Rob Issa, FISM News
Aaron Judge is focused on winning championships instead of individual accomplishments.
Fresh off hitting an American League record 62 home runs for the New York Yankees last season, the superstar outfielder talked about bigger goals after the team’s first full-squad workout of spring training.
“It bothers me, and I think it bothers the group as well,” Judge said about the Yankees’ failure to win a World Series since 2009. “Every year we don’t finish what we started, it wears on us in different ways. I think every failure pushes you towards that ultimate goal.”
The Yankees won the AL East in 2022, going 99-63. They beat the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Division Series but were swept by the eventual World Series winner Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series. Judge had just one hit in 16 at-bats against the Astros.
It was a disappointing finish to a historic season that ended with Judge being voted the American League MVP after breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL record of 61 homers. Judge nearly win the triple crown after leading the AL with 131 RBIs and finishing second with a .311 batting average. He was rewarded with a $360 million, nine-year contract in free agency.
“I’ve got some goals written down, but my individual stats always take care of themselves if I’m focused on the team out there,” Judge said. “The game tells you what you need to do. If I’m going up there thinking about trying to hit a homer or thinking about what my batting average is going to be, I’m probably going to walk away from that at-bat after three pitches. After everything that transpired last season, I’m going to still try to do what I did last year, which is take it one at-bat at a time and focus on helping this team win.”
Could he break his own home run record or challenge Barry Bonds’ single-season mark of 73?
“You never know,” Judge said. “I don’t really like putting a number on it. I just kind of like going out there and trying to control what I can control, but you never know what could happen. So, we’ll see about 62. “Last year was fun chasing history and having those moments. Every time we play in New York I feel like you’re chasing history. It’s never a cakewalk in the Bronx, that’s for sure. You have to embrace those challenges.”
Judge became the 16th captain in Yankees history and the first since Derek Jeter, who held that role until 2013.
“I’ll be doing what I’ve been doing the past six or seven years, try and lead by example,” Judge said. “Be a voice for this team on and off the field. Keep pushing this team to the ultimate goal of bringing a championship back to New York. That’s why I’m here,” Judge added. “It’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come back and wear pinstripes. Have a lot of unfinished business here. I’m looking forward to the new role but stuff doesn’t change for me.”
Judge, who turns 31 in April, has been bracing for his new leadership role.
“It’s just another year in his evolution as a leader,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s now accompanied with a title that means a lot to this organization, especially in a sport that doesn’t do it a lot. He’s always made it a point to reach out and make younger guys feel a part of this. I don’t think that’s necessarily anything drastic he’s doing, other than being himself.”
The Yankees will play their first spring game on Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies, who were the National League champions. The Phillies made one of the biggest additions in the offseason, signing all-star shortstop Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million contract.
Turner will help fill a major void in the lineup until Bryce Harper returns from elbow surgery.