Aaron Judge's Star Power Explodes on Home Run Derby's National Stage

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterJuly 11, 2017

MIAMI, FL - JULY 10:  Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees competes in the final round of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Marlins Park on July 10, 2017 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

There was a moment, sometime early this season, when Aaron Judge took over New York.

Monday, he took over all of baseball.           

He did it with power. He did it with style. He did it with grace.

Maybe it's too early to call him the game's biggest star, just halfway into his rookie season with the New York Yankees. But maybe it's not.

He is the biggest, obviously, if you just go by his 6'7", 282-pound frame. But in taking over a Home Run Derby that quickly became all about him, Judge showed everything New York has seen this year and more.

"I am buying Aaron Judge for the long, long haul," Mark Teixeira said on ESPN after Judge needed barely half the allotted time to dispose of Miguel Sano in the Derby's final round.

Teixeira, by the way, was another star of the night, clearly showing he deserves more exposure in his rookie season as a broadcaster. He was fun and funny, and early on, he asked Judge the perfect question:

"Can you get over 500 [feet]?"

"I'm going to try for it," Judge said.

And he did. No one else did, but Judge did it four times, going 501, 504, 507 and 513 feet. He hit one off the roof and another one over Marlins Park's home run sculpture in left-center field. He went to left field and to right field. He hit line drives and spectacular towering shots.

He hit 47 home runs in all, totaling 3.9 miles according to MLB.com's Statcast. Do yourself a favor and click on the "staggered fast" option on Baseball Savant, which makes Judge's home runs look like a cool fireworks show.

He said he just wanted to put on a show for the fans. This was a show.

"Next year for the Derby, we're just going to have Aaron Judge try to beat himself," Teixeira said at one point. "We're going to have brackets where he's just going to play himself."

The official numbers will tell you Judge barely survived the first round, needing the extra 30 seconds he earned with two 440-foot homers to top the 22 home runs hit by Miami Marlins first baseman Justin Bour. It looked like a potential disaster for Major League Baseball and ESPN, which set this up as Judge vs. Giancarlo Stanton but had already lost Stanton to a first-round knockout by Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez.

Bour was popular with the Marlins fans in attendance, but it wouldn't have played well around the baseball world to have Stanton and Judge out early.

As it turned out, Stanton's exit hardly mattered because Judge could more than carry this show by himself.

He's done that all season with the Yankees, where his at-bats quickly became the one thing you never wanted to miss. His batting-practice shows are becoming legendary too, with tales of damage to a television set high above center field at Yankee Stadium and balls hit over the center field restaurant in Toronto.

"I watched him hit [batting practice home runs] in Oakland to places not even [Mark] McGwire and [Jose] Canseco used to go," one American League scout said a couple of weeks back.

Judge has taken center stage without making any enemies.
Judge has taken center stage without making any enemies.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In this season where home runs are dominating the game more than ever before, there have been suggestions that the number of homers could hurt interest in baseball. The ball needs to be in play more, some have said.

Overall, perhaps that's true. But nobody ever complains about watching Judge, not after any of his major league-leading 30 home runs and not after the show he put on Monday night in Miami.

He did everything right, no surprise to anyone who has watched him closely in New York. The big stage didn't bother him at all, also no surprise.

And when it came time to claim the trophy, he made sure Yankees batting practice pitcher Danilo Valiente got his hands on it too.

Judge handles all of this so well, which is a big reason you never hear a word of criticism from teammates, opponents or even grouchy fans.

The players see. The players know.

MLB handed Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner a microphone midway through Monday's Derby and asked him to interview some National League teammates on Facebook Live.

"If you were a superhero, who would you want to be?" Turner asked Bryce Harper.

"Probably Judge," Harper shot back.

This was his night. This is his year.

Right now, you'd have to say, this is his game.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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