MLB’s messiah has arrived.
All rise, baseball fans, and tip your cap to Aaron Judge.
We always knew he had it in him when he arrived on the scene in 2017. He brought a big bat, killer smile, and those broad shoulders.
For sure, it was nearly impossible to miss the Yankees’ star in the making. But injuries the last two seasons derailed his career and pushed him and his stardom to the back-burner.
Hence, fans looked elsewhere at better all-around players to ooh and ahh about.
But not now.
Enter 2020. And so far, the verdict is obvious. Judge is the face of baseball and MLB should be thrilled.
Judge fits the bill, moves the needle around sports America.
Sports fans from coast-to-coast took notice last night when Judge hit a two-run homer, his second of the game, to give the Yankees a 9-7 over the Boston Red Sox, completing a three-game series sweep of their rivals.
The Yankees (7-1) not only have the best record in the game, but the best player to match. And right now, it’s not even close.
Judge’s eighth inning blast — and it was just that if you heard the crack of the bat in the empty and cavernous Yankee Stadium — was his sixth in just eight games and got national air-time on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Matt Vasgersian’s call was epic, almost October-worthy. He was excited. And with good reason.
That capped a monster stretch by Judge, who with his first-inning three-run bomb homered in his fifth straight game — the first Yankee to do it since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. In eight games, Judge is batting .290 with six homers and 14 RBI.
“Not locked in yet. Still trying to find it,” Judge told the media after the game. “I’m feeling good.”
This is what MLB had hoped for when he burst into the scene in 2017, smashing a rookie record-breaking 52 homers.
That year fans were all in. Judge was voted as a starting outfielder to the 2017 MLB All-Star Game, receiving 4,488,702 votes, the most of any player in the AL.
Fans were also rewarded when Judge put on an absolute show at the All-Star Game in Miami in the Home Run Derby, besting Twins’ third baseman Miguel Sano 11-10 in the final round to become the first rookie to win the Derby outright.
Judge’s performance was so impressive that even MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that Judge is a player “who can become the face of the game.”
Manfred, of course, hasn’t been right about a few things when it comes to his sport, but he was spot on here.
Sure, there are other great players out there, including Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper.
All can flat out ball and are dynamic in their own right.
But Judge brings different things to the table. America pays attention to home run hitters. It was, and has always been the case.
Babe Ruth is still a legend. People get goosebumps when they hear the replay of Hank Aaron breaking Babe’s record.
This country was memorized by the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run battle of 1998. Without question, it saved baseball after the strike of 1997 soured many baseball fans about the sport.
But McGwire broke Roger Maris’ long-standing record of 61 homers in a single single. McGwire finished with a whopping 70 that season and Sosa had a remarkable 66.
And in 2001, Bonds crushed an amazing 73. Again, America was gripped.
Only the media cared about juice. The hint of steroids didn’t seem to bother the fans. They wanted to see homers and cheered long and loud.
Judge is that same type of player, one the masses care about whether they root for the Yankees or not.
Easily, you can see fans sending texts to their friends that simply say: All Rise. It would mean Judge has gone yard.
Being on the biggest stage, wearing the uniform of the most-storied franchise in American sports history doesn’t hurt. MLB is always better when the Yankees are star-studded and winning.
Judge, 28, has a chance to not only put together a season to remember in a pandemic-shortened 60 games season, but deliver the Yankees their first championship since 2009.
This is not NY hype and trying to prop up a player not worthy. Judge has superstar talent written all over him.
The only thing that has been in his way has been his health. In the last two seasons, Judge missed a total of 110 games. Finally, Judge is healthy and the results are eye-popping.
“He’s healthy. he’s a stud,” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said. “He’s in a groove right now. It’s a guy that you don’t want to take your eyes off when he’s hitting.”
Judge hasn’t only gotten Baseball America’s attention. He has a great chance to keep it, too.