Yankees' Aaron Judge breaks rookie home run record with 50th bomb
In the latest episode of a remarkable introduction, Aaron Judge broke the all-time record for home runs in a rookie season yesterday. With two bombs against the Kansas City Royals, the titanic Yankees outfielder surged past Mark McGwire, who it 49 homers for Oakland in 1987.
Wally Berger of the Boston Braves held the record for 57 years before Big Mac toppled him. Now Judge becomes the historic record holder, etching his name further into pinstriped lore.
Aaron Judge is huge – in height and in potential
Standing 6 feet 7 inches tall, Judge debuted in New York last year, playing 27 games for the reloading Yankees. Amid great expectations, Judge struggled to adjust to big league pitching during his brief cup of coffee, hitting just .179 with 4 home runs and 10 RBI in 95 plate appearances.
This season, however, the 25-year old has unleashed his enormous potential, positioning himself as a potential heir to Derek Jeter as the team’s defining star. Number 99 has the intriguing backstory and the immaculate approach. He now has a record of elite performance, too, giving the Yankees a cornerstone around which to build.
From a very early age, everybody knew Aaron Judge could hit the baseball a long way. Such a towering presence lends itself to incredible strength, and Judge has left a trail of destruction throughout his professional career. Towering home runs have become his trademark, but questions remained as to whether Judge could put it all together into one big league package. Aaron has answered those questions emphatically in 2017.
How Aaron Judge became the face of baseball
With a beaming smile of good-natured confidence, Judge has morphed into the model ballplayer this season. He is charming, self-effacing and respectful, a teddy bear wrapped in a mammoth body. Mild-mannered and dignified, Judge masters his own emotion, which is a common key to success in New York City. If Brian Cashman created a custom video game player, the result would look and act like Aaron Judge. He is everything the modern Yankees aspire to be.
In recent years, the organisation has been criticised for alleged parsimony, as Hal Steinbrenner took the Yankees in a different direction to his father. While austerity measures in big league free agency have often been hard to comprehend, behind closed doors, the Yankees have invested heavily to implement a fresh philosophy compatible with the post-Moneyball age. Aaron Judge is a microcosm of those efforts.
Where George once stifled Brian Cashman, rejecting his ideas and clipping his wings, Hal has turbocharged the general manager’s autonomy. Amid comparatively mediocre seasons, Cashman has rebuilt the Yankees’ infrastructure, bulking resource in analytics, player development and sports science. No team does more in the psychosocial space, grooming young ballplayers in the art of emotional maturity and sustainable living.
If Greg Bird, Rob Refsynder and Tyler Austin were the prototypes, Aaron Judge is the paragon spewed out by the Yankees’ new production methods. He carries himself with that distinctive Yankee class, calm and unflustered. He takes life in his enormous stride, quietly demanding excellence. And he thumps the baseball with rare authority. Oh my, does he bludgeon opposing pitchers.
Admittedly, watching Stephen Drew flail at centre-cut meatballs was incredibly difficult, but the long-term reward from that time of splintered focus is now clear to see. Hal and Cashman concentrated on 2017 and beyond. They were determined to construct a perennial winner in sustainable fashion. Aaron Judge golfing baseballs out of ballparks, a homegrown hero, is the ultimate avatar of that journey.
Aaron Judge joins exclusive 50 home run club
Yankee Stadium erupted when Judge clubbed his marquee homer. From the Judge’s Chambers in right field to the plush seats behind home plate, a rejuvenated crowd of 40,023 rose to laud their newest hero. Reticent to shower in personal glory, Judge rarely accepts curtain calls, but he doffed his helmet to the assembled masses, signalling his appreciation.
A lock to win American League Rookie of the Year honours, Judge is already dancing with immortals. With a two-run drive off Jakob Junis and a solo shot off Trevor Cahill yesterday, the right fielder duly authored just the ninth 50+ home run season in Yankees history. Babe Ruth did it four times. Mickey Mantle managed it twice. Roger Maris and Alex Rodriguez broke the threshold, too.
With six games remaining in the regular season, Judge needs four home runs to topple A-Rod’s record for the most in a single campaign by a right-handed Yankee hitter. That demographic includes Joe DiMaggio, Derek Jeter and a host of pinstriped icons. Aaron Judge is already brushing shoulders with those ghosts, pushing the envelope of greatness as a sainted rookie. It will be fun to watch his career develop.
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Ryan Ferguson is the author of Conflict: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the War for My Heart, available now in paperback and Kindle formats through Amazon. Click the link below to get your copy now!