Aaron Judge
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Yankees revamped their roster and can put a cap on it by naming Aaron Judge the official team captain.

Aaron Judge has every reason to enter the 2020 season with his head held high.

He saw his salary rise from mid-six figures to $8.5 million. His New York Yankees had a complete offseason makeover from signing Gerrit Cole to changing the training staff from top to bottom.

Now, the Yankees should show they fully mean business by making Judge the captain of the team. In doing so, the big and powerful outfielder would become the first to hold the title since the brand-new Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

And it would be a big step for the Yankees. Judge hasn’t even signed a long-term extension with the Bronx Bombers yet. Why should he be trusted with an honor only given to a small handful of players?

Short career aside, Aaron Judge is the perfect man to hold the job next. By naming him captain now, the Yankees can officially start the era of the Baby Bombers.

A captain’s presence

Being the captain of a professional sports team isn’t just an honor, but a responsibility. By title alone, regardless of statistical output, the captain represents the franchise. The media looks to them for comments on the team’s performance, or on any clubhouse drama.

And in performing this role, the captain has to keep a straight face regardless of circumstances. Their job is to lead the team by example on and off the field. In a way, the captain is also a liaison between the players and management, not to mention the press.

He may not have the official title now, but Aaron Judge is already serving the Yankees in this role. In a piece by Nathan Maciborski of MLB.com, he detailed just how he approaches being a team leader.

“It’s just being that constant presence, that’s what I want to try to do,” Judge said. “Just be a constant presence with this team and try to support each and every guy as best I can. Because if I can bring up the guys around me, then that’s going to be the most important thing. I never want to be that guy that’s in the spotlight doing this and that, but if I can go behind the scenes and do certain things to make the whole team better, then that’s always my ultimate goal.”

This, Yankees fans, is how a leader leads. He elevates his teammates however he can because his being the “constant presence” makes the team better than anything he can do on the field. Judge is already working hard so whenever he shouts, “Avengers!,” the Yankees automatically assemble.

If that doesn’t sound like a team captain, then what does?

Is it too soon?

Of course, it’s important to remember what was said earlier. The Yankees don’t just name captains willy-nilly. Keep in mind, Jeter retired after the 2014 season and no one has been named captain since. Jeter is also just one of 15 players to ever be awarded the honor.

And just for context, Jeter wasn’t even named team captain until 2003. By that point, he had four World Series rings, an AL Rookie of the Year trophy, and five All-Star selections. He wasn’t just handed the captaincy on a silver platter. He had to earn it.

That said, it can be argued Aaron Judge hasn’t earned being team captain the same way Jeter did. He doesn’t have any World Series rings, nor has he even been to the Fall Classic. He has an AL Rookie of the Year trophy and hit 52 homers in 2017.

Since then, however, Judge has missed extensive time each of the last two seasons due to injuries. He has performed well when healthy but hasn’t come close to his rookie levels again.

Court is in session

To that, if I may quote my grandmother, I say one word: Feh!

Sure, Aaron Judge has had a rough go of it the last two years, but why delay the inevitable? For all we know, the injuries he suffered in 2018 and 2019 were not because he’s injury-prone, but because of the issues with the training staff or just flukey injuries.

As for the lack of titles, think of the Yankees’ recent playoff journeys. In 2017, they fell victim to the Houston Astros’ cheating. With the 2018 Boston Red Sox now under investigation, New York may have been unknowingly playing dirty pool then too. No cheating has been directly linked to the 2019 Astros, but the thought still exists in the back of everyone’s mind.

The point is championship rings do not a captain make. Unquestioned respect from players and coaches alike, on the other hand, do, and Judge has that in spades. How many other players troll the Red Sox in epic fashion?

Make no mistake, fans. Aaron Judge will be the next Yankees captain now or in the very near future.

Final thoughts

And even if Aaron Judge isn’t quite ready to be the New York Yankees’ captain, he has people who can help him learn the ropes. Brett Gardner, never afraid to be direct with an umpire, has a glowing reputation as a leader and can help Judge find his voice as a captain.

Also, let’s not forget CC Sabathia. He’s retired now but has a job in New York’s front office. He had a commanding clubhouse presence and can teach Judge how to balance firmness with leadership.

All in all, it’s not just a matter of if Aaron Judge is the next Yankees captain, but when. His teammates respect him, and he respects being a Yankee.

The captaincy was made for him, so it’s time to make it happen.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.