He’s the face of baseball. He plays for the most storied franchise in MLB history. His jersey is the No.1 selling jersey in the sport and when he’s rolling, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound jackhammer is baseball’s most dominant force.
His name is not Mike Trout.
Injuries limited him to 214 games over the next two seasons and the shining star that captivated baseball lost some momentum as he couldn’t stay on the field long enough to continue building his legend. Even in his absence, however, he still remained more popular than Trout.
Trout continued to have great seasons, won another MVP in 2019, and got the biggest bag in baseball history, proving himself to be the game’s best player, but not the game’s best crowd motivator. Certainly not the game’s most marketable player.
That status still belongs to Judge and everyone knew that if he could stay healthy he could easily reassume his status at the top of baseball’s celebrity tree.
A-Rod told you as much on the ESPN telecast.
With all of the challenges and health risks that playing through a COVID pandemic has presented MLB, Judge’s hot start and return to baseball supremacy is one of the stories that is saving baseball.
Judge is healthy and back in a zone that the world hasn’t experienced since his rookie season. The Yankees are off to a much needed 7-1 start to the 60-game season and following Sunday night’s two-homer show against Boston, Judge has six homers in his last five games and he’s simply crushing the ball all over empty ballparks.
Judge is in that same zone that Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey Jr. and Dale Long were once in. Judge must blast off in three more games in a row to tie the MLB record of 8, held by the aforementioned ballers.
Trout — the guy who is universally recognized as the best player in the sport —continues to take a backseat to Judge, who managed to stroke just 27 homers in limited duty each of the past two seasons.
When Major League Baseball released its list of top jersey sales for 2019, for a third straight year, the Yankees slugger sat at the top. Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper rode an offseason of media attention and a new contract to a second-place finish. Trout, who gets all of the accolades and awards from baseball, but can’t move the needle with the people, only had the ninth-best-selling jersey this season.
Nothing says popularity more than jersey sales. The Mike Trout fans will stomp up and down about his stats and humility and quiet nature and use all kinds of adjectives to describe his baseball brilliance. But at the end of the day, it’s Judge who ignites the fire in baseball fans and connects the sport to not only fans of color but to brands that recognize him as a transcendent star and not just one of the best baseball players.
Trout is still stuck in that category.
When Judge is healthy, he’s must-see TV. We rarely if ever see Mike Trout on TV and he just signed a long-term deal with a team that is nowhere near contending for a championship. True legends are born in the World Series and Judge is leading the Yankees to another postseason appearance. When Trout is sitting at home come playoff time, with his newborn baby (and nobody’s knocking him for that) Juge will have the stage to himself, with a chance to push Trout even further back in the minds of baseball fans around the country. Judge continues to prove that he’s already baseball’s biggest brand.