Ex-Yankee and current special advisor for the Yankees organization Reggie Jackson had some very, very high praise for Aaron Judge recently. He compared the 22-year-old prospect with just one professional season under his belt to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, citing the athleticism they both possessed despite their large size. He also rattled off a ridiculous number of names that Judge reminded him of, specifically mentioning Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey and bringing up their easy power. But why do we care about this?
All this seems to be doing is turning the crank on the Yankees hype machine. Is that what Jackson is paid to do? He's done it before and it was just as meaningless then as it is now. Go back to last season when Peter O`Brien was still hitting bombs in the Yankees system. Reggie Jackson went to go see him play in Double-A Trenton and not only did the Hall of Famer compare O`Brien to himself, but he also mentioned Willie McCovey again, as well as All-Stars Dave Kingman and Dick Allen. At the time there was really no question about O`Brien's power, in fact, that might have been the surest thing about his game, as many questions arose about his plate discipline and defensive abilities behind the plate. Even as a roving evaluator, Jackson didn't really offer much with his comments, but what they essentially served to do was place O`Brien on a higher pedestal to the media than the organization ultimately had him on. Two months later, O`Brien was traded to the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado and that was that.
What Jackson is doing is nothing short of sensationalizing young 20-year-old kids who are just trying to make it to the majors. That's tough enough, but now they're being mentioned in the same sentences as all-time greats, as All-Stars, as Hall of Famers, and it's honestly not fair to them. The media is going to do what they do and run with the story of this kid being the next so-and-so and that's how prospects get hyped. I'm not entirely sure what Reggie Jackson does for the organization, but this seems to be how he makes it into the news these days. Soon we'll hear that Greg Bird is the next Don Mattingly and Luis Severino is the new Roger Clemens and somehow Jorge Mateo is the second coming of Cal Ripken Jr., or dare I say Derek Jeter himself? It's incredibly lazy and it's probably even more damaging in the long run and it's all part of the plan.
It's likely that the Yankees want him to feed this type of propaganda to the press. Every prospect is a potential trade chip, and while other organizations have their own scouts out there making their own evaluations, the Yankees want everyone to know how much they value their top talent and what they could mean for the organization. Does anyone remember the time Brian Cashman (jokingly) referred to Albert Pujols as being Jesus Montero-like? He obviously wasn't serious, but it was all part of the rouse to get organizations to think that their top prospect was actually a catcher, was actually a can't-miss bat, and was actually comparable to the best players in baseball. One month after he made that comment, Cashman pawned Montero off on the Mariners. It was all part of the plan.
So what are we supposed to get from these comments about Aaron Judge? Hopefully nothing, since he also went on to say that Jose Pirela is the best hitter in the organization. So maybe Reggie Jackson isn't a mouthpiece for the organization. Maybe he just says whatever he wants and then the Yankees clean up things from there. Cashman provided damage control by saying Jackson was wrong, but then he used the opportunity to sell another Yankee prospect–Greg Bird–as the best hitter in the organization. While that has a pretty good chance of being true, let's hope the praise stops there and doesn't go into MLB comparisons. If that happens then it might be time to get suspicious.
Don't take Reggie Jackson's comments at face value because either the organization is just using him to hype up their players or he's gone rogue. Most of the time teams can see through comments like these, but it's the fans who get caught up in the storm and things get out of control. It seems that Jackson's comments either are used to boost the value of a player through the media, like with O`Brien, or mean absolutely nothing, like with Pirela. Does this mean Judge is on the trading block? I personally hope not, but Cole Hamels isn't going to be acquired with anything less.
It's hard to know where commentary like this, from both Jackson and Cashman, are headed, but some might say it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to land Hamels. The actual worst thing would be if this all turns out to be a whole lot of bad luck, like when Mariano Rivera placed his blessing on Jose Ramirez only a year before he was moved to the bullpen forever.
Let's all take this with a heavy grain of salt, ok?