Sometimes, you catch yourself doing something and you’re not even sure why you’re doing it. Maybe you’re watching Tommy Boy for the 24th time, just because it’s on. Maybe you’re fixing all the clothes that became inside-out in the wash before moving them to the dryer, knowing they’ll just become inside-out again. Or maybe, you’re reading this article.
You saw the title, so you know why you’re here. I appreciate that. But make no mistake, if you came here looking for a shocking hot take, you’re going to be disappointed. So sit back, settle into your turkey sandwich, and take a comfortable cruise through this think piece. Without further ado...
Your New York Yankees 2017 Rookie of the Year is Jonathan Holder.
Be honest—did you spit out that turkey sandwich? If so, I’m sorry. Five-second rule that thing, no one is watching. Obviously, it’s time to talk about Aaron Judge. Nothing against Holder and by no means does this aim to diminish the accomplishments of Jordan Montgomery or Clint Frazier, but the entirety of Major League Baseball spent 2017 looking up from the bottom of a beanstalk.
Judge came into this season as a question mark and left an exclamation point. Make your arguments, but he is the Face of Baseball, strikeouts and all. In seven short months, he set the bar for grandeur, resilience, maturity, and unabashed ill-will towards baseballs. When he was on, the Yankees were on. When he was off, the Yankees were off. Never has a rookie been such a central part of a team’s identity and success.
This article has been a season in the making. But, when did we know? When were we certain it was Judge?
Was it when he first broke the sound barrier with a towering 451 foot home run against the White Sox in April?
How about when he ended the first half of the season leading ALL of Major League Baseball in HR, OBP, SLG, wRC+, and WAR?
Maybe it was when he put on one of the greatest shows of all time to win the Home Run Derby while literally defying the laws of physics by hitting the Marlins Park roof—which was specifically built using a NASA-engineered formula to prevent such a feat—multiple times?
Could it have been when he traveled to Seattle and actually broke Statcast, causing it to give a stumbling, incoherent 440 foot measurement of a home run that clearly went 795 feet?
There was also his flat out dominance of the Orioles, giving them the most violent public noogie imaginable, batting .426/.588/1.049 with 11 HR, 24 RBI, 31 R, and a pedestrian 495 foot blast.
You can go to baseball games your whole life and maybe never see a ball hit this far.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 11, 2017
Or maybe it was simply ending his rookie season at a casual 1.049 OPS, 52 HR, 114 RBI, 173 wRC+, and 8.2 WAR.
Think of Judge’s rookie season as a yardstick where every millimeter notched is another mammoth home run, game-saving catch, or high five with Ronald Torreyes. Whatever notch on the stick caught your eye was far from the last. The Yankees new brobdingnagian right fielder was a treasure trove of highlights and every at-bat felt like it could have been another gold coin.
The baseball world has never seen a rookie season like this. Other fabled rookie campaigns like those of Mike Trout, Ichiro Suzuki, Ted Williams, Albert Pujols, or Mark McGwire have produced awe-inspiring statistics, but none matched Judge’s in spectacle. The 25-year-old was the biggest star on the biggest stage, managing to turn the Yankees into the Fun Yankees. Who else in the history of the Bronx earned their own dedicated seating section two months into their rookie year?
The most impressive thing about Judge was his patience. Going from baseball’s best hitter to worst hitter and back to best hitter in the span of a season is unfathomable. He did it with poise. That quick fall from grace is enough to flatten any player, let alone a rookie. He possessed the maturity of a seasoned journeyman which helped to plug up the holes when critics began declaring his first half success a flash in the pan.
There was a collective consciousness in watching Judge’s rookie year. It was the strange knowledge that you were watching the formation of an urban legend. What was it like to see George Washington throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? Did onlookers immediately appreciate Bo Jackson jumping over a Volkswagen? Did they ever stop talking about it?
I can’t answer that. But what I can say is that I remember every moment of this historic rookie season in great detail. And no matter the amazing moments in sports I’ve yet to see, I’ll never stop talking about Aaron Judge in 2017.