Burgeoning legend easy to Judge: New York Yankees phenom Aaron Judge shining

By Roger Rubin, The Sports Xchange  |  June 12, 2017 at 2:58 PM
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NEW YORK -- The world doesn't stop turning when Aaron Judge steps to the plate these days at Yankee Stadium. It only feels like it.

Just a little. One really can't look away from this rookie sensation at the bat. You could miss something epic.

Like what happened on Sunday.

New York's phenom hit a baseball to a spot no one had ever seen it go -- all the way beyond the bleachers in left center field. Major League Baseball now has the analytics system Statcast in every park, so we know the baseball was 124 feet off the ground at the height of its arc, and the railing it struck beyond the seats and in front of the mural of retired numbers is 495 feet from the plate.

Statistically the longest home run of the season, Judge's blast was something no one who saw it will soon forget. It forced eyes wide, left jaws slacked and pushed hands high into the air. Heck, the veteran players on the Yankees were falling all over themselves at the sight and still were arguing that Statcast had to have come up short on the estimate an hour after the Yanks' 14-3 rout of the Baltimore Orioles.

"That might've been the furthest one I've ever seen," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Our guys realize it's special to watch. His power is special. This is not something you see every day."

Judge never admires a home run. Asked if he watched where it landed, Judge ripped off a wry smile and said "no need."

He hit another in the seventh that was, in its own way, awesome: a laser that seemed to defy gravity all the way until it went over the fence in right center 401 feet away. Brett Gardner said of it: "For most guys, (that) is a double in the gap or a one-hopper cut off for a single. ... He hits it so hard -- I'd like to know what it feels like."

Judge is having a stretch that the most fortunate in baseball never get. He leads all of baseball with 21 home runs. He also tops the AL in batting average at .344, RBIs at 47 and All-Star Game votes (ahead of the Angels' Mike Trout). And let's not forget, the Yankees lead the AL East by four games.

"He is leading the league in All-Star votes, and if the MVP were voted on today, he'd win that, too," Gardner said.

The home runs are what grab national attention, but there is a lot more to see with Judge. The 25-year-old is disciplined at the plate, happy taking the outside pitch to right field for a single or drawing a walk. He is shockingly athletic for 6-foot-7, with a smart quickness on the bases and good range and ability playing right field. And his personality is bright and unassuming -- he often replies to questions about himself with answers about the feats of his teammates.

For example, asked of his Triple Crown numbers, Judge said he never thought this would happen "especially when you hit .170 (actually .179) the year before -- I'm really feeding off my teammates."

Judge is, as they say, the complete package.

Which brings us to one more point: Clearly, Judge did some incredible work to close holes in his swing and learn plate discipline in the offseason, but he still was not supposed to be the new face of the franchise when 2017 started. That was catcher Gary Sanchez, who set baseball alight with 20 homers in 53 games last season.

And here's where things get really interesting. Sanchez missed about four weeks during April and May with a biceps injury and has taken time to regain his form from last year. This week he has. On Wednesday, he was moved from No. 2 in the batting order to No. 6. In the five games since, he hit .429 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

So are we about to be looking at the next great baseball duo? With all deference to people in Chicago who posit that it is Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the last truly impressive power-hitting tandem consisted of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco when they were "The Bash Brothers" for the Oakland Athletics some 30 years ago.

Judge and Sanchez are both in their first full seasons. They likely will play together for several more seasons. Could they become Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris? Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews? Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig?

Ok, let's not get carried away.

But finding out certainly will be worth watching.

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