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Marc Malusis: Is Aaron Judge the ‘Face of Baseball?’

After a stellar first half and All-Star weekend, the Yankees slugger is becoming a fan favorite.
Aaron Judge has catapulted to superstardom in Major League Baseball. (Photo: Getty Images)
That is a great question and one that was asked and pondered during last week’s All-Star break. When New York Yankees star Aaron Judge put on a show during the Home Run Derby last Monday night, he only added to the lure of an already growing legend that is still in its infancy. He is a spectacle and his at-bats are must see television and stay-in-your-car kind of stuff on the radio. 
 
At 6’7’ and 285 pounds, Judge is different and plays the old game of baseball a lot differently than anyone we have seen before.  
 
In the first half, Judge hit .329 with 30 HR and 66 RBI and set the new Yankees rookie mark for homers in a season with 30, surpassing Joe DiMaggio’s mark in just 84 games played. His rise in interest in Major League Baseball is remarkable. 
 
There is no question that he is a star. The question is how big of a star and how great of a player he will become.
 
Is Aaron Judge the face of Major League Baseball? 
 
Does it really matter? We know that he is the Yankees' and is ushering in a new era of Yankees baseball.
 
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Judge is the type of player “who can become the face of the game. He is a tremendous player on the field and really appealing off the field.”
 
Why is Judge so appealing besides his stats? I think it has everything to do with the fact that he is different. His Paul Bunyan figure cuts a large figure in the batter's box, which adds to the lure and the draw.
 
His long, majestic home runs and exit velocity add to his legacy. His approachable demeanor and personality make him a fan's best friend.
 
Fox Sports baseball analyst and former Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said, “for the first time in a long time, baseball has a LeBron James-type of body and personality that can transcend sports.”
 
Can Aaron Judge transcend sports? Does he deserve or has he earned being put in the same sentence as LeBron James? I think that is a lot to put on a 25-year-old who has not even completed his first full season in Major League Baseball. There are a lot of October nights and multiple championships that need to be won before we start talking about Aaron Judge transcending sports.
 
There is another rub to what Rodriguez had to say. There is a quality to Judge that can’t be measured by a statistic or a metric. He has the ‘it’ factor. He carries himself like a 10-year veteran and emotes the calm, cool demeanor that leads you to believe his performance is not at all surprising to Judge himself.
 
He needs no other motivation than his down performance in his initial taste as a major leaguer a year ago. He looks down on his phone with ".179" as a message of his initial failure and his motivation that success can be fleeting on this level.
 
But his impact on the game and this city is unquestioned. To the point where the Yankees did something so un-Yankee-like by putting together the Judge’s Chambers in right field where fans can even wear judge's robes and white wigs if they so choose.
 
Flat out he gets it and when everybody jumped off the bandwagon last year, he worked to fix what went wrong and welcomed everyone back into the Judge’s Chambers this season with open arms.
 
Is he a better overall player than the Angels’ Mike Trout? I would never make that argument because I look at Trout as the best player in the game. I would probably say it is too early to think that he is a better player than the Nationals’ Bryce Harper. Trout and Harper are both former MVP winners in the American and National League respectively. Judge has a ways to go to prove that this season is him and that he can consistently produce the way he has this season.
 
Is Judge the ‘Face of Major League Baseball?’ Probably not, but realistically speaking, he is not that far off.

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