What player took baseball by storm with his prodigious power and “statcast-measure” home runs. Bet ‘ya think it’s Aaron Judge. The answer is not Aaron Judge but I started thinking about the young slugger because of something that happened Thursday.
The defending World Champion Chicago Cubs sent struggling outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber to the minors to get himself straightened out. Before the season began, could you ever imagine that the young, left handed slugger, who was a hero last October, would be in AAA come June.
Schwarber captivated the sport in June 2015 when he was promoted from the minors. In his second game, he had four hits and then came the mammoth home runs that got everyone’s attention and lots of air time on SportsCenter.
Unfortunately for Schwarber, a knee injury cost him virtually the entire 2016 regular season but he returned to play in the World Series where he batted .412 and helped the Cubs end their historic championship drought. Even while he was injured, many Yankee fans called for the team to trade for Schwarber because the Cubs were in desperate need of a closer and the Yankees were peddling Aroldis Chapman.
Maybe Schwarber has been slowed by that knee injury. He’s not a good defender and he plays in the National League. Using him as a leadoff hitter did not work, despite what happened in the post-season last year, and his numbers were horrible beginning with his .171 batting average and less than .300 OBP.
If you’re a Yankee fan, do you want him now? Of course not, but that’s my point.
Aaron Judge has a world of talent, has been fun to watch and has provided baseball with another example of how prodigious, young talent can still excite the casual or non-baseball fan. Judge is getting a lot of attention for his ability to hit a baseball, and his monstrous power, both on and off the field. Part of it is because he’s with the Yankees. (rookie sensation Cody Bellinger is putting up record numbers for the Dodgers but seems to not be getting as much attention) Part of it is because of his 6’7” frame.
So far, Judge has handled all the distractions that have come with this sudden burst of fame. Playing in New York only adds to the pressures, and with the way that Schwarber’s career has stalled, it makes you stand up and take notice with how the kid is being hoisted onto a pedestal.
“The Judge’s Chambers” in the right field stands, “Judge-ment day,” and “all rise” when he steps to the plate are all fun things but what happens if Judge does not continue to reach the lofty heights that the fans and media are setting for him. Will they dismantle the Chambers? Yes, the fans and the media contribute to the estimations and comparisons with the greats of the past. Remember, Mickey Mantle went back to the minors before he went on to become one of the all time greats.
Another example of this fleeting fame sits across town from the Yankees and his name is Matt Harvey.
Four years ago, Matt Harvey was putting together a memorable season that sparked great hope for the future. Harvey’s starts were heralded with a moniker. “It’s Harvey Day” headlines would be plastered all over the local papers and social media. Looking back, Harvey succumbed to all the distractions of being a successful athlete in New York. A couple of surgeries later and “Harvey Day” is one to hold your breath if you’re a die hard Met fan.
Judge is a better athlete than Schwarber and a superior defender. There is more upside for Judge to be a consistent performer for years to come. He has a glowing personality, his teammates have warmly embraced him and his desire to win and be a team player are attributes that he has already displayed in his young career.
Throughout the rest of this season and into next season, Judge will still be dealing with adjustments from opposing pitchers as they begin to compile a track record on the youngster.
So let’s just slow down, enjoy the development stage of what the Yankees hope is a long and productive career and don’t be so quick to “judge” Aaron Judge.