There’s not a single player in baseball this year that has been more exciting than New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. His historic rookie season has been fun to watch not only for Yankees fans but baseball fans in general. He’s a team leader that puts his teammates first, he performs when the team needs him most, and he’s almost single-handedly making Yankees baseball exciting again.
Sound familiar? Of course it does.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to 1996. The Yankees were 17 years removed from their last World Series win. A very long time for a franchise like the Yankees. They broke their playoff drought in 1995 but still lacked key pieces to put them back on top. They found that key piece in a 22-year-old Derek Jeter. You may have heard of him.
Jeter’s rookie season in 1996 was something Yankee fans had been waiting for for years. He hit .314 with ten homers, 104 runs scored, and 78 RBI, helping him receive all 28 first-place votes in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. He batted leadoff throughout the 1996 postseason. I’m sure everyone remembers the infamous “Jeffrey Maier home run” in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Jeter would go on to bat .361 throughout the postseason and helped the Yankees defeat the Braves and win their first World Series Title since 1978. Jeter brought the fun back to that Yankees team. He was seemingly part of every play, he always put his teammates first, and he breathed new life into a team that needed it.
Fast-forward back to today. Aaron Judge is doing what Derek Jeter did back in 1996. He’s not just doing it, he’s excelling at it.
After almost three months of the season, Judge has become the new face of the Yankees. Sure, it’s ambitious, but he hasn’t done anything to argue otherwise. Yankee Stadium has become replete with Judge jerseys and a section of the Stadium was even dedicated to the 6-foot-7 monster.
Every time Judge steps up to the plate, you’re watching. He’s become must-watch TV, much like Jeter did in the past. Whenever he is at the plate, there is a good chance that you are going to see something extraordinary. Whether it’s a 496-foot-homer or a line drive coming off the bat at 120 mph, there’s always the chance at seeing a record broken with Judge at the plate.
Jeter never hit monster home runs or line drives at blinding speed, but you knew you were watching history every time he took the plate. However, their offensive production is not where Judge and Jeter’s biggest similarities reside. Instead, it’s the way they handle themselves on and off the field, and the way they play the game right.
Throughout his long Hall of Fame career, you never once heard Derek Jeter say something ill about a teammate. Nor did you hear him glorify his own performance. Jeter was all business, all the time, and it’s a huge reason why he became, and still is, an amazing role model. Jeter always let his performance do the talking and never needed any flair or showmanship.
The same can be said for Aaron Judge. When he crushed the 496-foot-homer that cleared the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium there was no bat flip. He didn’t even take a longer look at it. He put his head down, ran around the bases, and was met in the dugout by his awed teammates.
And after that game in which he hit another homer on top of that? He never once spoke about himself. His performance was business as usual for him and he was just appreciative that he could help his teammates get the win.
He’s only 89 games into his Major League career, but Aaron Judge is turning himself into an icon. He’s already won a Player of the Week award and was named the Rookie of the Month for both April and May. He’s collected more All-Star votes than any other player in the American League. He leads the league in all the Triple Crown categories as of June 10 and has the highest WAR in baseball.
He was even featured in a hilarious Jimmy Fallon skit.
Aaron Judge has heard praise from players and managers all over the league, including Mike Trout and of course, the retired Derek Jeter. Judge may not reach the 60 home runs he’s on pace for, but he won’t have to. He’s easily won the hearts of Yankee fans and has given them something to be excited for the first time in a while.
It’s hard to predict how far the Yankees will go this season and if Judge can continue his torrid pace. Regardless, he’s about as close to a lock as you can get for AL Rookie of the Year and is currently the favorite to take home Most Valuable Player honors. Aaron Judge is the next big star on a very exciting Yankees team and there’s no telling how far he and the rest of the Baby Bombers can go.