by Paul Semendinger
November 20, 2022
NOTE - This article appeared in the IBWAA Newsletter, "Here's The Pitch" on November 18, 2022.
Many pundits are stating that Aaron Judge needs to re-sign with the Yankees to secure his Yankees legacy. While I understand that idea, and the sentiment behind that line of thinking, I also believe that idea is absolutely wrong.
Aaron Judge has already secured his Yankees legacy.
No matter what happens with his free agency, Aaron Judge will one day find himself in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. He has already earned that honor. Where he plays from 2023 going forward has nothing to do with what he has already accomplished. Aaron Judge's Yankees legacy is already firmly established.
Currently, according to Baseball Reference, Aaron Judge is 24th all-time on the all-time Yankees list in WAR (37.0). Judge sits above players already enshrined in Monument Park, such as Paul O'Neill (26.7) and Roger Maris (26.3).
Interestingly, O'Neill and Maris were also right fielders known for excellent defense and strong throwing arms, along with their excellent batting skills. Maris, of course, is the only other player in American League history to exceed Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in a single season. In this, he and Aaron Judge share a huge similarity.
Should Aaron Judge depart as a free agent, he and Maris would have something else in common as well: they would both have left the Yankees and finished their career somewhere else. (Maris, of course, went to the St. Louis Cardinals where he played for the final two years of his career, helping the Cardinals reach two World Series.)
Maris' tenure with the Yankees did not end in glory, yet, in 1983, the Yankees honored him, primarily for his great 61-home run season (and his two MVP awards) by enshrining him in Monument Park. For the Yankees, it made too much sense to bring Maris back and give him his due.
I have no doubt that wherever he goes, the day will come when Aaron Judge is honored again in Yankee Stadium. Teams almost always welcome back their former stars, and for the Yankees and Judge, even if that happens after his playing days are over, a reunion will make far too much sense both for the team's and the player's legacy. Both the Yankees and Aaron Judge will reap rewards, financial and otherwise, one day by reuniting with a special day at Yankee Stadium that would include Monument Park honors.
I also wouldn't be surprised if Aaron Judge would even get his number retired. Aaron Judge has played in seven seasons as a Yankee. Reggie Jackson's number is retired and he was a Yankee for only five seasons. He also was a right-fielder who left the Yankees and played for other teams.
Now, should Aaron Judge stay with the Yankees, and should his career last just another eight years, and if those years are even somewhat productive, Aaron Judge will end his career among the greatest Yankees of all time. He will be among the greatest of the greats.
Assuming Aaron Judge averages just 4 WAR over the next eight seasons (Judge, for his career, typically averages between 5 and 6 WAR, and in 2022, he accumulated an amazing 10.6 WAR), he would end with 69 WAR and in sixth place all-time on the all-time Yankees list.
He'd sit behind only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Derek Jeter on that list of greats. Give Judge just another 2.4 WAR, in total, over eight years, and he'd pass Jeter and jump into the top five Yankees of all time.
And, of course, it's not just WAR. Already, Judge, with 220 home runs, is 12th on the Yankees' all-time list. If he stays with the Yankees, it's reasonable to assume that in 2023 alone, he'll pass Graig Nettles and move into 10th place.
But, even he averages only 20 home runs over an eight-year contract, Aaron Judge would end with 380 home runs in pinstripes. That total would put Judge in fourth place overall behind only Ruth, Mantle, and Gehrig. In fact, Judge would surpass even Gehrig if he averages slightly over 34 home runs over the next eight years. That also seems extremely possible.
Aaron Judge will be the talk of baseball this winter. He will be offered some huge contracts to play and continue his impressive career to date. If he continues with the Yankees, Aaron Judge has the chance to be an inner-circle great, but even if he leaves to play for another team, Aaron Judge's Yankees legacy is on a solid foundation.
No matter what happens, look for Judge to be enshrined in Monument Park one day in the not too distant future.
Dr. Paul Semendinger is a retired school principal and an active college professor. Paul just finished collaborating with Yankees great Roy White (who also belongs in Monument Park) on his autobiography: From Compton to the Bronx. This book will come out, from Artemesia Publishing, in April 2023. Paul recently completed his 23rd marathon in New York City. He'll be running his next big race in Pittsburgh in May 2023.