New York Yankees fans are waiting for the organization’s next captain. All eyes have been on Aaron Judge ever since his MVP-caliber 2017 campaign after which two incredible regular seasons from the team followed, but the big man was hampered by injuries and played just 242 games from 2018-2020 (out of a possible 384).
The captain’s gotta be on the field as much as possible, right? The captain’s gotta lead by example, right? The captain’s always gotta have the right things to say to the media, right?
Has 2021 changed the Yankees’ mind? Judge has finally been healthy for a full slate for the first time since 2017 and he’s quite literally a top-five player in the league.
He’s slashing .288/.374/.549 with 89 runs scored, 39 home runs and 87 RBI and has an OPS+ of 150! He’s a positive dWAR player and has been good for 9 Defensive Runs Saved between left field and center field. He’s been the most consistent hitter and defender on the team this year, and it’s not up for debate. We will not debate you!
As for big-time hits? Unreal.
- With runners in scoring position – .328 average and .955 OPS
- With runners in scoring position and two outs – .286 average and .948 OPS
- High-leverage situations – .319 average and .937 OPS
- Late & Close situations – .360 average and 1.061 OPS
A contract extension is likely incoming … but what about the official captain title?
Aaron Judge is playing, acting and talking like the Yankees’ captain.
It could very well be on the way. We knew his play was always there, he just needed to stay healthy and prove it was sustainable. But his personality and body language? Mostly reserved. Captain-like in a sense … but maybe not enough when presented to a larger audience. Has Judge ever really struck you as a guy who “rallies the troops?” Perhaps. But many would argue that wasn’t outwardly obvious.
That’s seemingly changed in 2021. After the team’s six-game road trip during which they went 5-1, Judge’s postgame comments on the matter elicited some assertiveness when he said he wished it was 6-0.
And how about his celebration of Gleyber Torres’ home run on Thursday night? It was just the second baseman’s ninth of the year, but the two-run shot made it a 5-2 game in what was a huge rally inning for the Bombers. Judge went nuts (for his standards) in the dugout.
We … LOVE IT!! Judge obviously celebrates and supports his teammates in big moments, but rarely is he front and center. Rougned Odor and Luke Voit have taken the spotlight in that regard. And on a team full of largely restrained personalities, just about anything that’s half of what you’d consider “raucous” sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact, many fans are surprised and get overly excited when, say, Giancarlo Stanton chucks his bat or Luke Voit Stone Cold’s a couple of brewskis (waters).
Look, this is just my opinion, too. Perhaps you see Judge let loose in ways I don’t recognize. Perhaps I’m a little too hard on the Yankees players and expect more from them, especially those of Judge’s caliber.
But seriously, have you ever seen him lose it like this?
The way Judge has take centerstage during the team’s recent run has said it all. The Yankees had a 40% chance to make the postseason and not many were even dreaming of a home Wild Card Game before the series at Fenway began.
Judge’s MVP-caliber play, vocal leadership and celebratory efforts have propelled the Bombers and have them playing more relaxed than we could’ve ever imagined. If the front office doesn’t recognize that, then perhaps we need to conduct an investigation to ensure general manager Brian Cashman and his crew aren’t actually robots.