Superstar Aaron Judge was understandably not in the lineup as the Yankees faced the Rangers yesterday. After all, the Bombers had already secured the top spot in the American League East; there was no longer any sense for them to go for 100 wins, never mind if it would have been their 22nd since they set up shop in 1903. More importantly, he had already claimed his targeted 62nd home run in their previous outing; with what an inordinate number of quarters believe to be the “real” Major League Baseball record secure, there was no sense for him to risk injury in the regular-season finale.
Indeed, Judge needed the break. Prior to yesterday’s set-to, he had played a whopping 55 straight games, and not simply because he wanted to move past Bronx legend Roger Maris’ home run mark. The Yankees needed him to suit up, if for no other reason than to turn their fortunes around; after starting their 2022 campaign with flourish, they appeared to lose their footing in August. To argue that they found their way anew on the strength of his exertions would be to understate the obvious. His consistency righted the ship and, moving forward, provides them with no small measure of optimism.
Considering the singular achievement, it bears noting that Judge bet on himself — heavily — prior to the start of the season. He turned down a seven-year, $213.5-million contract extension from the Yankees, firmly believing his skill set to be worth far more. And, as things have turned out, he stands to cash in on his gamble. He’s the prohibitive favorite to claim the league Most Valuable Player award, and on tap for a whopping payday aligned with his status as the best of the best.
Significantly, the Yankees won’t be starting their postseason until early next week, and the high Judge has provided will enable them to get their rest with smiles on their faces. Depending on the result of the Wild Card series, they’ll be facing either the Guardians or the Rays. They’re better than both, so they’re not likely to sweat the uncertainty, especially with their slugger on hand. No matter what happens in the playoffs, however, they’ll be sure to do all they can to keep him in the fold for the medium term.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.