Many believed that it was the beginning of his reign as the face of baseball. A Black Knight whose presence would inspire kids of color to diamond-mine. MLB was going to ride the success of its diversity initiatives, the increase in national baseball participation among youth and Aaron Judge right into a new era of baseball.
Or so we all thought.
When Judge blasted a 462-foot meteor last night against the Seattle Mariners, he became the third-fastest player in MLB history to 100 homers.
Judge’s 100th homer came in his 371st career game. Only Ryan Howard (325 games) and Judge’s Yankees teammate, Gary Sanchez (355 games), we’re able to do it faster. Sanchez reached the milestone last week against the Dodgers.
You know the expression, “the same things that make you laugh make you cry” Well that’s the case with Judge whose statistical output should be celebrated, but one can’t help but wonder how much sooner he would have eclipsed the mark if he could stay healthy.
After playing 155 games in his rookie season, Judge played in just 112 games last year and battled a serious wrist injury that rendered him useless once he finally returned for the playoffs. This season he has battled an oblique injury, limiting him to just 77 games. The Yankees’ remarkable depth and the success of the team is the only reason why Judge’s injury-prone seasons are not a bigger story.
Aaron Judge’s path back to full health and dominance at the plate | MLB on FOX: Major wrist and oblique injuries have kept Aaron Judge from his dominating ways in 2019. Frank Thomas and Nick Swisher break down how the injuries have affected him and how… https://t.co/Eqin925P8e pic.twitter.com/g8MxvlDDAQ
— Fennec Fox Sport (@SportsFennecFox) August 25, 2019
Judge had been mired in a slump recently before homering in five of the eight games on this road trip, including four of the last five. Tuesday’s shot came off of Judge’s bat at 114.1 mph and carried a projected distance of 462 feet, per Statcast.
“When he’s locked in at his best, he’s the best player on the field,” Brett Gardner said. “I think we’re seeing that the last week or so. He’s really getting his body in a good position and a great approach at the plate. He always has his share of walks, gets on base and keeps the line moving.”
The fact that Judge is not a one-dimensional slugger makes his prolonged absences front he Yankees lineup, even more, depriving to fans. He’s an awesome fielder, has a cannon, he can run and he can play small ball if needed.
If Judge was able to play at least 150 games in the last two seasons, his career homer total would probably be a loser to 200. As much as we are in awe of Judge’s 6-foot-7, 280-pound frame, his freakish power, charisma and Hall of Fame potential, the injuries have been disappointing and they have to be a point of concern for Yankees fans.
The greatest gift that a pro player has is his health and Judge’s has failed him on numerous occasions. For him to truly solidify himself as a Yankees legend he has to remain healthy through the playoffs, make a huge impact and lead the pinstripes to their 28th title. Anything less than that and the verdict is still out on what kind of impact Judge will have as an MLB player beyond potential.