On Wednesday morning, the Yankees made something official that had felt all but official for a long time. The organization’s leadership gathered at Yankee Stadium to re-introduce Aaron Judge to the media, as his new nine-year contract had been announced yesterday. Revealing the new deal with Judge wasn’t the only task at hand, though.
Judge has been named the 16th captain in franchise history, taking on the position once held by the likes of Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter. Although the captain position is not one that is historically important in baseball and very few teams in modern memory have even had one, the title does carry gravitas in New York thanks to those remarkable predecessors.
So ever since Jeter retired in 2014, there had been chatter about who would be the next captain. With Judge’s career in pinstripes all but secured, it only made sense for the 2022 AL MVP to don the virtual “C.”
The Yankees have named Aaron Judge the 16th Captain in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/F8uwyIOF3k— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 21, 2022
The funny thing is that for Judge and his teammates, this changes very little. It was already well-known that he is the team leader and enormously respected in that clubhouse. Players like Nestor Cortes and Jose Trevino were openly stumping for Judge to be named captain, and former teammate CC Sabathia has attested to the fact that Judge had essentially assumed a captain-like role as a rookie back on the 2017 team that got this recent era started with a trip into deep October.
Note: Other sources called Jeter the 11th captain in team history, which would make Judge the 12th, but the official communication from the Yankees is that Judge is the 16th. This probably arose from past confusion about whether or not some early Yankees (née Highlanders) like Clark Griffith, Willie Keeler, and others in their era were confirmed captains. But understanding of history evolves over time and the word is the word!