Because of the antiquated construction of Dodger Stadium, we're now left questioning an all-out effort play from Yankees superstar Aaron Judge, one which actively saved a win on Saturday.
We're left fumbling with the question of whether he should've tried so hard. Whether he should've lost a hard-fought contest and surrendered a likely tie in order to avoid missing several weeks of action, games that have been shaved off his personal schedule because of an unpadded concrete block built into the design of a 60+-year-old stadium.
Some have rested the blame on Judge's shoulders. He should know his own body. He should be more careful. He should win, but not at all costs. And, to some extent, that's true. In recent years, after hearing too much about his injury proneness, Judge has stopped headlong diving for balls in the middle of April without the game hanging in the balance. He sustained a mysterious, lingering rib fracture and collapsed lung diving in 2019, an injury that persisted through the next season's shortened spring training.
But Judge's sprint last Saturday wasn't some irrelevant moment in a long sea of forgotten innings culminating in a 95-win regular season, as usual. It was the likely difference between joy and defeat in a showcase series at Dodger Stadium. It was a chance to break a losing streak. And, most importantly, it seemed like a situation where Judge could brace himself -- because he didn't know there was concrete at toe-level, bare as the day it was built, waiting for him. How could he know? Who would build something like that? And who would let it persist past the '70s?
The worst part is the Dodgers are lucky Judge got hurt first. Their decade-long investment plays right field, too. Maybe that's why they keep shifting Mookie Betts to shortstop?
Yankees star Aaron Judge injured by shoddy construction at Dodger Stadium
Now, Judge is in pain. Even after receiving an injection in his big toe, and even though the swelling has been quelled somewhat, he's still gutting out soreness. He is not cured.
Without full range of pain-free motion in his toe last year, DJ LeMahieu found himself unable to drive the ball effectively. He couldn't put the proper amount of weight on his pivot foot. Still, in 2023, ostensibly healed (and with better metrics), he's striking out at an uncharacteristically high rate. His average is plummeting. A swing is so much more than it appears to be.
Can the Yankees survive without Judge? In the recent past, they've treaded water. Since the start of 2022, when he's largely been available (and carrying the offense), they've been 9-13 without him. With their current level of outfield depth -- several infielders, a few DHs, Billy McKinney -- it will be difficult to put a smile on and look like the same team. When Judge returns, the Yankees will take great pains to ensure he is all the way back to normal. Judge, on the other hand, will take great pains to grit his teeth and return before that time comes.
All because of a wall. All because he tried too hard -- no, just hard enough. Hard enough to win. We all lose.