Postseason success is the final step in cementing Aaron Judge’s 2017 legacy

There is no argument that Aaron Judge’s 2017 season is going to be boldfaced in the Major League Baseball history books, due to the sheer amount of accomplishments he was able to compile in not only his rookie season, but in the historic confines of a Yankee uniform. Aaron Judge began his improbable year when he won the right field job out of Spring Training by a minuscule margin. He then powered and charmed his way into the hearts of not only Yankee fans, but all baseball fans, in the blink of an eye.
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In only his inaugural season in Major League Baseball, Aaron Judge won three Rookie of the Month awards, one Player of the Month award, two American League Player of the Week awards, earned the most votes in the American League All-Star balloting, had a Yankee Stadium section built after him, won the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, and was voted MLB’s favorite player in August. Awards and honors aside, he also broke the rookie home run and walk records, has a WAR just south of 8.0, and has made his fair share of dazzling plays in right field. He has all but secured the American Rookie of the Year Award, and is in the thick of the MVP race. For a player that came into 2017 without any lofty expectations, calling Aaron Judge’s season a breakout is an indisputable understatement. What he has been able to accomplish is an anomaly that may never be seen again, but he is not done yet.

In a season where they were in a “rebuilding phase,” the Yankees were very fortunate to be able to pop the champagne last week and celebrate their first postseason berth since 2015. What this means is the Yankees and Aaron Judge have unfinished business that will in all likelihood start Tuesday in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are an extremely talented ball club and have displayed way too much potential to have their underdog season end in a single game. This means the pressure will be on the Yankees’ best hitter to perform in the season’s biggest stage, and if he is able to continue mashing through the playoffs, he will officially seal the deal on one of baseball’s most improbable seasons.
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The New York Yankee organization is built on their foundation of postseason success having won the most World Series championships and having the most postseason appearances of any Major League Baseball team. Players that had mediocre runs as regular season players have been able to be immortalized in history with clutch Yankee postseason performances, such as, Aaron Boone and Raul Ibanez. Then, there are the perpetual superstars that continued their star play into the postseason, such as, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Jeter and Rivera’s postseason successes are incredible feats, but to due being Yankees, having a solid postseason run is crucial to how Jeter and Mo are seen in the eyes of Yankee fans. On the other side of the spectrum, there are the former Yankee superstars who were notoriously poor playoff performers. Alex Rodriguez, outside of 2004 and 2009, is the first name that comes to mind, due to his overall atrocious postseason resume. Rodriguez had some phenomenal seasons in pinstripes but hitting .133, .071, .267, .219, .111, .120, and .000 in seven of his nine Yankee postseason runs was not taken lightly by Yankee fans.

Aaron Judge is not having a mediocre season by any means, so odds are he will fall in the category of either Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez. If Aaron Judge manages to go hitless in the Wild Card game and the Yankees lose, or if they do indeed advance and he scuffles in the extended format, his 2017 regular season accomplishments will not be thrown out the window, similarly to how Rodriguez’s poor postseasons did not take away from helping the team get there in the first place. However, a poor batting average or a pile up of strikeouts in the postseason will leave a sour taste in Yankee fans’ mouths. The saying “It is not how you start, it is how you finish” is relevant to many aspects of the game of baseball and especially to the brand of winning culture the Yankees have established. If Aaron Judge is able to have a solid offensive postseason, his standing, in terms of Yankee lore, will skyrocket. Judge has already told the Yankees’ media that he does not care about an MVP award if he is not holding up the World Series trophy, so his team-first, Derek Jeter nostalgic mindset is in the right place in terms of what he needs to do. He will still need to put together a string of successful seasons to be even in the same conversation as the future Hall of Famer, but putting up numbers similar to Jeter’s .361/.409/.459 in his rookie season playoff run, will officially cement Judge’s 2017 campaign in the Yankee history books.

Article by: Ryan Thoms

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