I’d Rather be Totally Toothless than be an Adult with Braces

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I know this is going to seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but believe me, it’s not. I’m pretty #triggered right now, and Twitter is to blame. I was just minding my own business, scrolling the timeline, when I see a video retweeted by my guy (and fellow UConn alum classmate (yeah, we had a class together, nbd) (ask him about it, I’m sure he remembers me)) Andre Drummond (by saying Drummond retweeted it, I’m clearly showing that I don’t follow TMZ. Or do I? Hmmm)

Andre, come on, man! What are you doing? How can you walk around with your mouth looking like that and expect to be taken seriously? You’re in the NBA, who cares what your teeth look like? Did you not have a booster you could have extorted into paying for these before you turned pro? Seeing this jarring image brought up all my thoughts about Adults with Braces, mainly that I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever be one. Now, this is like the king saying he’d never be caught dead working the fields. Every dentist I’ve ever had has told me how great my teeth are. I’ve never had braces, cavities, or (save for one nasty gymnastics incident) any other kind of serious dental procedure. So, I understand I might not be the ideal messenger. But still, you’d catch me looking like old Jafar before you saw me looking like our pal Andre.

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I’d say Adults with Braces are probably embarrassed every time they open their mouths, but judging by how often they flash their metallic teeth, I don’t think they have the same time of healthy shame the non-Peter Pan members of society have. Seriously, if you don’t have you braces put in before your junior year of high school, don’t even bother anymore. It’s just not worth it. No matter what, you’ll probably get teased by your classmates because kids and teenagers are horrible people. Don’t add to your misery by having to deal with being the Braces Guy at college or, God forbid, in the workforce. You’ll forever be viewed as lesser. You’ll be a modern day leper. Cursed to be labeled as the weird guy who never grew up. If, for some reason, all of my teeth started shifting position at my advanced age and the dentist said you need braces, I’d just tell him to take them all out so I can go dentures. I solemnly swear that I will never, even if someone has a gun to my head, even if someone has a gun to the head of everyone I’ve ever cared about, even if someone had the launch codes for every nuclear weapon on earth and said he’d fire them all unless I got braces, I’d resist. I will never be an Adult with Braces.

Seeing Drummond also made me more steadfast in my belief that, when (not if) I become an MLB/NBA/NFL GM, I will have a hard rule against athletes with braces. I will not have a team orthodontist, and I will do everything in my power to run all the orthodontists in my city out of town. I don’t even want my fans to look stupid, let alone my players. Who was the last Athlete with Braces who ever won anything? Brett Favre? Look at some of the more recent examples and tell me how you want all of these guys on your team:

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Has there ever been a less surprising thing in the history of America that Dwight Howard wore braces?

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Hey, remember when Nelson Cruz came through in the World Series and then didn’t get busted for steroids? Oh, wait, the opposite happened.

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Sure Willie Cauley-Stein is lifelong friends with Drake, but his braces look bad and the Kings stink.

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Leonard Fournette proves that even the most intimidating people look foolish with braces. And he got drafted by the Jaguars.

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I know he technically won a title while wearing braces, but you can’t tell me Pau Gasol isn’t the most “Braces Guy” guy of all time.

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Larry Donnell suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuckssssss.

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You probably think Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest case against #teamnobraces, and you’d be right. But, you know what they say. The exception proves the rule.

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Giants punter Brad Wing. Yes, the punter has braces. You can’t get any more stereotypical. Makes me wonder if the Giants actually have a scouting department.

The defense rests. Keep the athletes with braces off my team, please.

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6’4″, 286lb “8th Grader” Gets Football Scholarship Offers from Alabama, Ole Miss, Has Yet to Produce Birth Certificate

source– Some college football programs will make offers to middle school prospects to gain attention on a national level.

It appears to be much more than that in the case of 6-foot-4, 286-pound Jaheim Oatis.

According to a tweet posted Friday by Oatis, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Alabama have made scholarship offers to the soon-to-be eighth-grader from Columbia, Mississippi.

Alright, I think we can drop the charade, here. We’re in a Safe Space for Free Thinking, so we don’t really have to play along with this. This kid isn’t in 8th grade. He just isn’t. He might technically be in 8th grade, but this kid isn’t 14:

No matter what forged birth certificate or altered class photos or anything they trot out, I’m not going to be fooled. You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to get an age scandal past me, and sorry folks, but this one didn’t work. Not 14.

Now that we’ve gotten past the obvious, I have to commend Alabama here. This is why they’ll always stay on top. Having 28-year-old grown men as freshmen gives them that extra advantage they need to dominate the SEC. Giving someone who should be in the prime of his NFL career another four years of eligibility is an ingenious move. Don’t know why everyone doesn’t just do this. Instead of filling the locker room with scrawny 19-year-olds, just put together a whole team of Danny Almontes. Seems like a foolproof strategy. Just find all the best prospects in the country, bring them down to backwoods Alabama, feed them steroids some good Southern cooking, and have them train at some “middle school”/football lab and bam, you’ve magically discovered the newest “8th grade” phenom who’s ready to play for you when he turns 25. I don’t see any flaws there. As long as all the food and facilities are paid for by an “independent” third party, it’s surely 100% legal, too. And only Alabama has the stones to pull it off. Makes me sad for the state of college football. Now you’ve got to start asking if Alabama Football is bad for the game.

Kyrie Irving Asks for a Trade

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So what do we call it when Windhorst breaks a story? #Windbomb? #GustofWind? Either way, huge, huuuuuuge news out of The Land. Kyrie says he wants out. LeBron, of course, is blindsided by this, just like he was somehow blindsided by David Griffin getting fired. So, he’s the most powerful and influential player in the NBA and no self-respecting front office would ever dream of making any personnel move without consulting him, but he’s always caught off guard whenever anything happens to his team? Huh?

But this isn’t about LeBron, this is about Kyrie. Do I actually think he’ll be traded? Not really. His contract won’t be a problem. All things considered, he’s a huge bargain. But I can’t imagine they’ll be able to get a deal that gives them equal value in return, unless they get a ton of young guys and draft picks, which would mean they’ve accepted that LeBron is moving on after this season. They could do some complex three team deals to try and get Carmelo, but I think I’d rather have Kyrie than #me7o. It’s really put the Cavs in a tough spot, and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Kyrie wanted. Maybe he got sick of LeBron’s LeBron Act. Maybe his feelings got hurt after Steph spent the Finals torching him and people stopped saying he was better than the two-time MVP. Maybe he just wanted a little more recognition from the Cavs, instead of just taking all the blame when they lose and get shoved into the background when they win, regardless of his performance. No matter what the reasoning is, if he’s serious about this demand, he’ll force the Cavs to show their hand. If they trade him and get anything besides Carmelo in return, then they’re just focusing on the future, and we all know LeBron isn’t sticking around for a rebuild. If they keep him and maybe sign him to a new deal, then all of a sudden they’re saying Kyrie is the most important player on the team and he can do whatever he wants, which will pretty much be an invitation for LeBron to leave town. Everyone knew he was leaving anyway, but now it’s official. Kyrie’s being traded. LeBron’s leaving in 2018. Celtics 2018-19 NBA Champions.

Why Do People Still Care About O.J. Simpson?

O.J. Simpson Sentenced In Kidnapping, Robbery Trial

I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I really can’t. Here we are, July 20th, 2017, and O.J. Simpson is the top story. What’s the reason? Did he finally die? No, just his parole hearing. His parole hearing is being broadcast on ESPN. No, really, it is.

There’s a parole hearing on ESPN. And it’s not like they’re the only ones covering it, either. It’s on every news station. On every website. Go on Twitter and it’s all anyone can talk about. And I just can’t wrap my mind around it. He’s an NFL legend, sure, but he played in the 70s. He killed his wife and her brother (allegedly) and was the centerpiece of the most fervently covered trial of all time. That was over twenty years ago. When O.J. was put on trial for murder, the Patriots had been to one Super Bowl in their history. Think about that. That’s how long ago O.J. did anything relevant. But he’s still on my TV screen. Every year there’s a new O.J. documentary. Every year someone comes out with a new book claiming to have a new angle on the cultural importance of the trial, but it’s always the same thing. Seemingly every three months we have to talk about O.J. goddamn Simpson and what it all means. This is all going to happen again when he get out in a few months. People still care about O.J. and I just don’t get it. Why? Why the hell does he still matter? Why can’t he just go away?

He’s not the only person to ever kill anybody, you know. Aaron Hernandez killed a billion people and his trial came and went in an instant. Randall Woodfield played in the 70s, but unless you’ve got a very in-depth knowledge on serial killers, you’ve probably never heard the name before. There have been countless CSI/Criminal Minds-type serial killers who never had the media heyday as the Juice, and most of them killed dozens more people than O.J. did. Sure O.J. was more famous and more charismatic and all that, but what he did wasn’t so remarkably heinous or viscous or depraved that it needs to be talked about almost 25 years later. I don’t need Bob Ley and Jeremy Schaap to pop up on Sportcenter every few weeks to talk about O.J. for hours on end. I really don’t. It’s all so boring to me. Make it go away.

I was two years old when O.J. (allegedly) murdered his wife. I’m not sure my dad even knew what the phrase “a glimmer in his father’s eye” even meant when O.J. was in the NFL. I literally have no emotional connection to him whatsoever. I get that the people that were actually alive during O.J. mania still hold on to memories of his playing days, his movies, or the trial. But, please, let it go. Let him fade into oblivion. I can’t take yet another documentary. I shudder at the thought of more mind-numbingly boring discussions about how O.J. is just a mirror for our society at large. New flash everyone, he’s not. He’s just a guy that killed his wife then stole some memorabilia. He’s a piece of shit. Deal with it. This isn’t the 1950s, pro athletes aren’t all straight-laced, All-American role models living the Hulk Hogan “say your prayers, take your vitamins” lifestyle. Grow up. I think part of the reason the trail blew up so much was that all the old sportswriters had to deal with the fact that one of their favorite athletes, a guy they looked up to, turned out to be not that great of a guy. The vast, VAST, majority of pro athletes should not be role models. They don’t care about you, they don’t care about how much your stupid kid loves them, they don’t care about your fantasy team, none of it. All the people who were so shocked at O.J.’s actions grew up in a time where being a pro baseball player pretty much meant you were everyone’s dad. You were supposed to set an example for all the little kids out there so their actual parents didn’t have to do any of the work. It doesn’t work like that. No pro athlete (with the possible exception of True Yankees) wants anything to do with being a role model. The fact that Charles Barkley even needed to make his famous “I am not a role model” commercial really says it all. Just because they make a lot of money and are on TV all the time doesn’t make them a good person. Know when I learned that? When I saw Roger Clemens throw Mike Piazza’s broken bat back at him in a fit of roid rage. When I saw Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson jump into the stands and start taking fans out left and right. When my favorite baseball player ever (hilariously) took an angry, charging old man by his head and threw him to the ground. When Ugueth Urbina attacked five guys with a machete and poured gasoline on them. When a version of me unused to rigorously parsing through rulebooks and legal documents had to deal with the fact that my Patriots had been accused of filming their opponents. When Ray Lewis obstructed justice (wink wink). When Colt Brennan, the God of Quarterbacking and the Chief Idol of the Brian’s Den, was arrested for DUI. The entire Steroid Era. When my then-favorite player Carmelo Anthony sucker punched Mardy Collins in the heat of a brawl and immediately retreated. When Aaron Hernandez was my favorite football player. I learned pretty quickly to separate the on-field player from the off-the-field person, and I’m better off for it. O.J. represents this big loss of innocence (among other things) for the older generation, but he didn’t have to be. Don’t treat athletes like anything but exactly what they are: athletes. They aren’t role models. They aren’t your brother or father. They’re just people, and if you get seriously disappointed or crushed by their actions, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Pablo Sandoval Designated for Assignment

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Oh, what a wondrous Day! What a lovely day! Oh, Frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Insert any like saying I might have missed, for the Heavens are shining down upon us today! Pablo Sandoval, the biggest waste of money since the Maginot Line, has finally, mercifully, been designated for assignment.

The nightmare is over. We’ve made it through the hellish, never-ending night. The Panda Era will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst periods of Red Sox history. He went from a lovably fat, clutch, key contributor to three championship teams in San Francisco to a fat piece of shit who made the team worse every time he thought about putting on the uniform in Boston. Only played 161 games in three and a half years. Managed to accumulate a -2.0 WAR, which is almost impossible. Put up a .646 OPS and a 71 OPS+, which is like if you pulled some scrawny kid off the freshman baseball team in high school and put them against a AA pitcher. I say things like this all the time for hyperbolic effect, but I know for a fact I could have played better defense at third base than Pablo. HE WAS SO FAT HIS BELT EXPLODED WHEN HE SWUNG THE BAT! He admitted he was complacent and didn’t care anymore. He’s the worst player in the majors and might hold the title of worst current professional athlete. Red Sox just flushed $95 million down the drain. Good thing there’s no salary cap. I know this wasn’t the most insightful post, but I’m so high on natural endorphins after this news I can hardly think straight. Now, someone cue the music!

2017 MLB Mid-Season Awards

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It’s the All Star Break for a major sport, which means it’s time to give out the Official Brian’s Den Mid-Season Awards. This is the MLB edition, and, though I was tempted to throw this into the next edition of MLB Thoughts, I figured this needed a full breakdown. Luckily for me and the Brian’s Den Research Department (also me), most of these are pretty clear cut. Got to start with the two easiest calls on the board.

AL Rookie of the Year- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

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Come on, I’m not that much of a homer.

Apologies to: Andrew Benintendi, Jordan Montgomery, Mitch Haniger

NL Rookie of the Year- Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

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I mean, he’s second in the National League in homers and didn’t play the first month of the season. You do the math. I know I’m an established Rockies guy and am discounting Kyle Freeland a bit, but home runs excite me. Deal with it.

Apologies to: Kyle Freeland

AL Manager of the Year- A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros

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I always find it a little hard to judge managers. There’s some that are clearly good and know what they’re doing and some that are clearly clueless (*cough* John Farrell *cough*), but the rest are all kind of there. I still don’t know how much a manager can really impact a team over the entire season. So I thank my lucky stars when one of the managers who is clearly good is leading the best team in the league, because that makes this a lot easier.

Apologies to: No one

NL Manager of the Year- Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Oh, look, a clearly good manager who used to be with the Red Sox. Weird. If only they could have, I don’t know, ditched Farrell and just gone with Lovullo. Wishful thinking, I guess. Lovullo’s turned last year’s biggest disappointment into this year’s biggest surprise. He’s got the D’Backs solidly in the first Wild Card spot with mostly the same roster. Bud Black gets strong consideration, and probably would have won if Lovullo hadn’t been right under the Red Sox nose for years, for taking a bunch of rookies and making a serviceable rotation in Coors Field.

Apologies to: Bud Black

AL Cy Young- Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

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He leads the majors in strikeouts and fielding independent pitching. He leads the American League in innings pitched, strikeout to walk ratio, opponents’ OPS against, and WHIP, and is third in the AL in ERA+. He’s the best big-time Red Sox acquisition since Pablo Sandoval Carl Crawford Adrian Gonzalez Manny Ramirez. He’s been the best pitcher in the American League, and is certainly helped by Dallas Keuchel and Corey Kluber missing significant time. If you think Jason Vargas deserves Cy Young, you’ve probably never left the state of Missouri.

Apologies to: Dallas Keuchel, Jason Vargas, Corey Kluber, Marcus Stroman, Ervin Santana

NL Cy Young- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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Put it this way- Clayton Kershaw is having a typical Kershaw season: 2.18 ERA, 159 strikeouts and 22 walks in 132 innings, 189 ERA+, 14 wins. And he’s still clearly the second best pitcher in the league. Scherzer has been absolutely out of his mind all year. Leads all pitchers in WAR. Has one fewer strikeout than Sale. He’s allowing 5.12 hits per 9 this year, which would be the best ever. Like, in the 500 year history of the MLB. He’s got a 208 ERA+, which would only be the fourth 200 ERA+ season in the last ten years. He’s a maniac competitor and he never misses games, and, right now, he’s the best in the business.

Apologies to: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Zach Greinke

AL MVP- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

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There’s really no one else it could be. In the absence of Mike Trout, Judge leads the league in pretty much every player value stat. He leads the league in homers, on base percentage, slugging percentage (and, naturally, OPS), and OPS+. He’s second in the majors in runs and third in the AL in average. Literally the only thing you can say negatively is that he strikes out a lot, but that clearly hasn’t had too much of a negative impact on his performance. I won’t guarantee he’ll win the award at season’s end just yet, since Trout is coming back, and, if he continues the ridiculous pace he had going before the injury and Judge hits anything like a rookie wall, the race might be back on.

Apologies to: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer

NL MVP- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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There’s four or five legitimate candidates for this. You could go with the aforementioned Scherzer, the best pitcher in the league. You could go with Justin Turner, the NL’s leader in batting average and on base percentage who continues to get better with age. But, he’s missed 25 games. You could go with Nolan Arenado, the game’s best defensive player who’s having another great season at the plate. You could go Joey Votto, long the league’s most misunderstood superstar, who’s finally answering his critics by adding a ton of home runs and RBI to his typical .315/.427/.631 slash line. But I’m going with Paul Goldschmidt. He leads NL position players in WAR and runs scored, has an elite .312/.428/.577 slash line, plays gold glove defense, and leads all first basemen in stolen bases. I don’t really like using a team’s record to look at MVP, since in baseball you can have the greatest season of all time and still be stuck on the worst team in the league (i.e., Trout/ A-Rod with the Rangers). But, considering how disappointing the Diamondbacks were last year and how they’ve turned it around this year, I’m going to use that as just a small bit of a tiebreaker here. Goldschmidt’s been one of the best players in the league for years now, and it’s time he got the recognition he deserved.

Apologies to: Joey Votto, Justin Turner, Nolan Arenado, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman (too many missed games), Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper

It’s Time Someone Asked the Important Question: Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee?

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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:

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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.