PHOENIX — The Yankees have been sitting at home for nearly a month, spectators again in October, but Aaron Judge showed up Monday at the World Series.
Judge’s ticket to the Fall Classic was winning the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s highest honor, meant to recognize a player’s character and philanthropic efforts. Looking ahead, however, Judge’s next greatest challenge is getting the Yankees back to the World Series for the first time since 2009, and the team’s captain already has chatted up owner Hal Steinbrenner about offseason changes.
Judge said he spoke with Steinbrenner on Sunday and plans to do so again in person when he returns to New York. There apparently has been dialogue between the two since the season ended, just as Judge pledged there would be after Game No. 162, and he suggested some changes are brewing.
“I think they’re working on that,” Judge said before Monday’s Game 3 at Chase Field. “It’s a tough time, especially with the World Series going on. I think once we kind of get past this and it’s really the offseason, I think that’s when we’ll start seeing some bigger moves.
“We’ve still got a lot of time, but I know they’re busy working, literally from a couple days after our season ended. They had a lot of meetings down there in Tampa, so they’re working hard, and I’m looking forward to getting some updates about what’s going on.”
Judge wouldn’t provide any specifics about his conversations with Steinbrenner, or even a general theme, preferring to keep the details “in-house.” On the season’s final day, however, Judge singled out the team’s analytics department as an area of concern, so expect that to be targeted in the Yankees’ renovations.
Though general manager Brian Cashman has yet to publicly address the media since the 82-win season came to a close, the expectation is that he and manager Aaron Boone will return for 2024. Cashman signed a new five-year contract reportedly worth more than $25 million last winter, and given his longtime relationship with Steinbrenner, he was never really thought to be in jeopardy. Boone is heading into the final season of his contract, but Cashman repeatedly has deflected the blame away from his manager, and Judge also has been a vocal supporter.
Steinbrenner has been clear about valuing Judge’s input. The owner was the one who closed the deal on Judge’s record nine-year, $360 million contract last December, anointing him as the Yankees’ first captain since Derek Jeter retired in 2014. Based on Judge’s discussions with Steinbrenner, he believes there will be meaningful changes to the team’s operations.
“Yeah,” Judge said. “You know, changes could mean a lot of different things. From philosophies, players, coaches, everything. We haven’t made it to the big dance in quite a few years, so we got some work to do, even on the player side. So looking forward to hopefully getting us back to the promised land with some good moves.”
Steinbrenner said earlier this month that the Yankees’ organizational meetings in Tampa got “heated at times,” adding that those discussions could produce “some constructive things.” He also considered Judge’s counsel beneficial in trying to fix the issues that kept the Yankees out of the playoffs for only the fifth time during Cashman’s 25-year reign as GM.
“To have a captain that I can really talk to that is a true leader of the team and respected by young players, veterans, everybody, it’s a benefit, because you have to get their perspective,” Steinbrenner said recently. “It’s good to have that sounding board. Gerrit Cole, same thing.”
The respect for Judge grew well beyond the field with Monday’s presentation of the Clemente Award. He’s the fourth Yankee to earn the honor, following Ron Guidry, Don Baylor and Jeter. Along with Clemente’s inspiring humanitarian efforts, Judge mentioned how much he admired him as a fellow rightfielder.
“The 3,000 hits is impressive,” Judge said. “The batting average, the home run numbers, but honestly, I’m jealous of the Gold Gloves .
“You see all the highlights, the ball getting hit down in the rightfield corner and him throwing it all the way home on the line. I feel like he was a standard for what it meant to be an All-Star outfielder.
“He set the standard for what it was to be a complete player. And that’s something I try to model my game after, trying to be a complete player offensively and defensively. I don’t know if I’ll catch a record for the amount of Gold Gloves he has, but hopefully he’ll be on my mind if that day ever comes.”