The Yankees’ captaincy is not merely a signifier of athletic prowess, but an acknowledgment and celebration that the player on a game-to-game basis displayed what it means to be a Yankee: pride, honor, and tradition. It isn’t a moniker distributed lightheartedly, either. Rather, “captain” is a ticket straight to the legacy and lore of the organization. From Clark Griffith in 1903 to Derek Jeter’s retirement in 2014, six out of fifteen captains have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but perhaps even more importantly, those names (Ruth, Gehrig, Munson, Guidry, Mattingly, and Jeter, just to list a few) evoke a sense of reverence difficult to match throughout the history of the game.
Now, almost seven seasons removed from Jeter’s tenure, I think it’s time to name a new de jure leader of the team in Aaron Judge, and here’s why.
He’s a tremendous ballplayer
This is perhaps the most obvious reason, but also one of the least important, in my own opinion. Since his debut with the Yankees in 2016, Judge has made a significant impact. In his rookie season he clubbed a whopping 52 homers, second only to current teammate Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 that year. In 2017 he was a close second in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player award (we of course don’t need to talk about who won that year), and though he’s dealt with his fair share of injuries the production has never really fallen off. Speaking of, he’s currently on a tear, batting .396/.508/.729 in his last 15 games.
In addition to his offense, Judge is a defensive force of nature. Out in right field, he often uses his powerful 6-foot-7 frame to haul in shots destined for the seats and gun down over-zealous runners. With an arm that fires up to 97.7 mph, NBCSports ranks Judge as one of the top 10 outfielders in the major leagues. So, although the Yankee’s captaincy is not determined by statistics, these numbers have helped him to garner the respect and support of the Yankee universe.
He’s already assumed a leadership position with the team
Ever since he arrived in the majors, Aaron’s actions have caused onlookers to draw comparisons between himself and El Capitan, Derek Jeter. First out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate on a homerun and ever one to turn the attention away from himself and towards the team after a big win, Judge is often viewed as the team’s staunchest supporter both on and off the field.
Though it’s easy to stand by your team when things are going well, it takes courage and true leadership to step up and take the reigns when morale is low. During the extremely slow first half of the season, Judge demonstrated what he would be like as a captain when after a stretch of six games with only one win, he took the initiative to call a player’s only meeting. According to subsequent interviews, Judge had “some things on my mind, some things I’ve been seeing over the course of the year.” It’s clear that no matter the status of the organization in the standings, Aaron is one of the first to take responsibility and act on behalf of the rest of the ballclub.
He takes the time to interact with fans
No, I’m not awarding the Yankee’s captaincy based on who’s the nicest guy, but as I previously mentioned, “honor” is a major facet of the Yankee mantra and something that Judge never fails to demonstrate. Just within the last few days in Oakland he has stayed on the field after the game to sign autographs (mind you, they’re not even at Yankee Stadium), and met Mason Ferrulli, a four-time cancer survivor and avid baseball fan who pulled a rare one of one Aaron Judge Topps trading card. Listening to Judge speak with Mason once again confirms not only how big of a heart he has, but also the fact that he embraces how great of a privilege it is to be a Yankee.
So, Steinbrenners, Cashman, Boone, and whoever else I need to address to get this message out, you already knew you were going to have to re-sign your superstar right fielder in the near future. Heck, write him a blank check, because he deserves to be a Yankee for his entire life. Still, better yet, it’s time we had another captain; one who embodies the spirit of the Yankees and acts with best intentions on behalf of the team. We’ve found him in Aaron Judge, now let’s make it official.