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Aaron Judge and the Yankees

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He is the unquestioned leader of the Yankees super-charged offense; just as he is on pace for a record-setting year, the Yankees are on pace to win more regular seasons than any team in baseball history, a record co-held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who both totaled 116 victories.

Dick
Flavin

Have you noticed that Aaron Judge of the Yankees is on pace to have a season that would place him among the greatest home run hitters of all time? When the Yankees reached 63 games played, Judge had appeared in 60 of them and had 25 round-trippers.
That puts him on a pace to have somewhere in the mid-60s by the time the season ends. Of course, there are a few big "ifs" connected to that projection: if he stays healthy, and if he can keep up the pace. He could be hit by a pitch and suffer a broken bone, such as happened to him in 2018, or he could pull a muscle, which keeps him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks. Then all bets would be off. The same would be true if he falls into a relatively mild slump. But he might just do it.
Only two other players in major-league history have hit 60 or more home runs without the aid of performance enhancing drugs: Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. Ruth hit 60 homers in 1927 and Maris reached 61 in 1961. Barry Bonds (73 home runs in 2001), Mark McGwire (70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999), and Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001, and 63 in 1999) have reached the magic 60 mark, but all have been linked to the use of steroids and have thus far been denied enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

Others have come close but for one reason or another have fallen short. Ruth himself had 59 home runs in1921, as did Judge's current Yankee teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, then with the Miami Marlins, in 2017. Stanton has never approached that number as a Yankee.
Just before the current season began, Judge turned down a Yankee contract extension offer of $30.5 million a year for seven years. It's pretty hard to turn your back on that kind of guaranteed money, but so far it looks like he has made a good bet. If he continues at the pace he is going, the sky will be the limit. He'll be a free agent at the end of the season, and if he finishes with more home runs than either Ruth or Maris, he could also end up with the biggest contract in baseball history. The Yankees will probably match any offer he gets, but just imagine what that offer might be. Their cross-town rivals, the Mets, for example, have deep pockets and have shown a willingness to spend. If Judge, who would become the face of baseball, becomes available to them, they could pay upwards of $50 million per year.
At six feet, seven inches in height and weighing 282 pounds, he is one of the strongest players in the game and is fast establishing himself as its strongest drawing card. He thrives playing in the pressure cooker of Yankee Stadium and has been hitting more than .300 all year long. In recent weeks, he has moved from right field to center field, where he has been more than adequate defensively. He's also been batting lead-off, which cuts down on RBI opportunities but gives him more plate appearances.
He is the unquestioned leader of the Yankees super-charged offense; just as he is on pace for a record-setting year, the Yankees are on pace to win more regular seasons than any team in baseball history, a record co-held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who both totaled 116 victories.
It should be noted, though, that neither the Mariners nor the Cubs won any championships in their record-setting years. The Mariners were beaten by -- who else -- the dreaded Yankees in the 2001 ALCS, four games to one and the 1906 Cubs lost the World Series to the White Sox, four games to two.
The truth is that even if New York wins the most games in a season in baseball history it won't mean that much. The regular season is just a race to determine who gets home field advantage.Teams don't have to finish in first place; they merely have to qualify for the playoffs. Many people forget that in 2004, when the Red Sox broke the dreaded Curse of the Bambino, they finished the season as runners up to the Yankees. For the first 69 years of their existence that wouldn't have been good enough. They'd have been eliminated. New York was the better team over the course of the 162-game season and for the first three games of the ALCS, but then the Sox suddenly caught fire. They won eight games in a row (four each over the Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals) to capture the championship. Furthermore, in 2013 there was virtually no one who thought the Red Sox had a better team than the Detroit Tigers, who had a pitching rotation anchored by two shoe-in hall of famers, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, plus one of the greatest hitters of the last 50 years, MVP Miguel Cabrera, and a supporting cast that included Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter; but the Red Sox had the team that was hot when it counted most, and they won it all again.
So it's not over yet, not by a long shot. The New York Yankees, no matter how many regular season games they win, haven't really won anything. And Aaron Judge doesn't have that huge contract in his back pocket. Not yet, anyhow.

- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.



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