a guy who has generated power that is simply otherworldly.
Fans are sucked in by the ridiculous numbers he piles up, his prodigious display of power, the buzz, and have their eyes glued to every at bat. He doesn’t just hit towering shots, he puts his name in history books with his record-breaking home runs. He became the fourth qualifying rookie to post an OPS of more than 1.000 with a 1.049 mark. As you may have heard, he broke the rookie home run record with his 50th blast, one more than legend Mark McGwire. That’s right, the best outfielder in the American League puts on a No. 99 pinstriped jersey and plays for a nationally brand-name franchise.
Making all sorts of history, it’s a wonder what he’s capable of in the postseason, a month when burgeoning legends are usually born. If he can knock it out of the park this fall, to validate his amazing rookie season, he would claim the title “ Mr. October” for his dominance. Judge, not long ago, hit 15 homers and drove in 32 in September alone, the most home runs in a calendar month by a Yankee since Maris hit 15 in June 1961. It’s only fitting, after a strong finish in September, to envision him as the new version of the great legend Reggie Jackson, the original Mr. October.
But only time will tell, however, if Judge matches Jackson’s talent level and moves himself in elite company for the way he smacks the ball. A couple of months or so after the All-Star break, Judge’s swing just wasn’t right. He wasn’t seeing the ball well, swung and missed every ball that crossed the plate. He hit just .185/.353/.326 with three homers and 41 strikeouts in 116 plate appearances in August. But we really shouldn’t have been too surprised. If anything, he appeared to have a flaw in his mechanics, which was inevitable while bothered by a left shoulder injury.
Much has been made of a slumping Judge, because he was the key part of the Yankees’ offense. His presence is contagious on the field and in the clubhouse. He has carried the whole team. So this is essentially how the Yankees clinched a postseason berth, depending almost solely on the efforts of their rookie phenom.
The good news, though, is that he broke out of a second-half slump and reverted back to MVP form. When he slumps, or when his production sinks, the Yankees’ offense slumps as well. He had a remarkable rookie season and did much to suggest that he’s a Bronx Bomber in the team’s foreseeable future. This was one of baseball’s most compelling stories ever told, one about a 25-year-old with potential to be the next big thing in the game. Judging by his size, he’s pretty intimidating but he’s a soft-spoken, fun-loving superstar. In evaluating him, he has speed and athleticism, an abundance of attributes that differentiates the Judge from everybody else.
He hit 30 home runs before the All-Star break, and produced an AL-best 5.3. Judge, favored by many to win the American League MVP, was on pace for 57 dingers at one point. It only goes to show you the tremendous impact he’s made this season after just hitting 179/.263/.345 in 27 game’s last season, albeit hitting a home run in his first major league plate appearance last August. Just for fun, he was so hot going into the break, that he showed off his power by blasting 400-foot missiles and won the Home Run Derby in Miami.
Summer ends, autumn is here, and now he’s the third rookie in Yankees history to make his postseason debut. If he makes a name for himself in October, someday he will follow the great Yankee legends who came before him and will have a plaque in Monument Park.
Once again, All Rise!