Before you blow your gasket, I just want to make it clear that my relationship with anyone on the New York Yankees is centered around them playing baseball. I don’t care about their personal beliefs. They are just the people who wear the laundry I like the most. I have to pay to see them, so I only care about them playing. Also, AARON JUDGE IS A GREAT PLAYER WHEN HE IS ON THE FIELD. I think we can all agree on that.
Privately since 2019 and publicly since 2020 I have been campaigning for the Yankees to trade Judge. The basis of my campaign was that a player of his size has never had a prolonged career, besides Richie Sexson, and due to the marketing around Judge he would be overpaid on a long contract. Heading into the 2020 season Judge had only played in ~75% of games due to injuries and at the time had just revealed he hid a rib injury from the team for an entire off-season. Also, his now wife had just gotten a DUI while begging for the opportunity to name-drop him to the cops. All of this was, in my eyes, enough to trade him at the time but let’s look at what has happened since.
First, Judge’s hidden rib injury lingered into July of 2020 and even made him questionable leading up to the July 23 Opening Night. So, when you look at games missed due to injuries, you also have to factor in that without Covid shutting down baseball, Judge would have missed ~90 games to start the season. Yes, our medical staff should have been better, but he also shouldn’t have just tried to lift through it.
One of the big things that people love about Judge is his “leadership.” As a fanbase, we’ve been looking for our next Derek Jeter and a lot of us believe that Judge was that guy. He ran in to high five all of his teammates. He changes his gum when he gets out. He plays catch with young fans. All great things, but that isn’t leadership Judge has only shown us since the beginning of 2020, that he’s not that guy.
Later in the 2020 season, Aaron Judge strained his calf and was placed on the IL on August 14th, retroactive to Aug. 12. His response to that move was to publicly question the decision and declare himself “100%.” On its own, these are not the actions of a leader, but to make matters worse, Judge came back on August 25, only to go back on the IL for the same injury after half a game. Aaron missed another 19 days and didn’t fully come back until a full month after he declared himself 100%. Not a great 2020 on or off the field for Aaron but let’s look at 2021.
This is where some of you are going to say things get political but when it comes to players on the Yankees, I like to quote Michael Irvin, “I don’t care about the left-wing. I don’t care about the right-wing. I JUST CARE ABOUT A RING!”
As our first full season with Gerrit Cole on the roster approached and COVID-19 cases were near their high, for the time, Judge thought the best thing he could do is go to the Super Bowl. Is this the worst thing in the world? No, of course, it isn’t. However, less than two weeks from Spring Training, better “leadership” could have been displayed.
On the field, Judge had an amazing season. For the first time since 2017, he was able to stay on the field at least 70% of the time and really only missed time due to a Covid outbreak that went through the team. Judge’s numbers were not quite at the level of 2017 but he finished fourth in MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger during his All-Star season. Again, his ability while on the field has never been in question. However, in becoming an All-Star, we learned that Judge had made the choice to forgo a Covid vaccine because he tested positive during a time when only unvaccinated players were being tested. I’ll never be happy when someone gets Covid but to a certain extent we all let out a sigh of relief knowing that natural immunity would likely carry Judge through the playoffs when he could then get vaccinated and more data around the vaccine was available.
That brings us to the here and now. As of today, we have no confirmation one way or another if Judge is vaccinated. We do know that athletes in New York are being held to the same standard as every other employee in the city, with no exception. Regardless of how you feel about the mandate, I think we all should be happy that athletes are not being treated differently than the average Joe. Just like Kyrie Irving, a police officer, a waiter, a janitor, or anyone else, unvaccinated individuals are unable to put their coworkers or support staff at a higher risk due to their personal choices. Unless the mandate is dropped, an unvaccinated New York athlete will not be able to play in home games and cannot enter Toronto.
What does this mean for Judge? Well, that depends on if he is vaccinated, and based on his answer to the direct question yesterday, he likely is not and would miss 90 games in the current setup while also missing out on free agency due to a lack of service time. All of this while saying he will not negotiate an extension because it would be a distraction to the team as if dodging a direct question about his availability to play in games isn’t a distraction.
To me, this is the third or fourth straw that breaks the camel’s back and why the Yankees should move on from Judge ASAP. I grew up on guys like Jeter. Would Jeter miss out on games in a championship window because of “personal choice”? No, he would not because he was a real leader. In my mind, there are three types of people in this world
Those who try.
Those who give you all they’ve got.
Those who will do whatever it takes.
For all the fanfare and the eventual asking price that Judge will have, he needs to be the third type of person and right now he ain’t that guy.
I’ve been having this debate with people on Twitter for two years now and the only arguments I have gotten for why the Yankees should extend him are:
He is a great player – I have never said he isn’t WHEN HEALTHY
Marketing – I have never seen a commercial or “Judge’s Chambers” win a World Series even though Empire State of Mind probably did help in 2009.
As for why we should trade Judge and get something back before he walks and not extend him no one ever finds holes in:
Judge’s size – No one of his size has ever had a long career as a position player. There is a lot of wear and tear on that frame and joints that no one has overcome.
Injury history – Some of his injuries have been flukes, but they still happened. The body is still weakened. The belief has to be that they will only pile up with age.
Aaron’s age – The first year of a new contract (if he even has the service time) would happen at 31 years old. Judge is no spring chicken and the contract that he would command would tie our hands possibly worse than the A-Rod contract.
High asking price – The estimates I have seen call for Judge to get about seven years at $35mil per year. This would mean that we would be paying a 38-year-old with a terrible injury history, $35 mil when all signs point to his body being heavily broken down by then.
Leadership – As I said in the beginning, my relationship with players is their job is to win the World Series and I have to pay to see them. That’s it. We are not friends. They aren’t your friend either. Or all Judge has been propped up as the next captain of the Yankees, he has shown one several occasions in the last 14 months that he cares more about himself than getting us our 28th championship.
The negatives to me far outweigh the positives and in my mind but if you have seen any actual holes in my arguments, I’m happy to talk it out on Twitter. Oh, and what do we get back? Pitching. We need pitching developed by another organization because we haven’t developed a starter that has made 100 starts since Andy Pettitte.