The New York Yankees hold a hefty division lead, but that’s only because they got off to an historically hot start; all three teams behind them are competent, and could be closer in a blink if the Yanks slip up.
Add in the far more exciting race with the Houston Astros for home field advantage in the playoffs (the two teams are separated by only four games), and it’s clear this Yankees team could use as many external sparks as possible to keep their focus. Things may be dry in the AL East, but there’s plenty to play for (and even that probably won’t last forever).
Even if there wasn’t a Houstonian beast lurking across the country, you couldn’t blame Aaron Judge for seeking an edge. After all, he entered his walk year with a chip on his shoulder thanks to the Yankees’ last-ditch offer that was never, ever going to keep him out of free agency, and responded with 29 first-half home runs.
After the two sides settled in arbitration (with terms that merited a slight Judge win), the slugger is apparently seeking out all corners of the sports media space for continued motivation.
Check Judge’s Twitter likes, which are usually a desert considering how straight-across-the-bough his social media presence is. You won’t see much boasting from Judge until a series win is already secured; that’s when his highlight videos get posted, and not a moment too soon.
These days, though, he appears to be trolling the internet for doubters, as evidenced by this tweet he liked where ex-Red Sox third baseman and current pundit Will Middlebrooks advocated for a long-term Rafael Devers deal as a smarter bet than any Judge contract.
Yankees’ Aaron Judge thinks he has a better future than Rafael Devers
Middlebrooks cited ongoing “health” concerns with Judge, though at this point, those are more an estimation than a fact-based diagnosis. Judge missed a large chunk of the 2018 season after getting drilled on the wrist, and lost some of 2019 with an oblique pull/2020 with some leg issues. ’18 was a freak accident, though, and nobody’s conditioning was up to snuff in the shortened 2020 campaign, where players were pulled out of isolation in the middle of June.
Judge’s body type is nearly unprecedented, so many prognosticators continue to forecast an incoming breakdown. So far, it’s all speculation, though.
Plus … hate to say it, but … yeah, the last few years of any Judge deal are quite likely to be bad. The 30-year-old wants to be locked up for a significant length of time, and most long-term position player contracts end up tough to deal with at the back end.
You know which team shouldn’t be worried about that, though? The Yankees, who can absorb mistakes others cannot.
Rafael Devers is a wonderful hitter who is putting up something that resembles a “peak” at the age of 25, meaning he could potentially fly much higher. Is he a long-term third baseman, though? If so, how long is that term? An ex-Sox might not want to consider it, but an eight-year deal for Devers could end up somewhere completely different than when it started, much like the upcoming Judge pact.
The decision between the two players isn’t so cut and dried, but Judge believes he’ll eventually come out on top. He’ll have his first chance in quite a while to prove it head-to-head at Fenway Park this weekend.