Late Tuesday night, reports surfaced that confirmed our collective hopes and dreams: Aaron Judge received an invitation to compete in the Home Run Derby. The Yankees right fielder told reporters that Major League Baseball extended the invitation through his agent. For weeks we waited for this news to emerge, with each towering home run adding to our interest.
Unfortunately, Judge has yet to accept the invitation. “I just got invited,” he explained to Wallace Matthews of the New York Times. “That’s all I know so far. Haven’t decided yet. I’ll think about it for a while and see what we do.” In trademark Judge fashion, he reiterated that he’s prioritizing the team over his personal goals.
Does this mean he isn’t participating? No, it’s more along the lines of how he handles all interactions with the media. You won’t find any Muhammad Ali inspired braggadocio coming from Judge. He doesn’t have to considering the way he does this baseballs:
Yet, for that same exact reason, he should take part in the contest. What better way to celebrate an event dedicated to mammoth home runs than by sending the season’s most prolific dinger machine? Baseball did their part, now it’s Judge’s turn.
Think about the damage Judge already does in batting practice. He hits the food vendors in the Yankee Stadium concourse, destroys televisions in luxury boxes, and crushes the spirits of opposing pitchers. That’s exactly what you want in the Home Run Derby. Imagine what he could do in a competitive environment? Matt Provenzano wrote back in April that Judge could hit the longest home run in modern history. It very well could happen in Miami.
To add to the drama, picture a scenario where Judge squares off against reigning champion Giancarlo Stanton. Baseball’s large adult son meets his best comp, in a showdown over who can mash the most — and farthest —- dingers. That’s one blockbuster of a crossover if you ask me. Last year, Grant Brisbee wrote about how Stanton’s performance in the Home Run Derby was great for baseball. Add Judge to the equation and there’s a chance to make magic.
Somehow, though, there exists a vocal opposition to the Home Run Derby. There are concerns over the contest affecting a player’s swing and timing. Others worry about the risk for injury or fatigue. Yet research points to the contrary. In 2010, Joseph McCollum and Marcus Jaiclin examined the Derby and its aftermath, concluding the “curse” to be a work of fiction. For a point of reference, consider Robinson Cano. He hit .309/.358/.547 with 13 home runs after his victory in 2011.
For his part, Joe Girardi is comfortable with Judge participating in the event. "You watch him doing his work in BP, there are a lot of homers going to right and there are a lot of homers going to center," the Yankees manager told NJ.com. "It's just not pull, pull, pull, pull, pull...So that's why [I'm OK with it], because to me it would be a normal BP."
Over the last few seasons, the Home Run Derby has experienced a renaissance. A new format has made for exceptional drama, and received near-universal praise. It’s become a showcase for all that is great about baseball, jaw-dropping feats of strength. Inviting Judge was the right call by baseball. He should accept and put his colossal home runs on display for all to see. It’s in our, and baseball’s, best interest.