Ever since the retirement of Derek Jeter, the one universally dubbed “The Captain,” the New York Yankees have not since appointed a new captain of the team to fill that void. There is a multitude of reasons for this, with one of the main, being, who can fill those shoes? Derek Jeter is one of the greatest players ever to step foot on the field, he accomplished more with the Yankees than virtually anyone else and was also the quintessential “Yankee” player. Another reason could be that the Yankees promote the idea that nobody is above the club, and even having the captaincy vacant further reinstates that point. There’s a reason why the players’ names aren’t on the back of the jerseys, as the Steinbrenner family instilled the idea of everyone plays for each other, and the logo and name on the front of the jersey are all that matter.
With that being said, if there were ever to be a player that embodies the Yankee spirit and that team-first mentality within the club, it has to be Aaron Judge. If there were to be a new Yankee captain, his name would be the only one on the list for me.
Why Aaron Judge Would Make the Best Captain
Having been drafted by the Yankees back in 2013, with the final pick in the first round, Aaron Judge has been a name stay within the Yankees system ever since that day. Known mostly for his size and true stature, Judge became one of the most followed prospects in the minor league system before his call-up in 2016 (briefly). His keen eye, incredible power, and humble demeanor combine to form one of the most well-rounded individuals in the entire league. Purely speaking from a baseball perspective, Aaron Judge is one of the best in the game, but that doesn’t mean he should be captain — there are other reasons why. The captain’s band in soccer is worn by those that embody the club, and its values and the same goes for baseball. While Aaron Judge wouldn’t have that band draped across his bicep, the principle remains the same.
For every team, the captain should be one that can lead the troops into battle, while having no fear for what the outcome may be. Aaron Judge does just that. When watching him play, he is never one to gloat or celebrate the jaw-dropping HR’s he hits, and he always put his body on the line for the sake of the team. While the Yankees have had many great players come and go since Jeter’s retirement, few of them have been — in my opinion — as impactful as Aaron Judge. When he was called up in 2016, along with Gary Sanchez and other Yankee “Baby Bombers,” the consensus opinion on the Yankees shifted across the entire league. This was no longer a team with aging veterans that was seemingly on the decline, but instead, one with a blindingly bright future, headlined by the mammoth of a man with a heart of gold, Aaron Judge.
Judge is one of the best personalities in all of baseball, and his active involvement with the fans on social media platforms, meet and greets, and just stopping for pictures and autographs in his daily life, further show that he’s never one to turn down a fan. After Aaron Judge took home the hardware for “Best Defensive Right Fielder in the MLB,” despite only having played in 102 total games last season, he didn’t brag nor did he take in any of the credit for himself. Instead, he chose to thank his teammates and coaches:
For a player of his quality and caliber to be as down to earth as he stems from the way he was raised, and the amount of passion and love he has for the Yankees organization. Not to mention, he will always defend his teammates and coaches until his deathbed. He’s one to accept full responsibility on plays that go awry and is one to immediately shift credit to his teammates, even after a great individual showing. Judge could go 5-5 with 5 HR’s, and if the Yankees were to lose, he wouldn’t mention a single thing about his performance. Having that humility is just what’s needed within the Yankees clubhouse. While I don’t believe that any of the players on the roster have these bloated egos, or perform for themselves, I am undoubtedly positive that Aaron Judge will never put himself before the team.
When Aaron Judge was asked before the 2019 season if he would participate in the Home Run Derby — with the winnings being $1,000,000 — he had this to say in response: “The money doesn’t matter. For me, I did it once. I had a blast with it. But I’m more worried about winning games. I don’t want to get hurt again doing a Derby.” While that may be the case for most players, where they don’t care about these types of competition in the grand scheme of things, Aaron Judge WALTZED through the 2017 HR Derby en route to his victory. He easily could’ve shown up, half-heartedly swung the bat, and smashed 40 HR’s if he wanted to. However, that mentality, to put the team first — even when there’s a definite reason to believe he could’ve won again — and completely ignore the want for more individual attention and accolades, speaks bounds on his character.
Not to mention, Aaron Judge is also actively involved within the community as well, as all his endorsements and partnerships he’s a part of, he remains actively engaged and promotes a positive message as well. One tweet from August of 2018 read “Never Accept Negativity” as part of a partnership with Sharpie, and for one of baseball’s most prominent and brightest stars to actively promote positivity, teamwork, and the strength of faith and relationships is vast for all of baseball. If one were to scroll through Aaron Judge’s twitter, they would see that it is filled with retweets about his teammate’s performances, birthdays, and overall well-being & mixed in with individual tweets that bring his character and class to center stage. Very few players across the league have a good relationship with players of different teams — rivals even, and one of those is Aaron Judge. Never letting baseball interfere with how he acts off the field, he is one of the most respectable and kind men when interacting with other players.
Will There Ever Be Another Yankee Captain?
With all of this being said, there’s a great reason to believe that Judge doesn’t even want the captain’s position and that he feels that the team itself is great the way it is, and having one person above the rest would only hurt the mojo. When asked about who he thinks will be the next captain, Aaron Boone had this to say in September: “I don’t know if we need it — I would always be open to it, but I don’t think it’s something that is particularly needed in baseball. There’s usually enough natural leaders in the clubhouse who come to the forefront anyway.” Brett Gardner would be one of the first names considered, especially with his longevity and similar Yankee mentality to that of Jeter and also Judge. Still, he shows no interest in being offered the captaincy. Gardner, when asked about his opinion on the vacancy in the captain’s role, gave a similar response to that of Boone, saying: “I don’t know if that’s needed — I think we’re doing pretty well without having a captain right now.” I imagine that the same would be said by Judge, in that anything to seemingly separate himself from his teammates, would be immediately shot down by him.
It is fun to dream and imagine what the future could be like, and it seems as if Aaron Judge will be a part of those plans for many years to come. Even with the Yankees signing Gerrit Cole to the lucratively pricey deal of roughly 37 million per year for the next nine years, there has to be a collective opinion and agreement on that Aaron Judge needs to be a part of this team for the rest of his career. I understand the injuries have been problematic the past two seasons, but I attribute that more to freak occurrences (chip fracture in his wrist, a lingering oblique strain, and a shoulder injury) than him not taking the proper approach to keep himself healthy — the Yankees also dismissed Matt Krause from his duties as director of strength & conditioning, after 30 individual Yankees hit the IL this last season — there is definite reason to believe Judge puts together a full and healthy season come 2020.
The Captain’s role is one that may never be filled as well as Jeter did it, as he saw it as an honor and privilege to lead the team and viewed it as a strict regime of quality performances and keeping your head in the game. With that being said, the new order of Aaron Judge and the young Yankees also prioritize winning and that team-first mentality but do it whilst having fun along the way. The Yankees may not need a captain, as they’ve been doing just fine without one, but if the time were to come where Boone asked the locker room who they would like to lead them into battle, Aaron Judge’s name would likely be at the top of that list — as it should be.