New York Yankees fans love Aaron Judge. They trust Aaron Judge. They know Aaron Judge is the Yankees. But if the entire system is broken, how can one man with the least amount of power in the organizational hierarchy be entrusted to fix the mess?
The Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday when they lost to the Arizoa Diamondbacks, a fate that was long expected since the trade deadline, when Brian Cashman opted to do nothing to improve an ailing roster.
Judge spoke to the media after the loss on the rainy afternoon and let the fans know that 2023 was indeed a failure and that "a lot of things need to change." It's good to hear that from the captain, but it's worth wondering how much influence Judge will have in helping redirect a lost organization.
The slugger was said to be involved in the team's offseason planning once 2022 came to a close and was instrumental in bringing Carlos Rodón aboard -- a move that played a role in sinking the Yankees in 2023. Hopefully it works out for the long haul, but we just don't know. Even when they make the "right" move, it somehow turns out wrong.
Another thing to (slightly) worry about is how this team has fallen massively short with Judge at the helm since 2017. He's been their best player since then, and somehow the team chemistry has gotten worse and worse. Cashman hasn't helped at all on that front, but is this roster far too damaged for Judge to captain it both with his play and leadership?
Aaron Judge's strong commentary after Yankees playoff elimination not yet convincing
Yankees fans love the sentiment. Their best player being involved in any and all discussions relating to personnel will at least help bridge the gap with the disconnect between the front office and the dugout.
But this team is stuck with Giancarlo Stanton. Judge can't fix the injuries or the player development issues. He can't help Aaron Boone get a better feel for the game as manager. What can he do? Convince Cashman and Steinbrenner to bring in more contact bats, lefties and experienced veterans?
Beyond that, what can he realistically do that will change things overnight? Every prospect that's come up through the ranks since Judge's debut in 2016 has been underwhelming or disappointing. There's a clear gap in performance between the upper levels of the minor leagues and the bigs. He can't revamp the analytics department that Steinbrenner is currently auditing. He can't teach this team to not have the worst batting average in MLB (outside of the A's).
Don't get us wrong, the Yankees need any and all help, and Judge's input is likely the best possible start. But since Judge's first full season, this team has only gotten worse or established new ways to massively disappoint. They just missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The remain in danger of finishing below .500 for the first time since 1992.
The necessary catalysts for change are in motion. Steinbrenner is angry and appears to be taking some action. The captain is speaking out and understands there's a lot of work to be done to get the Yankees back on top. The aggression with promoting top prospects will help the Yankees more effectively determine what they need to do to further elevate the roster.
But there's something else that seems to be dragging down the Yankees. Something we still cannot put our finger on. So while we're happy Judge is ready to help with the offseason planning, fans can't truly believe unless there's a distinct improvement in performance come 2024.