Just look at his whole Yankees tenure since he debuted in 2016. A home run in his first career at-bat followed by slugging 54 homers as an official rookie the next year. Simply commanding a room and the respect of his team, completely independent of his 6’7″, 282-pound stature.
Except, the Yankees have never made it official, and rightfully so. The Yankees captaincy isn’t just something you give out like free hot dog samples at Costco. Just look at the names who have assumed that honor: Don Mattingly. Thurman Munson. Lou Gehrig. Derek Jeter.
Nine years, $360 million, and an MVP season that featured 62 home runs later, it’s Judge’s turn.
Don’t get me wrong. In baseball, being a team captain is largely symbolic. It’s not like soccer or hockey, where being a captain or alternate lets one speak with game officials. You get named captain, sometimes get a little “C” on the jersey, and it’s otherwise all marketing.
But in the case of the Yankees, it’s different this time around. Jeter set a tone with his stoic face and signature inside-out swing. His simple goal was to represent New York with a standard of excellence defined by a near-obsession with winning.
Judge is anything but Jeterian, despite what his quieter demeanor might have us think. His free agency sweepstakes proved that. Yet, within Judge is an almost unconditional respect for the Yankees. You don’t just say, “I want to be a Yankee for life” to blow smoke months before signing a record-setting contract.
Judge hasn’t matched Jeter’s championship caliber yet, but the standard of excellence is there. He bet on himself in free agency and answered with an historical season. Win or lose, he’s going to show up to Yankee Stadium every day and lead by example. The Yankees set high standards and so will Judge for his teammates.
Jon Heyman of the Post says Judge being named captain is “very likely,” so let’s make it happen.