Aaron Judge often draws comparisons to Derek Jeter. Some of the comparisons are accurate; others, not so much.
But six-plus years into Judge’s big-league career, the pair are strikingly similar in this regard: Jeter was not ejected even once during his 20 years in the majors and never really came close. Judge seems on the same trajectory.
“I don’t know if I’ll be getting tossed anytime soon,” he said with a smile after Friday night’s 5-4 loss in 11 innings to Boston (he also was smiling after hitting his 32nd homer in the fifth inning and his 33rd in the sixth to give the Yankees a 10-1 lead over the Red Sox on Saturday night).
The 6-7 Judge has been consistently victimized by strike calls on pitches below the zone, far more than any other player in the sport (including one in the second inning Saturday night).
But outbursts at the offending umpire, a part of just about every star player’s career at some point, have been noticeably absent. Which is something, as Judge indicated, that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, if ever.
“I don’t see how that benefits anybody,” he said of snapping and potentially getting ejected. “I’m out of the game if I get thrown out there. One at-bat isn’t going to dictate anything. Every time I step up to the plate, I can change the game. So I’m going to speak my mind, always, let them know how I feel and let them know that they missed that call, and then it’s time to move on. The game’s too important — the next at-bat, the next pitch for the guy behind me is too important for me to sit up there and talk about me, me, me. My call and this and that.”
Aaron Boone, who was ejected Friday night for reacting to a strike call on Matt Carpenter, has been particularly vociferous about this issue in recent weeks, to no avail. What can he do about it? “I don’t know,’’ he said. “ I get asked a lot . . . I don’t know what to tell you guys on this. I mean, we’ve talked to the league. I answer this question every so often. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Much like Jeter, Judge does speak his piece on occasion, but he does so in an understated manner. After a disputed pitch, that usually takes the form of looking down at the ground rather than at the plate umpire and, as he perhaps moves some dirt around with his bat, saying what he needs to say.
Judge, who will head to Los Angeles on Sunday night for his fifth All-Star Game, has been victimized by low strike calls almost from the time he made his MLB debut in August 2016.
Blowing up at umpires — or showing them up — has never been a part of his M.O., whether it be in the majors, the minors or his college days at Fresno State.
“My college coach [Mike Batesole] told me, you’re not an umpire, you’re a hitter,’’ Judge said. “So focus on hitting and don’t complain about calls.”
In an interview relating to the same topic in 2018, Judge also referenced Batesole.
“They [umpires] have a job to do and I’ve got a job to do,” he said. “It’s something [Batesole] told me: ‘You’re not here to umpire, you’re not an umpire, so don’t sit here and try to call balls and strikes in your head. You’re up there to hit. You’ve got one job to do, hit. So do that.’ That’s always been my philosophy.”
Judge, in a 9-for-49 (.184) skid going into Saturday but still hitting .274 with a .950 OPS and an MLB-leading 31 homers, also gave his philosophy on a given at-bat in that same interview.
“That’s why you get three of them,” he said of strikes. “Say you get one that you don’t think is a strike and they call it on you, that’s why you get two more. That’s what always makes me laugh. Some guys, first pitch of the at-bat gets called a strike, maybe it’s a ball off or below their knees and it gets called a strike, and then the next two pitches they swing at balls in the dirt, and all of a sudden they’re yelling at the umpire about that first pitch. You just swung at two balls in the dirt, buddy.”