If you’re a San Francisco Giants fan, you may be in need of some alternate baseball to be watching these days. I don’t blame you, and your secret is safe with me.
I certainly need some alternate baseball to watch.
This is emphatically a good thing for baseball fans.
It’s fitting that Judge is returning today, one day after the NBA Draft. The Yankees slugger could have thrown on a fresh suit, headed across town to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and marched up on stage to hug NBA commissioner Adam Silver and no one would’ve blinked an eye. He absolutely looks like an NBA lottery pick.
It makes Judge a rare specimen in baseball. Baseball players are tremendous athletes - all professional athletes are. But they’re usually not tremendous athletes in the way that most of associate the word. They have amazing reflexes and hand-eye coordination. They’ve mastered muscle memory and finely-tuned motions. But they’re rarely athletic in the way we think of when we watch basketball, football, or soccer.
Judge is. I have little doubt that, if he had put his heart into it, Judge could’ve been a star small forward, an All-Pro edge rusher, a ridiculously great soccer goalie, or a Wimbledon winner.
Instead, he’s mashing baseballs so far over fences that they need to create new park dimensions. And I’m here for it.
Judge is still trying to get everything back to where it started, when he knocked in a stunning 52 home runs as a rookie in 2017. He followed it up with a strong sophomore campaign - .919 OPS, All-Star selection, etc., - but with only 27 home runs, it didn’t feel quite the same.
Through 20 games in 2019, he’s hitting .288/.404/.521, with five dingers. Star numbers, but not superstar numbers.
His hopeful path back towards MVP consideration begins tonight. And it’s worth watching.