Cashman said he doesn’t think Judge, nursing a sore right shoulder and right pectoral muscle, will be ready for Opening Day on March 26 in Baltimore.
I saw fans on Twitter and Facebook criticizing the perennial All-Star and team leader, saying that he, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks did not deserve the big money contracts as they are always injured and what’s more, their injuries, for the most part, seem minor, and ballplayers, such as Mantle, would have played through them.
Fans can be brutal and short-sighted, but truth remains, the Yankees are challenged once again with putting together a lineup which is missing key players due to injury. The “next man up” slogan has already become as much a thing in 2020 as it was in 2019 when the Yankees won 103 games.
Judge, however, is more than a statistic, though certainly a rehearsal of the statistics is impressive enough. He’s a career .273 hitter with an 18.6 WAR. In 2019 he hit .272 with 27 HR and 67 RBI’s and Baseball Reference projects him to hit .276 with 30 HRs and 67 RBI’s in 2020. Now it remains to be seen if Judge can come back healthy in April whether he’ll meet or beat his projections, but the numbers seem in line with his 2018 and 2019 performances.
Of course, fans would love to see a healthy Judge come back in April and put up the kind of numbers he put up in 2017, when he was Rookie of the Year: .284/.422/.627 with 52 HR and 114 RBIs. This is the Aaron Judge fans expect every time he goes up to the plate, however, whether it’s that he’s been hampered by injuries or whatever, Judge has not put up those kind of numbers since his rookie campaign.
He has, however, become a team leader since his rookie campaign – it appears to a fan at least – both on and off the field. His response to the Astros cheating scandal was as sharp and angry as it needed to be, and was directly in line with what league leaders, such as Mike Trout, thought about the scandal.
When the season starts, it is unlikely Judge will be in the lineup, however, the Judge’s Chambers will haunt whoever takes over, as that real estate belongs to Judge, whenever he may return. I have no doubt that he will come back healthy and prowl right field providing the kind of elite defense we’ve come to expect.
So when social media blows up with criticism that Judge is injury prone, it is appropriate to keep scrolling and wait until he’s healthy for him to regain his status as the face of the New York Yankees.
Picture by Mark Brown/Getty Images.