CHICAGO — This was baseball’s version of a posterizing dunk, complete with a little glare as an exclamation. At 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, Aaron Judge was just the man to do it, too. And, of course, as he has done with everything else in his too-good-to-be-true rookie season, he hit just the perfect note in being subtle enough to not overdo it.
The White Sox fans in right field at Guaranteed Rate Field were serenading Judge all night with, “Air-ryn … Air-ryn … Air-ryn … you suck!”
Judge heard them loud and clear, keenly aware that the crowd was smaller than normal for a Yankees road game because of the rain all night. Judge said it was the fans’ right to razz him. They pay good money, so they can do what they want.
He is a 25-year-old rookie, but he has handled everything with the maturity of a 10-year veteran. He knew not to respond with words.
“Let your actions speak for themselves,” Judge said. “I don’t need to go out there and say anything to them and rile them up even more. I felt like if I turned around and said anything to them, it would’ve gotten worse. I just played my game.”
His game, of course, is better than any active player in baseball right now. So Judge uncorked a line-drive rocket of a two-run home run into the left-field seats in the sixth. After Judge rounded first, he looked right into the right-field stands at the hecklers — nothing too extreme, but one that appeared intentional. And it was.
“I did,” Judge said after the New York Yankees‘ 12-3 win over the White Sox. “I like having some fun with the fans. They were heckling me pretty good out there. I’m not going to say anything to them. I just gave them a little peek as I rounded the bases. I was just having some fun with them. They were kind of razzing me when I got back out there.”
The chants were not very accurate. We will probably find out that Judge has his faults, but not being good at baseball doesn’t appear to be one of them. He has reached base in 30 straight games, hitting .357 with 12 homers, 32 RBIs and 26 walks. It is the longest streak since Derek Jeter went 34 games in 2012 and, of course, Jeter didn’t have Judge’s power.
Judge does seem to have Jeter’s calm, as he doesn’t look impacted by anything, almost as if he has an invisible skin that deflects all distractions. In the first, Carlos Rodon nearly hit Judge in the head with a 94-mph fastball that Judge just shook off like it was no big thing.
What Judge never stops doing — also like Jeter — is praising his teammates, and there are more young, possibly very good ones who just arrived, with others potentially around the corner.
The latest on Wednesday were Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade. Andujar became the first Yankee ever to debut with three hits and four RBIs. He began the scoring with a two-run single in the first and ended it with a two-run double in the ninth.
“That was incredible,” Judge said. “First MLB at-bat, he is coming up with the bases loaded, he acted like a veteran there. He acted like he’s been there before.”
The 22-year-old, free-swinging, right-handed hitting Andujar grew up idolizing Alex Rodriguez and earned A-Rod’s praise this spring. Andujar, who is up to replace the ill DH Matt Holliday, has already earned himself some more at-bats.
“What an amazing day,” Andujar said. “I’m never going to forget this day.”
Meanwhile, Wade received his first start in the majors, too. He nailed an RBI double in the sixth.
The Baby Bombers just keep on performing. On Thursday, first baseman Tyler Austin could be headed to the DL and manager Joe Girardi made it seem like another top prospect, Dustin Fowler, could be on his way up. Fowler is a 22-year-old, like Andujar and Wade. Fowler is a left-handed hitting outfielder with 12 homers in 69 Triple-A games.
They will all try to join Judge in making a good first impression. Judge, as the captain of the ship — and perhaps the future captain of the Yankees — decided Wednesday to put some hecklers in their place.
“Just smiling, having a good time,” Judge said. “It is fun to play this game. Someone razzes you a little bit, just having fun. It was all good.”
The Yankees have been struggling of late, but, if you needed more evidence that their youth movement is working, you got it again on Wednesday.