On December 21st, at around 10:25am, the New York Yankees announced that Aaron Judge will be the 16th captain of the franchise. It has been eight years since Derek Jeter has retired. Eight years without a named captain. Eight years of wondering who the next captain would be, and now we have number 99, Aaron Judge.
Hey, it’s Barnes again, and damn does it feel good to be a Yankee fan right about now. We are in the winter holiday season, where the overall message is, “it’s better to give than to receive.” Well I tell you what, the Yankees are giving the fanbase some awesome presents this year. Re-signing Rizzo, bringing back Kahnle, re-signing Judge, bringing in Rodon, and finally, naming Judge the captain.
Baseball is such a strange sport. It’s a sport where the offense doesn’t possess the ball, the games aren’t based around time, and having a captain doesn’t really mean much like it does in other sports. The captain in baseball doesn’t go out for a coin flip or out there to dispute a bad call. Hell, they don’t even wear a “C” on their jersey (with one lame exception). The captain in baseball is a different type of leadership role.
In the NFL, you’ll see quarterbacks and linebackers named as team captains because they are running their respective units and calling audibles on the fly. Team captains in soccer and hockey are often the first player to approach the ref and calm down their teammates if there is a suspect call on the field. In baseball, there are no real calls to defend and there are no plays to run. Instead, they are leading a clubhouse of guys over the course of a season that starts in March and if your team is doing well, doesn’t end until November.
So what’s most important about being a captain, let alone being the captain of a baseball team?
First and foremost is leading by example, day in and day out, on and off the field. I really do believe Derek Jeter was a great captain. He was not the best player in the league. He wasn’t the best player at his position. He wasn’t even the best player on his teams. Jeter was a super consistent player every single day. Even during a slump, you knew that he was going to show up everyday like he wasn’t in a slump. He addressed the media, remaining present even during the times where the team seemed to be struggling.
Aaron Judge is that same way, except he is definitely the best player on the team and the best in the American League (despite what Luke may say). That’s why he was named the AL MVP in 2022, an honor that not even Derek Jeter ever earned. His on-the-field presence and accolades can be found on his wiki page, but I love seeing the mission of the Aaron Judge All Rise Foundation. The mission statement is:
“All Rise inspires children and youth to become responsible citizens by engaging them in activities that encourage them to reach unlimited possibilities.”
No, I don’t get any kickback if you go there and donate! It’s a great foundation.
Something that really got under the skin of Doug, the Bleacher Brawls Host with the Most, this past year for the Red Sox was the lack of accountability. Let’s go back to the Bronx during Game 3 of the 2022 ALCS. It was the top of the seconnd inning. Gerritt Cole gets Yuli Gurriel to fly out on three pitches, gets Trey Mancini to flyout on one pitch, and gets Christian Vazquez to pop up to right-center field on three pitches, which should have been a really quick inning.
WAIT, that’s not how it played out. A fly ball that should have been a routine fly out turned into a Harrison Bader error and Vazquez reaches first. Three pitches later, Chas McCormick hits a 2 run homerun and the Astros take a lead that they would never relinquish.
Now I’m not saying if the Yankees make that out, they would go on to win that game. It was only the second inning. What happened after the game when asked about the error? “We’re both going for it, both calling for it,” Judge said. “At the last second, I hear him and I’m trying to get out of the way so I think I definitely messed him up on that play. I gotta take responsibility for that. He’s the center fielder. When he calls it, I gotta drop and get out of the way and couldn’t move quick enough.” If that’s not accountability, I don’t know what is.
The last thing I want to bring up today, and it’s certainly not the last leadership characteristic, is humility. Aaron Judge had an amazing year, a historic-season. Solidifying himself in the books has never outweighed his respect and love for his teammates and reverence for the game of baseball. Aaron Judge is not a chest thumper for his achievements. He’s been very thankful for the opportunity he’s been given to play at the Major League level.
In a press conference after number 62, he was asked “Aaron, that moment when you’re rounding the bases and you see your entire team has come out of the dugout and they’re waiting for you at home plate, what was that like for you? What’s going through your mind there?”
Part of his response was “…you know, finally seeing them run out on the field, you know, you can get a chance … you can hug them all, they’re saying congratulations you know, that’s what it’s about for me. You know those guys are grinding with me every single day and they’ve been along this journey, you know, through the ups and downs and getting a chance to share that moment with them on the field was pretty special.”
Aaron Judge is the new captain of the New York Yankees. I know we are all excited that he is the captain, deservedly so. I hope we can see a championship during his tenure as the captain.
Judge is the Yankees guy.
Judge is our guy.
Judge is “The Captain.”
Aaron, thank you for the memories so far. Myself and the rest of the Yankees fan base are all hoping for more and better memories. Thank you for being a great face of the franchise and thank you for being you.