All Rise for Aaron Judge as he chases Yankees’ home run record

As New York Yankees star Aaron Judge comes closer to breaking the longtime American League home run record, WSN reflects on his historic season with the team.

Illustration+of+baseball+player+Aaron+Judge+in+a+New+York+Yankees+jersey%2C+eye+black+and+cap+with+a+background+of+blue+stripes.

Max Van Hosen

Aaron Judge, arguably the face of the Yankees franchise, is not getting as much recognition as he deserves. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

Lucas Alexander, Contributing Writer

I always love going to baseball games early to watch the players warm up, especially when Aaron Judge is playing. Watching him stroll onto the field, you realize just how big 6’7” really is. His shoulders definitely look broad enough to carry the inconsistent and injury-prone Yankees through a playoff run this year. On Aug. 17, the night I went to see the team, he came up in the bottom of the ninth with a tied score — and he clobbered one. Everyone stood up as the ball sailed into the outfield, right to the warning track and into the centerfielder’s glove. I really thought he had that one.

The Yankees outfielder has been so unstoppable this year that you can’t help but expect greatness every time he’s at bat. Judge leads all of baseball in OPS (1.125), RBIs (128), and home runs (60). With 13 games to go, he stands within striking distance of Roger Maris’s 60-year-old American League record (61), and has already tied Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. After a hot start to September, nearly a .500 batting average this month, Judge has caught the Twins’s Luis Arraez in the race for the batting title — if he holds that lead, he’ll become the third Yankee Triple Crown winner (league lead in HRs, RBIs, average). 

Always the first to mention team status in a conversation about his success, Judge has done the most to keep the Yankees on top of their division through a cascade of key injuries — Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo and Andrew Benintendi have all struggled to stay on the field this year. 

Judge, after overcoming his injury struggles that plagued his early career, has solidified his place as the centerpiece of the Yankees lineup — the face of the franchise. But strangely, attention and recognition has not kept pace with Judge’s ascension of the game. He ranks No.7 in MLB jersey sales, behind players like Fernando Tatis Jr., who’s currently serving an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. With 1.4 million Instagram followers, he is tied for the fourth-most for a baseball player. Judge is obviously still popular, but athletes of his caliber in other sports are followed by 10 times as many people.

Maybe he’s toiling in relative obscurity because baseball seems to be growing more obscure every year. Attendance and viewership of MLB games has been on a downward trend since 2007, and now the NBA is threatening to overtake them as the sport with the second-highest revenue in North America. Young people just aren’t turning out for events, and young New Yorkers just aren’t turning up for Judge. But come on, the Los Angeles Dodgers have three players ahead of him in jersey sales. Are we just going to let that fly?

My friends and fellow Violets have pretty much given me the fanboy treatment for closely following Judge. There aren’t too many of us in his court right now, but I hope that after he claims Maris’s record, more members of our community will start to appreciate what we’re witnessing: unprecedented dominance in a sport with a 150-year history in the United States.

A once-in-a-lifetime achievement from a truly one-of-a-kind player. A storied franchise ready to make a big playoff splash for the first time in half a decade. All that means something to this city and to the people who live in it. Don’t you want to see a World Series parade this November? Well then, all rise for the Judge.

Contact Lucas Alexander at [email protected]