Listen, I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan who despise the New York Yankees as much as the next guy. BUT, after Aaron Judge’s 2-HR night against the Red Sox on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, Sox fans need to come to some realizations:
Aaron Judge being good at baseball is good for the sport of baseball.
Aaron Judge’s recent success has brought life to baseball twitter, as a lightning rod of debate and controversy. Much to the chagrin of many Sox fans, Judge is finally healthy after nearly 3 years of banged up and battling injuries following his monstrous start to 2017 as a rookie. He’s off to quite the start to the 2020 season. 6 HRs in 5 straight games. As a Sox fan, the last 3 Judge homers have stung, coming as part of the 3-game sweep over the weekend. But, when Matt Barnes’ hung a slider up in the zone and Judge sent it ~470 feet, the ESPN broadcast team reacted in a way that titillated Red Sox twitter in the worst way.
Personally, I enjoy Matt Vasgersian as a play-by-play guy. Maybe it’s the years of hearing him narrate my countless MLB the Show games. Or maybe… no it’s definitely the video game, but alas, he’s as solid as they come for baseball play-by-play callers. But his
First, came the 3-run HR in the 2nd inning that put the Yankees ahead 3-2, and extended his HR streak to 5-games:
FIVE straight games with a homer.
Aaron Judge is on FIRE. pic.twitter.com/le8JhFl0Ox
— MLB (@MLB) August 3, 2020
Next, is the one where people (Red Sox fans on twitter) really got upset with the perceived broadcast-bias from this broadcast crew:
On top of those calls, A-Rod made a comment alluding that Judge was in the same realm of greatness as some serious GOATs. WILD night in terms of the broadcast crew. Would love to hear some more context from A-Rod on the below quote/comment following a Judge homer:
A-Rod, yelling straight at the microphone: “Tiger Woods. LeBron James. Michael Jordan. Aaron Judge. Wow”
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) August 3, 2020
Historic Streak Watch?
I’m inevitably jinxing Judge’s streak by mentioning it at all, but it’s important to note he’s already flirting with history. As Judge looks to extend his HR streak later tonight, when the Yankees host the Phillies, he’s within a week of the MLB record. Again, because I’m talking about it, it’s basically already over, but for now, let’s just pretend I didn’t ruin it.
The longest streak of this kind is a 3-way tie at 8 consecutive games with a home run. Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, and Dale Long are the only trio to have accomplished the 8-game feat. Pretty good company if you ask me. Back in August of 2018 Kendrys Morales flirted with tying the record, when he notched 7 straight games with a home run for the Blue Jays. However, the last team Morales played for at the end of 2019? The New York Yankees. Perhaps Morales gifted the secret sauce of a lengthy home run streak to Judge as his imparting gift? Probably not, but I’d like to think of Kendrys as a man of generosity and solid MORAL(e)s. (Get it???)
Before I embarrass myself any further, more HERE on other streaks of this sort.
Star Athletes Being Injured Sucks.
Not exactly a bold statement, considering the general public consensus on injuries. However, the major knock against Judge (one I’ve mentioned in debates before) are questions surrounding his health and seemingly perennial inability to stay on the field. Right now, in 2020, for the first time since early 2017, he appears to be healthy and not battling any sort of nagging injuries.
2020 began in question for Judge, even prior to the lengthy delay to start the season due to COVID-19. Last September, a cracked rip lead to a collapsed lung and shoulder injury complicating his initial Spring Training. Following the recovery of that, during the Summer Camp, Judge experienced a neck injury. Upon the neck issue, his debut for 2020, even with the delayed Opening Day was once again in question. But alas, Judge recovered in ample time, and finally has a clean bill of health. Love or hate the Yankees, the game of baseball is far better off with a player of his caliber ON the field.
While I’m not exactly rooting for Aaron Judge to win multiple-MVPs or World Series titles, I would hate for us to look back in 5-10 years and lump him in the category of “What-Could’ve-Been All-Stars” like Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, etc.
A Challenger Will Rise Up to the Occasion In Opposition to Judge (So Let’s Blindly Speculate)
The best efforts often bring out the best in those in direct competition of the leader. It’s consistently true in work, life, and sports.
The cool part of a potential home run race involving Aaron Judge is the inevitable amount of time and energy opposing fans will put into rooting for any non-Yankee to beat him out. Nothing will likely ever match the fervor of the 1998 home run chase between McGwire and Sosa, but I’m down to try it out!
Some contenders (and story-lines) to consider as part of a blind speculation:
Inexplicable Hot-Starters: Colin Moran, Teoscar Hernandez, Christian Vazquez
Of this group, Vazquez is my personal favorite, but the king of moonshots is unlikely to go toe-to-toe with Judge.
Bizarrely, Colin Moran’s start is backed by strong peripherals, perplexing the baseball sabermetrics community. But will he continue to play on pace as the best player this generation has seen? Sorry to Colin, but my guess, is no. Lastly, it would be pretty fun for Yankee-haters everywhere to band together behind a relatively obscure hitter like Teoscar Hernandez to out-perform Aaron Judge.
Contenders with Hot Starts: Trevor Story, Joey Gallo, Max Muncy (and sort of Nick Castellanos)
These guys through ~10 games all have at least 3 dingers (Story has 4), and a history of flashing some serious power.
Story has Coors on his side, making him and Arenado annual threats to be among league leaders in HRs and RBIs. Gallo is a classic 2-outcome power hitter who could best rival Judge in a similar ability to homer a ton, and strikeout a ton. Muncy is a streaky wild-card, but in a great
Looming Long-Ball Artists: Cody Bellinger, Nelson Cruz, Alex Bregman, Ronald Acuna Jr.
None of these guys would be surprising to find atop the league in total HRs at the end of 2020. But none of their storylines are particularly enthralling for the sake of rivaling Aaron Judge. Bregman would ordinarily be interesting, but with the lack of suspension from #TrashCanGate, outside of those in Houston, no one wants to root for the Astros right now.
The Slow-Starter: Pete Alonso
A member of the cross-town, down-on-their-luck Mets. Alonso is used to being compared to his NYC slugging counterpart. During Alonso’s historic rookie season in 2019 he surpassed Judge’s MLB rookie-record of 52 HRs by swatting 53 for the Mets. Only thing is, he’s off to a slow start in 2020, with just 1 home run and a sub .200 batting average through 10 games. But just wait! If he gets hot, you can’t rule him out of contention for the 2020 home run title. As a result, Alonso rates very high on the entertainment scale here. The New York media would have an absolute field day with an Alonso-Judge HR battle. The NY Daily News headlines alone, would be worth it.
Aaron Judge Is Making Us Care About Baseball Again! That’s Something!!!
This one is rather simple. The reaction I saw on Twitter last night stirred my feelings along this sentiment. Baseball wasted such a massive opportunity to seize the quarantine blues by the horns and give us a fun reprieve. Instead, the owners played hardball and we’re left with a 60-game season and a bad taste in our mouths. After that, I just wanted to have baseball (as a game) make me feel again! I appreciate Judge for making Red Sox fans feel some type of way. Losing this much, sucks. Although the Red Sox roster is a dumpster-fire, seeing Sox fans care during a lost season is a silver-lining worth noting.
Whether his hot-streak makes you root for him or against him, a healthy, dinger-clobbering Aaron Judge is good for the game of baseball.
Full Disclosure: Judge is on a couple of my 2020 fantasy baseball rosters. Hate on me, I don’t care!
-Mike Gilligan (@BigGilli, @VerbalCommitPod and @SmallStateTakes Podcast) – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/small-state-big-takes/id1432138166 / https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/verbally-committed/id1516871465
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