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  • Tim Kabel

This is the Captain Speaking

About the Off-Season: This is the Captain Speaking.

by Tim Kabel

December 22, 2022


Yesterday, the Yankees held a press conference to officially announce the re-signing of Aaron Judge to his nine-year, $360 million contract. They also announced that he was named team captain. The last team captain was a fellow named Derek Jeter. Perhaps you have heard of him? Derek Jeter was in attendance yesterday, as was Willie Randolph, who was also team captain at one point.

Aaron Judge is the 16th captain in Yankees’ history. Most people, including players, media representatives, and fans thought it was inevitable that if Judge re-signed with the Yankees, he would be named captain. It makes sense. Judge is cut from the same cloth as Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Graig Nettles, and Thurman Munson. The last captain before Munson was Lou Gehrig. He was pretty good too. Of course, Wee Willie Keeler was also captain. My friend Roger has his autograph. Unfortunately, Roger attempted to tell Mr. Keeler that he spelled “we” incorrectly. Babe Ruth was also captain but that lasted five days. He was stripped of his captaincy after climbing into the stands to confront a heckler.

Being the captain of a Major League Baseball team is a completely honorary title. It does not really equip the bearer of the title with any special authority or powers. Aaron Judge cannot perform a marriage ceremony. He cannot lead the team in search of Moby Dick. Although he seems to like Hawaii, he is not the next Captain Cook.

Being named captain of the New York Yankees recognizes the talent, leadership ability, and dedication of an individual. Each of the men mentioned above was already a team leader before they were named captain. Being named captain just made it formal and official.

Did the Yankees really need a captain? No, they did not. However, if they were going to have one, there was no other candidate than Aaron Judge. Many of his teammates suggested that he be given that role. It fits. Just as most of us believed Judge would return to the Yankees, most of us believed he would be named team captain.

Judge treated his captaincy as the honor it is. He clearly wanted to be a Yankee. He turned down the same contract to play in San Francisco and a larger one to play in San Diego. He has tremendous respect for the franchise, its players, and its fans. He stated that he has unfinished business and wants to win a World Series as a Yankee. Most likely, he will finish his career in pinstripes. I believe he will be the only Yankee player ever to wear the number 99. It will probably be retired, and he will most likely have a plaque in Monument Park. Barring injury, he stands a good chance of following Jeter as the next Yankees’ captain in the Hall of Fame.

The Aaron Judge free agency saga ended perfectly for Yankees’ fans. Judge returned. There were no bitter feelings. He was named team captain. At one point, Hal Steinbrenner suggested he never considered Judge a free agent. He considered him a Yankee the whole time. I like that approach.

Now that Aaron Judge is officially a Yankee for the next nine years and is the team captain, we can get down to the really important question:

Is it who will play left field? No.

Is it can the Yankees rid themselves of the contract and presence of Josh Donaldson? No.

Is it will they work their prospects into the starting lineup next year? No.

It is a much more important question than that. It is a question that is causing at least one person to toss and turn endlessly throughout the night.

Will John Sterling alter his home run call for Aaron Judge to reflect the fact that he is captain? I think the answer to that is a resounding yes. He did it for Jeter. Sterling has a gift for attaching himself to any moment in Yankees’ history. Sometimes, he tries to make the moment more about him than about the team or an individual player. That's just who he is. I don't think he can help himself. He most certainly would not let a moment like this pass him by. Who knows how many more moments he's going to have in his career?

So, if we accept it as a fait accompli that John Sterling will change his home run call to reflect the captaincy of Aaron Judge, what will it be? It is a cold winter night just before Christmas. It's the perfect time to think about something as trivial and fun as this. So, let's get to it

“El Capitan” is out. That belonged to Jeter and Sterling would be roundly criticized if he recycled it.

Here are some options:

  • “The Captain Has Spoken. Prepare for Take-Off"

  • “He’s Captain America”

  • “He’s a Captain of Industry”

  • “All the Time.” From the 1958 Broadway Play Oh, Captain, starring Tony Randall and Edward Platt, the Chief from Get Smart. The play lasted about as long as Babe Ruth did as captain. It is so obscure that it’s perfect for John.

  • “Captain Crunch”

  • “Captain Kangaroo Made That One Hop”

  • “Captain Hooked That One Out of Here.”

  • “Love Will Keep Us Together. The Captain Really Hit That One, Didn't He, Tenille?

Ultimately, my friend Brian and I agree that the most likely phrase we'll be hearing John shout when Judge hits a home run is:

  • “Oh Captain, My Captain. Here Comes the Judge.”

I imagine that he will even leap up onto his desk or podium much like the students in The Dead Poets’ Society. Suzyn Waldman will be forced to grab him by his ankles so he doesn't plunge headfirst into the crowd below.

Just wait, it will happen. If you're happy that Judge is back now, wait until you see that moment of great theater.

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