Even though Team USA was unable to repeat, it's safe to say the 2023 World Baseball Classic took the event to new heights. Team Japan's most important contests were among the most-watched baseball games ... of all time, and the final averaged 4.5 million viewers, with overall viewership up 69% from the previous final.
In the immediate wake of the Shohei Ohtani-Mike Trout showdown that ended the title game, Trout was already prepared to re-up for Round 2 in 2026, calling his participation "the time of [his] life."
But did the event move the needle for Aaron Judge and the Yankees? Or were the Bombers still spooked by the injury risks, especially considering the crosstown Mets lost Edwin Diaz for the year in a celebration pile, while the villainous Jose Altuve had his thumb cracked by a pitch?
This time around, only a few Yankees participated, including backup catcher Kyle Higashioka with Team USA and Gleyber Torres representing Venezuela. Starter Luis Severino was yanked from the Dominican team when Brian Cashman pulled rank, while Nestor Cortes Jr. was taken off America's mound by a hamstring injury (which was ... probably real?).
Aaron Judge was never mentioned as a potential member of Team USA. Ditto Giancarlo Stanton, who starred on the 2017 club back when he was still a member of the Marlins. When asked about it on Wednesday, Judge stayed traditionally mum, basically saying, "Super fun show. Really engaged. We'll see about next time."
Yankees Captain Aaron Judge is a "maybe" on 2026 World Baseball Classic
Now, after such a lively competition, he's still singing the same tune about three years down the line:
"It’s tough to say now since it’s three years down the road. We’ll see when the time comes. It’s a fun, amazing event. It captivates the world. You’ve got kids everywhere staying up late watching these games, and you’ve got the best players in baseball competing. We’ll see where we are when the time comes."- Aaron Judge
This is, of course, music to the Yankees' ears. If MLB can put on a phenomenal event that's good for baseball globally ... without touching many of their players, then all the better. Yes, there are plenty of injury risks back at spring camp, but minimizing that number to the best of their ability is always preferable -- especially with a player like Judge, who's the key to everything in the Bronx and has a unique frame that still baffles scientists.
Those No. 99 Judge USA jerseys would probably outsell his brand-new burgers, but something tells us the Captain will keep kicking this issue down the road until it's already too late for the next one, too. But maybe 2029.