MLB Network took the crew out to Spring Training in Tampa Bay, Florida to take a look at how the New York Yankees are preparing for another season with “World Series Or Bust” dreams. It’s been 13 years since the Yankees won a pennant. It’s the third longest drought in franchise history.
Noone knows this better than Aaron Judge, who led the Yankees to a formidable 99 wins and an AL East crown last season before falling to their Achilles heel, Houston Astros in the ALCS. Judge compiled one of the greatest statistical seasons in MLB history. The 2022 AL MVP batted .311 with 62 homers, 131 RBI, a .425 OBP, .686 slugging and 2011 OPS+ in 157 games played. Judge’s OPS + was the highest for a right-handed batter since 1946 (post WW II).
Lauren Shehadi and Carlos Peña interviewed the newly minted Yankees captain who is $360M richer after cashing in this offseason. They covered several topics.
Facets Of His Game That Needs Improving?
“Last year I really tried to focus on base running and getting into scoring position a lot, especially hitting at the top of the lineup,” Judge said. “This year just contact rate, an improved two strike approach in situational hitting. That’s what wins ballgames down the stretch. When you’ve got ducks on a pond you’ve got to drive those guys in.”
Why Is Being An Elite Defender So important?
“I just want to be a complete player,” said Judge. “I know everybody is busting their butts on the field and grinding especially with this pitch clock now we’re going to be working overtime trying to get through innings. I just want to make sure that if a ball is hit my way, I can do everything in my power to make the play for them…Even growing up as a kid it was always about being a complete player.”
Judge also reiterated how much of a blessing it is to be able to wear the legendary pinstripes and perform in front of Yankees fans every night.
MLB Network studio analyst Alex Aliva and Brutha Broadcaster Cameron Maybin offered their two cents on what they predict for the Paul Bunyan of baseball in 2023.
“It’s not unreasonable” that Judge hits 65 homers.” Maybin said. Though he cautioned that Judge’s 2022 is a hard act to follow.
“How can you do better? He says he wants to get on base more if he gets on base anymore, he’s going to score 150 runs. it’s hard for him to duplicate or be better than that.”
More realistically, Maybin said he envisions Judge hitting in the 50-homer range.
“I think he’s that kind of hitter.” Maybin insisted. “He talks about situational hitting and putting the ball in play. These are the things that win you championships. So when you hear Aaron Judge talk about that, he’s creating the mindset for the whole entire team not just himself”
The Yankees have been victims of the swing-and-miss, failing to push runs across at crucial moments late in games through means other than the homerun, so Judge’s comments on situational hitting shows he’s locked in on what the Yankees need to do to get over the hump.
Compares Aaron Judge To Miggy Cabrera
Avila was also very complimentary towards Judge and compared him to Miguel Cabrera at a similar stage in Miggy’s career.
“When you get to the caliber of player that Aaron’s at right now. It reminds me of playing with Miggy when he was in his prime and posting MVP seasons each year. You expect those types of years. For Aaron it’s more about figuring out the little things to win a game – the things that help you win”
Judge does average 49 homers over 162 games, so that projection is not farfetched.
Yankees Soul Patrol Has Life
The Yankees projected starting lineup features three MLBbros in Judge, who will remain the everyday right fielder with Harrison Bader assuming center field duties. MLBbro Giancarlo Stanton and his guaranteed 30 bombs will DH and can pinch in with outfield duty if needed. Aaron Hicks seems to have survived the storm and is slated to return to the starting lineup in leftfield.
Some new faces in new places, but the fate of the Yankees rides on the all-around dominance of Judge.
“All Rise” was the anthem all 2022 season for the Yankees as Aaron Judge bet on himself and put together one of the greatest offensive seasons in MLB history. Appearing in a career-best 157 games, Judge was the driving force behind the American League’s best offense. He set career highs in batting average (.311), OBP (.425), slugging (.686), OPS (1.111), hits (177), runs (133), doubles (28), stolen bases (16), and of course home runs (62), and RBI (131).
His 62 home runs set the new Yankees and American League record and Judge nearly claimed the triple crown. He did take home the American League MVP with 98 percent of the first-place votes to go along with three AL Player of the Week awards and three AL Player of the Month awards. Let’s not forget his abundance of Home Boi Highlights.
His reward? A nine-year, $360 million deal to stay in The Bronx and try to help bring the Yankees that elusive 28th world championship.
He’s also just the third Black Yankees captain in the team’s storied history.
The other two were fan favorite World Series champions Willie Randolph and Hall of Fame Derek Jeter.
Randolph, a second baseman, shared the captaincy for two years with pitcher Ron Guidry in the mid-80s. During his tenure in pinstripes, Randolph was a five-time All Star and helped the team win the 1977 World Series.
Jeter was the second Black captain and the longest tenured overall from 2003–2014. The shortstop was a 14-time All Star and won five championships with the Yankees. Both Randolph and Jeter attended Judge’s introductory media conference after he signed the biggest free-agent contract in MLB history – a nine-year, $360 million deal.
Jeter expects Judge to continue to be himself in his new role.
“I don’t really look at it as a new role,” Jeter told the media when asked about Judge’s new “C.” “Going off my own experience, when The Boss called me, he said, ‘Don’t change anything.’ It’s not like you flip a switch and have to be someone else because you’ve been given this title. I would assume he’s handled himself as a captain up until this point.”
Randolph endorsed Judge’s elevation to captain and expressed that the Yankees made the obvious decision.
“Perfect choice, there’s no other choice to be made,” Randolph said. “I feel like watching this kid over the years he’s become that captain.
“You can see the way he handles himself on and off the field and the way he goes about his business. He’s going to be an outstanding captain and the players already know that.”
Judge is the first captain for the Yankees since 2014, succeeding Jeter.
Judge was among the most sought after free agents this offseason after winning AL MVP and smashing 62 home runs, setting the new American League record.
The Yankees were determined to re-sign their star and make him captain.
Judge weighed in on being officially named the face of the Yankees.
“To get a chance to continue my legacy here in pinstripes, in the best city in the world, the best baseball city, in front of the best fans, this is an incredible honor,” Judge said following the announcement. “This is an incredible honor that I don’t take lightly.”
The trio of Black captains stood together at Judge’s press conference for a historic photograph that acknowledged the greatness that Black players have contributed to the Yankees’ past and present.
All three men had stellar seasons for the Yankees, but what they all share is the ability to conduct themselves as leaders of men on and off the field.
They have been All Stars who led by example and were chosen to be the ambassadors of the Yankees’ organization.
They were also Black men.
No one will say it, but that part is a big deal. In a sport where Black participation decreased at alarming rates, Judge was named the face of the most well-known franchise in MLB history.
Even with dwindling participation in the sport, the Black community has yet again produced another legend in the making in baseball.
The Yankees officially introduced Aaron Judge as the captain of a new era in the Bronx on Wednesday in a press conference aired live on MLB Network. Judge leads the Yankees into the next nine years with hopes of leading them back to the top of baseball’s food chain several times over the next decade.
“I’ve had the fortunate pleasure to be a part of this franchise for a long time,” said Yankees Senior VP & GM Brian Cashman who has served in a general manager capacity since 1998 and just inked his own deal that will keep him in his leadership role until 2026.
Part of that history has been a lot of great players have come through here and been a part of this storied franchise…if you’re talking about a homegrown player, it is a rare occurrence to be in a position to sign, draft, develop and ultimately retain a player throughout his entire career and today we are excited to re-introduce Aaron Judge as part of that legacy.”
Judge was flanked by his wife and Hal Steinbrenner, (Yankees Managing General Partner) one on side and on the other side of the podium was the rest of the Yankees brass including manager Aaron Boone, who was more relieved than anything else that his history-making MLBbro was back in the fold long term.
Thats one spot in the lineup he doesn’t have to worry about – barring injury – for a long time.
“People have asked me over and over what was it like the day before we were able to reach an agreement (with Judge),” Boone said at the presser.
“And I’ll put it in laymen’s terms for ya…That feeling if you lost your cellphone, your keys, your wallet and your ipad, gone…and the next morning someone knocks on the door and says, “Were you looking for this?”
That comment got a chuckle out of Judge, but the $400M offer from the Giants was no laughing matter. “But in all seriousness,” Boone continued, “we got our guy.”
Hal Steinbrenner said he never considered Judge a free agent – until it was obvious that he was highly-coveted, and the market was going to be kind to the 62-homer hitter.
Hal Steinbrenner to Aaron Judge before he signed: "As far as I'm concerned you are not a free agent. As far as I'm concerned you are a Yankee." pic.twitter.com/jCZ8Zr0dEj
“I was wrong,” Hal said. “Aaron was a free agent and there were numerous clubs that wanted him in a big way to be a part of their organization.”
After Hal presented Judge with his new No. 99 Yankees jersey as a $360M man, the Paul Bunyan of Baseball stepped to the podium and thanked the Yankees organization for believing in his talents back in 2013 when they signed him for a $1.8M bonus.
“A little kid out of Fresno State coming to the Big Apple. It was a blessing and an honor,” Judge, the MLBbro 2022 Player of the Year said on Wednesday.
He reflected on the history and an opportunity to carve his own niche in the most storied franchise in American sports.
“Getting a chance to be a captain of the Yankees now, what an honor that is,” Judge added. “I look back at the list of (Yankees captains)…Thurman Munson, Lou Gehrig, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly. Not only great baseball players, but great ambassadors of the game and the New York Yankees.”
“Im here to embrace every single obstacle and continue to lead this team and lead this city to not one, but multiple championships.”
We heard another superstar in the NBA once say something similar and he delivered. LeBron James was a bit more extravagant and boastful with his championship hopes once he shocked the world and joined the Miami Heat, but he did win multiple championships. If Judge can do the same, Yankees fans won’t be mad at all. It’s been since 2009 since the Bronx tasted championship glory.
Aaron Judge talks about how excited he is about the moves the Yankees have made already and adds "there might be a couple more moves down the road" pic.twitter.com/GxttylrqJA
New York, your king is returning to his throne. He’s been more like MLB’s king after his record-breaking 2022. Aaron Judge’s bet on himself led to him having the single greatest regular season in MLB history and inking a 9-year $360 million deal to stay a Yankee.
The deal is the third-highest total value for a contract in Major League history and will give Judge the “Captain C” on his jersey, making him the first Yankee to hold that title since Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter retired.
Judge became the face of Major League Baseball in 2022 after hitting an American League record 62 home runs and leading the Majors in nearly every offensive category: all this while he was shining in center field and batting leadoff, both of which he had never done.
His hometown team, the San Francisco, were one of three favorites to bring in the newly crowned home run champion. They pulled out all recruiting stops including a $360 million contract and the services of should be Hall of Famer Barry Bonds whose 762 are the most by a player in their career.
The San Diego Padres were the third team in pursuit of Judge. They have not been shy about making big moves over the past few seasons, giving huge deals to Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., while making a blockbuster trade last deadline when they acquired Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals.
They offered Judge $400… yes $400 million, but he ultimately turned it down to return to the Bronx.
When this year began, Judge made it clear he would not be handling any contract negotiations during the season.
The Yankees leaked their final offer shortly after Opening Day, which was only around $213 million. Rumors came out that Judge was not happy about that, but in the end he never swayed and stayed quiet throughout the process.
He never told anyone what his price was or what other options he would take if he left, he only showed up to the ballpark and put in work.
“Whatever he gets is going to be astronomical and he deserves it,” said teammate Anthony Rizzo, who is also returning to the Yankees in 2023.
“He bet on himself on the biggest stage, in the biggest market and did it with ease. He should be rewarded as the highest-paid player in the game. He is the gold standard.”
We will never forget the 2022 season Aaron Judge had or this off-season where he made one of the biggest decisions in MLB history, but now a second phase to his career begins. Championship expectations are always high in New York. Whether you are winning MVPs or going through a slump, those fans want results and will let players know about it.
Some have and will continue to fold under that pressure, but Judge welcomes it and will, for what appears to be the rest of his career. Now he is on a quest to not only bring a World Series to the Bronx for the first time since 2009, but to become a hands down member of the “GREATEST Yankees of All-Time” list.