Aaron Judge has some competition in “the next Derek Jeter’’ category. Didi Gregorius is gaining ground.
The Jeter lore seemed safely intact until Judge and Gregorius came on the scene and made an early splash. To be sure, Jeter seems untouchable, with a mountain of Hall of Fame statistics and, foremost, five World Series rings and a phone call away from the Hall of Fame.
But the performances of Judge and Gregorius in the 8-4 AL wild-card victory over the Twins on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium give both some equity in the clutch department.
Gregorius hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the first inning. Later, Judge hit his first postseason homer.
There are big differences between Jeter and the two young Yankees in their games and personalities. Judge obviously has more power, but so does Gregorius as evidenced by his 25 regular-season home runs, a franchise record for shortstops.
Gregorius, and to an extent Judge, are way more gregarious than Jeter. Both have Twitter accounts. Jeter never took the 140-character route. And Jeter probably wouldn’t have appeared on Ronald Torreyes’ dugout “Toe-night Show” either. It was enough for Jeter to do a real interview, much less a phantom one.
Jeter had the signature sing-song “De-rek Je-ter” chant in the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call. Gregorius is the one-name-says it-all and more upbeat “Di-di! Di-di!’’
Neither Judge nor Gregorius is ready to buy the Jeter comparison. Both are reverential to the former Yankee captain. It’s been speculated that the Yankees will never have another captain, but no one has said they couldn’t have co-captains.
Gregorius was among the last Yankees still giving interviews long after the wild-card celebration ended. He’s grown used to the question about the Jeter comparison.
He hasn’t bought into it yet.
“I can’t control what comes out of people’s mouths, all I can do is be Didi Gregorius go out there and play the game. That’s all I can do,” he said.
“I know Jeter played a lot of postseason games. I’m just a guy that came after him to play the game. I try to help my team. I think it’s just a team chemistry. If everybody is united that’s what’s really important. It’s not just being one guy playing the game. Everybody’s amazing, everybody’s together, everybody’s pushing each other in the right direction. That’s what you want from everybody, from top to bottom.’’