It is mid-September, and as leaves plummet from above, so seemingly do the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers blasted out of the gates, begining the season with a 64-28 record. Now that playoffs are just one measly month away, the Yankees have slumped into September with a back-half record of 21-28. Their 85 wins clinched a winning record, but Yankees fans don’t just expect a winning record, they expect greatness – they expect Aaron Judge.
Despite a tumultuous summer which saw countless Yankee stars take a step back, outfielder Aaron Judge continued shining bright in the Bronx. He is an MVP front runner, leading all of baseball in runs, RBIs, OPS, total bases, and oh yeah, home runs. In 137 games, Aaron Judge has homered 55 times. That is 18 above second place slugger, Kyle Schwarber. If Judge were to maintain pace, he would finish the season with 63 home runs. A new American League record, and the most home runs hit by a player who hasn’t tested positive for steroids.
The current record belongs to Yankee legend Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs in 1961. His total which has only been surpassed by steroid users Sammy Sosa, Mark Mcgwire, and Barry Bonds. Judge has the chance to pass Maris and cement himself not only in Yankee history, but as a baseball legend and one of the game’s most dominant hitters. Analysts and fans alike debate whether Judge can actually catch Maris, but the more important question may be: Does it matter?
Aaron Judge deserves his due. In a season where home run numbers have been down significantly, Judge has broken away from the pack. His 55 home runs place him at 20th all-time for home runs in a season, and that is with nearly a month of baseball left. Should he hit 61 home runs or more, it would truly be the most impressive season for a home run hitter in recent memory. All that being said, the statistics mean nothing without a World Series trophy.
Playing in New York is an atmosphere unlike anything else. Between the eight teams, from the major four sports (MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA) who call New York City home there are two NBA Championships, five Super Bowls, eight Stanley Cups, and a staggering 29 World Series wins. The New York Yankees alone are accountable for 27 of those World Series victories. So while Yankee fans jump for joy each time Judge circles the bases, the team’s record continues to spiral out of control.
Back in July, New York was on track for 116 wins; a total which would tie the league record. They owned the best record in baseball, and held a sturdy 13-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. But as October looms larger, the Yankees will be lucky if they crack 100 wins. They now sit with the fifth best record in baseball, and their lead over the Rays has shrunk to just 5.5 games.
The Yankees storied franchise has failed to win a World Series since 2009. In that time the team reached the playoffs nine times, and never ended with a losing record. They exist in a state of mediocrity and are unable to finish the job. Judge’s incredible season seems to be enough to muscle the Yankees towards another playoff spot, but it won’t win a World Series.
The rest of the team has to perform. In all fairness, they have played a tad better as of late. New York has won six of their last 10, and their upcoming schedule is relatively weak. In the next seven series, only one of their future opponents stands as a playoff team. If the team can capitalize on the momentum, then perhaps not all is lost.
Baseball fans will wait with bated breath each time Aaron Judge steps into the batter’s box. They’ll hope each fastball he sees becomes a projectile heading out the stadium and towards history. The Bronx will buzz each time he rounds the bases and stomps on home. But, as games become more meaningful, Yankee fans will have to face the hard truth that a World Series is not won on the back of one player.