In case you missed last night’s Home Run Derby, Aaron Judge won. Actually, just saying he won doesn’t really do it justice. He won so dominantly and so effortlessly that it makes me wonder why anyone else even showed up. He hit three balls over 500 feet, which seems impossible until you remember he’s 6’8″ 280. He appears to be the ultimate home run hitting machine, built in a lab (hmmm….) for one purpose only: to hit baseballs into orbit. Yankee fans have naturally embraced him, calling him the new Face of Baseball, the Best Player in the League, and the Future of Sports. I guess all these Red Sox titles recently have shaken the Yankee fans a bit, because they’ve apparently forgotten how all this works. Before all the accolades, one question needs answering. If they’re too afraid to ask it, it looks like it’s up to me: Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee?
What is a True Yankee? Well, don’t ask me. I’m just a lowly Red Sox fan. I can’t wrap my mind around a fanbase actually holding serious debates about whether a member of the team is really a member of the team. I can’t understand the inherent pomposity required to view being on a specific baseball team as a solemn privilege that has to be earned every day or else you’re just a coward who could never hack in the Big City, anyway. To be a True Yankee, you must be a perfectly
boring classy, clean cut, All-American, only-wants-to-play-for-the-Yankees-because-why-would-you-want-to-ever-play-anywhere-else, never-even-thinks-about-getting-what-he’s-worth-on-the-open-market (unless he’s signing with the Yankees from another team, of course), no-personality stick-in-the-mud. And win, too. That should go without saying. Any player that won a title, regardless of their individual skill level, is infinitely better than one who hasn’t. Luis Sojo is a better Yankee than Alfonso Soriano, everyone knows that. All for a team that has won one championship since 9/11. I recognize that there’s a lot of similarities between the way people outside the New England-New York area view both Yankees and Patriots fans: arrogant, overly serious, overly sensitive, and just plain annoying. But at least us Patriots fans are spared the weight of history. Before Belichick and Brady there was nothing to be proud of, so why bring it up? Yankees fans, though, can’t escape it. That’s why they’re so married to the “True Yankee” fantasy. Everything always has to be tied back to the “good old days,” when men were men and free agency didn’t exist yet, or in the “good old days” when everything was built around Derek Jeter, the Textbook Yankee (and future Miami Marlins owner) who should be treated as an extreme outlier, not the baseline. I mean, these are people who seriously asked if Alex Rodriguez, the multi-time MVP and one of the two or three most purely talented players of all time, was a True Yankee and if he was worth the money. The phrase has died down a little bit, and I’m not sure if it has more to do with the passing of George Steinbrenner, the gatekeeper of True Yankees, or the aforementioned Red Sox success and subsequent bad Yankees teams.
But on to the matter at hand. Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee? Most Yankee fans I talk to seem to think yes. I mean, he’s had one amazing half a season of baseball, so he’s clearly headed to the Hall of Fame. New York fans haven’t overreacted before about a young player. But, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a journalist if I didn’t investigate. First, the obvious: he hasn’t won a championship. He hasn’t even been in the playoffs yet. What a loser. How can that guy be a True Yankee? Second, his outfit last night spoke volumes:
Clearly he’s wearing regular white pants because he’s yet to Earn His Pinstripes. And those socks? So flashy. No True Yankee would ever call attention to himself like that. It’s about the front of the jersey, not the back. True Yankee Reggie Jackson, who most clearly defined the selflessness and team-first attitude we all cherish so much, knew that. And what in the world is that bat he’s using? Respect the game. You think Babe Ruth, the original True Yankee even though he started with the Red Sox, would ever swing that? Hell, no. He’d throw it into a fire so he could cook up more hot dogs. He did it all on hot dogs and beer, you know. True Yankees respect the physical grind this profession calls for and are always in top shape. Don’t get me started on those huge cleats, either. We all know your feet can swell when you take steroids. I know for a fact that True Yankees Andy Pettite and Jason Giambi both wore size 8 cleats all throughout their careers. Don’t know if I can really trust someone with feet that big to carry on the True Yankee tradition of fair play. Lastly, see the look on his face? Like he’s exerting effort? Yeah, we can’t have that kind of emotional outburst from True Yankees. True Yankees keep their cool through everything, never rising or falling, never calling attention to themselves. I liked to call True Yankee Paul O’Neill Cool Paul because he was always so cool out there, never showing whatever emotion he dared to have underneath the robotic facade that Yankee fans crave so much.
Lastly, I’m looking at all these pictures of Monument Park and can’t see number 99 anywhere. How can he be a True Yankee if he number isn’t even retired yet? How will anyone remember Aaron Judge if he doesn’t have a plaque to commemorate him? I know I’ll forget his countless mammoth blast and exciting play the second his bum, non-True-Yankee ass finally retires if he doesn’t have his own wing in Monument Park. How can I consider him a True Yankee if the organization itself clearly doesn’t?
Look, I know there’s a lot of Yankee fans out there who are excited about their team’s future. They have a lot of good, young players and, surprisingly, very few over-the-hill veterans with massive contracts. But, I’m warning them to be careful. Don’t get too attached to some of these guys just yet, because the evidence doesn’t lie: Aaron Judge is not a True Yankee.