Thursday, June 1, 2017


More and more each day, it looks like baseball fans everywhere rise for our Judge.

Photo: Newsday
When MLB released its first update of ballots cast for the 2017 All-Star Game on Wednesday, the Yankee's hard-hitting, soft-spoken rookie rightfielder had tallied 730,438 votes, the third-most ballots in the majors; trailing only two perennial All-Stars: Mike Trout -- the American League's top vote-getter -- by less than 50,000 votes, and  Bryce Harper, the ballot's overall leader.

With less than a month left for fans to get their ballots in and Judge's total more than twice that of his nearest competitor in the balloting, it looks like the big guy's  already a mortal lock for  starting All-Star recognition in his first full season in the show -- a season that could also add Rookie of the Year  and Most Valuable Player awards to his newly minted resume.

Photo: Newsday
The likelihoods of Judge nabbing the latter award and passing Trout as the top All-Star vote-getter were both significantly improved  last Sunday when the Angels centerfielder tore up his left thumb  on a head-first slide in Miami.

Trout underwent surgery Wednesday to repair tears in the ulnar collateral ligament and dorsal capsule of the thumb and is expected to be out of action for about two months.

The only other Yankee in serious contention for a spot in the starting All-Star lineup via the fan voting  is second baseman Starlin Castro, who had 516,268 votes and was clinging to a slim lead over the Stros' Jose Altuve at 515,732.

May 29, 2017 - Source: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America
Judge's initial reaction to the news of his lofty vote total --  unsurprisingly to most anyone following the self-effacing Judge's exploits by now --  was shock and dismay, according to's Randy Miller.

"Pretty surreal, to be honest," the 6-foot-7, 282-pounder said from his locker before the Yankees took batting practice for a game against the Baltimore Orioles. "Pretty crazy. I don't really have any words for it." Pressed for more reaction, Judge added, "I'm living the dream. I'm getting paid to play a kids' game, a game I've played since I was a little kid playing T-ball. I'm here with the New York Yankees, we're in first place and I enjoy every day I come to the ballpark."

Yankee fans enjoy every day you come to the ballpark too, Aaron, and apparently a lot of other baseball fans do as well -- when their teams aren't facing you, no doubt.

May 27, 2017 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America
As for that MVP award, Mike Mazzeo of the Daily News pointed out Wednesday: "Project Judge’s numbers out over a full season and you’d get 56 homers, 129 runs scored and a 1.112 OPS. Alex Rodriguez captured MVP as a Yankee in 2005 (48 HR, 124 R, 1.031 OPS) and 2007 (54 HR, 143 R, 1.067 OPS). And Judge has been equally impactful on defense, ranking second among all right fielders in defensive runs saved (six) behind only Boston’s Mookie Betts (nine), according to FanGraphs (entering Tuesday)."

“He’s in a league of his own right now,” teammate and mentor Matt Holliday said.

Predictably, Judge heads straight for his Crash Davis notebook of  interview cliches when any mention of the MVP topic is broached.

“I want to get a World Series ring first.  I’m not paid enough to worry about who’s getting MVP right now,” said Judge, who’s making $544,500 in 2017. “Just trying to take it one day at a time and just keep winning ballgames.”

Everyone loves Judge's laid back, humble ways. He's pitch perfect as the adorable gap-toothed big lug when he says things like making the league minimum relieves him of the burdensome worry over  who'll get the MVP.

But let's be realistic.  He may not worry about who gets it, but he wouldn't be human if he didn't think about it.

May 29, 2017 - Source: Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America
And if Judge launches his career on the backs of a league vote-topping All-Star appearance and MVP award (which would make Rookie of the Year a fait accompli), the Yankees may be forced to start looking hard at his puny salary and remaining five years of team control and say: "All Rise" a little sooner than they planned.

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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