Thursday, March 5, 2020

The world faces an existential crisis with Aaron Judge

For the last three years, Yank fans have known Aaron Judge as a future Hall of Famer. He'd patrol RF through the Twisted Twenties, win the MVP award (that was stolen from him), tally a shitload of Golden Gloves, hit 500 home runs and retire with a talking gig, a supermodel wife and a plaque in Monument Park. Wait... is Taylor Swift seeing anybody?

That's how we once viewed him... long ago... last week. 

Now, it belches forth in every Yankee discussion: WTF's with Judge? What if he misses the season? What if he's Giancarlo II? What if this is his new normal? What if - gulp - this is the New Maas?

Yes, The Lost Legion of the Maas. We want to whisper their names. Not long ago, we harbored similar expectations for Greg Bird, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez - framing them as a new "Core Four," (or five, if you add Judge.) And then comes Gleyber. What if something happens to Gley- no, I won't write it! Some things are too terrifying for this pristine and innocent Internet. You don't say "Beetlejuice" three times. You don't look into the mirror and whisper "Candyman." You don't go into a Bernie rally and shout "Elizabeth Warren!" Nobody does this. No, no, no...

Today, that once rosy future looks withered, if not altogether mock-worthy. Trump could give is nicknames. I'm starting to think that Judge picked the wrong sport. If he played football, he'd be a defensive end, and he'd play through shoulder discomfort. (Good grief, Jason Pierre Paul stupidly blew off part of his hand, and still played four years.) If he toiled in the NBA, he'd be a power forward, if not a point guard, and he'd play through the tweaks. But if a batter can't swing with precision, he becomes a liability. Judge does us no good by hitting .190. And today, we have no sense of when he will return or what kind of player he will be.

A "mystery" ailment is baseball's most frightening diagnosis. For pitchers, it almost always means surgery. For hitters, it almost always leads to down seasons. Judge has a barking shoulder that moves down to his chest. And listen: He's not faking. It's not mental. This is real. Judge has earned our trust in believing him. But he's had a winter to rest it. Soon, the clock starts ticking on the regular season. Also, this we know: Sadly, the Yankees never feel compelled to disclose the truth about injuries. Yankee fans have every reason to expect the worst. Considering all that's gone down over the years, why wouldn't we?

Yes, I may be sounding the siren too early. (The media printed Biden's obituary, and now look.) All we need is a clean bill of health, and Judge could be back in right, batting second in the lineup. If it happens soon, he might even make opening day.

But the track record offers little hope:

2017: He plays 155 games and hits 52 HRs. But it's rumored that he hurts his shoulder in the mid-season Home Run Derby, and his average tumbles. Without the post-All Star Game slump, he'd have won the MVP even over Buzzer Boy Jose Altuve.

2018: He plays in 112 games, after suffering a fractured wrist when hit by a pitch in July. Without him, the Yankees aren't the same (though Giancarlo Stanton carries the team for a bit.) He returns for the post-season. A broken wrist on a pitch - it can happen to anybody, right? Not. His. Fault. Just rotten luck. (Note: The juju gods are pricks.)

2019: Down to 102 games, after straining an oblique in April. At first, the Yankees say he'll miss three weeks. He misses six, then returns and doesn't hit home runs. Finally, the power returns, and he duels with - gulp - Brett Gardner, finishing with 27 HR (one behind Gardy.) 

2020: Who knows? He's having his shoulder re-tested. Without a diagnosis, he is lost at sea. The Yankees avoided arbitration by giving him an $8.5 million contract. He's 28. This should be his career year. But now, anything is on the table. But if it leads to surgery... yow! Beetlejuice! Candyman! Liz Warren!

The future: Next winter, he again goes to arbitration. In 2023, he becomes a free agent. By then, the Yankees could have a logjam outfield - though injuries have a tendency to make such statements look ridiculous. That notion that he'll be our RF for the decade? It looks like a fifth grade fantasy. Maybe the Martians will attack. Maybe the dolphins will speak.

Bird is battling for the 26th slot on the Texas Rangers. Severino is gone for 18 months. Andujar, once the future at 3B, is learning LF. Sanchez is going through yet another catching coach. And Judge? Brace yourselves, comrades. We love the guy, but at 6'7" and 290, he might just be the biggest disappointment of all.  


JM said...

I miss Shane Spencer. Always liked that guy.

TheWinWarblist said...

Yeah. Shane. I fucked him!

DickAllen said...

Breaking News:

“ Aaron Judge ‘frustrated’ with mysterious injury, Yankees Opening Day doubt.”

HoraceClarke66 said...

Yanks should have trade Judge two years ago. I said it then, dammit, as I will never stop reminding people! Now it's probably too late; we would never get useful talent back.

It's very sad—but there it is. In the meantime, I guess we can enjoy his occasional flashes, pinch-hits, etc., until we cut him loose in 2023.

Mediasavvy said...

I point my finger directly at the training, conditioning and medical staff. When one guy goes down, it's about what happened to him. When over 30 players go down with injuries, I blame the team. So it was last year.

Now we have new leadership in these departments and the injuries keep coming. How much of this is the fault of the old regime and how much of it should be laid at the feet of the 'new guys', is yet to be determined (without access to medical records). I will note that the 'new guys' are metrics-driven, as opposed to old school training and conditioning.

But I will say this, many if not most of the injuries last year were preventable, if people had proper training and pre-game prep. I also think that players training and pre-game conditioning is driven by metrics and metric measurement.

My concern is that rather than correcting the stats-extremist approach of the last year - and the record injuries that followed - Yankees have doubled down on the idea and surrounded the players with a bunch of stat geeks, trying to maximize performance output. This means MORE stress on muscles, ligaments, etc. More soft tissue injuries, etc. etc. More freak injuries when stressed out body parts meet game action (see Delin's ankle injury).

Baseball is more than exit velocity, spin rates, etc. etc. If playing the game leads to record injuries, you are playing (and prepping) for the game wrong.

It's still early to judge the new guys, but I do not like what I see and suspect the central Yankee problem with training, conditioning, pre-game prep and medical stuff remains the biggest problem on this very talented team.

TheWinWarblist said...

A good stats geek would look at injury rates, recovery times and preventive measures. I'm sure Hal and Cash and Randy have hired only the very best. They wouldn't pinch pennies on something like that!

Fuck them all, each and every one, thoroughly.

TheWinWarblist said...

You do not trade a young Aaron Judge. Of course ... Jeter traded Giancarlo Stanton ...

Celerino Sanchez said...

Is the Yankees primary physician Dr Vinnie Boom Batz?

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