Friday, May 31, 2024

99 Revolutions


Ya know, in the 27 games Aaron Judge played during the 2016 season, around when the team called up him and Tyler Austin to raise morale after Beltran, Chapman and Miller all got traded, I was not looking at this guy thinking he'd be the most important Yankee of his era. Just a high-strikeout lunkhead of an outfielder, couldn't hit at the MLB level at 24, worryingly adequate, not sure where the Scranton perks were anyhow.

Which made me think in 2017, once he started really taking off, 'well eventually the other shoe's gonna drop and we're all gonna look really silly for thinking this kid was for real'. Look, I've gotten excited for Yankee prospects that didn't amount to shit before. I got excited for Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, I waited for Brackman and Banuelos to get called up, I thought Greg Bird was the first baseman of the future, I've been screwed before. So I waited with trepidation to see if Aaron Judge was the real deal or not. And after some injury-plagued seasons, during which he was still one of the best pure hitters in the game, I think I'm finally convinced this Judge fella is for real.

Until last week I'd never seen him hit one out live. I'd seen Stanton hit a homer, I'd seen Cutch and Granderson hit homers, I've seen Harper hit one out a few times, but until last Wednesday I'd only seen Judge homers on TV. But this one was something, because you could just tell where it was going before it got there. With the degree of his swing, and with the pure strength he hit it at, there wasn't much of a doubt. And the exaltation of that crowd once it did go out, that's pretty nice. Obviously he's hit a few homers at Yankee Stadium, but the novelty never goes away. I'll add that it's the same with Juan Soto, he hit two of them that day and it didn't get any less cool.

And that sums up the Aaron Judge experience for me; it really hasn't gotten old yet. He's been around for 9 seasons, he's hit 274 home runs, 26 away from 300, which means he's got a shot at that milestone this year, he's had 5 35+ homer years, including the one where he passed 60. And right now he's already got 18 homers, 41 RBIs and is hitting .275. That's pretty damn good. Unsurprisingly he's also leading the league in OPS with a 1.020, and SLG with .613. Judge is the most important power hitter in the game right now, and his hot streak this month has been nothing short of legendary. People were a little worried in April, but now it's like that slump didn't exist and he's helping power the team, along with fellow hot Yanks Alex Verdugo, Juan Soto and Luis Gil.

I'll admit that since the 'hot streak' era of the month, the Yankees have been hit with a few setbacks. They've lost the occasional game, including losses to good teams like the Mariners and Padres, and they've seen the occasional blown save by Clay Holmes. They just lost Clarke Schmidt for a little while, which would be a bigger problem if A.) Cody Poteet wasn't having a surprisingly strong year in Scranton, and B.) Gerrit Cole isn't gonna be back in a couple weeks anyway. You knew an injury was gonna happen eventually, and thankfully there's enough circumstantial elements to keep this one from being especially momentum-killing. Schmidt's having a great year, but so are Gil, Rodon, Cortes and Stroman. So hopefully we'll be alright.

The Yankees are in a very good spot right now, and it's thanks in part to the stars showing up and doing what they need to. I sincerely hope this continues, because it's been really damn fun to watch.

Coming Tonight: One of the best pitchers in baseball right now. And I'm seeing him live tomorrow night.

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