Imagine you’re a young actor and someone compares you to Robert DeNiro. Or a young guitar player and someone compares you to Eric Clapton.
Or a young Yankee and someone compares you to Derek Jeter.
That’s what Joe Girardi did Monday afternoon when he was asked if rookie Aaron Judge reminds him of anyone “in the way he handles himself.”
Girardi paused. Was he doing the mental calculus that comes with saying Judge reminds him of the revered former captain?
The 6-7, 282-pound Judge has broad shoulders. But being mentioned in the same breath as Jeter . . .
Girardi went for it.
“He’s a little bit like Derek to me,” the manager said. “He’s got a smile all the time. He loves to play the game. You always think that he is going to do the right thing on the field and off the field. When you look at him, he’s got a presence about him. He plays the game to win all the time, and that’s the most important thing. It is not about what you did that day. And I understand that’s a big comparison, but I remember Derek when he was young. He grew into that leadership role, but that was Derek.”
After going 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the Yankees’ 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays, Judge is hitting .300 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs. He has been a sensation in his second taste of big-league life after looking overmatched last year. Talk about Judge’s moon shots have been all the rage as the Yankees finished April 15-8.
But Girardi wasn’t asked about what kind of player Judge is or may grow to be — well, not grow, because he can’t have more growing to do. Girardi was asked about Judge as a person.
Judge wasn’t buying it.
“There’s only one Derek Jeter,” he said. “It’s a great compliment. An honor to be in the same sentence. Just trying to go out there and be the best Aaron Judge I can be.”
Being compared to Jeter is sort of the gold standard when it comes to how you carry yourself. Turns out it’s not such a rare thing to hear. Sometimes it seems apt. Sometimes it seems, well, a little weird.
Former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, now with the Mets, in 2015 compared veteran Michael Cuddyer to Jeter.
“He reminds me of Jeet in a lot of ways,” Long said. “His demeanor, his mentality. He’s a gamer. He brings it every day.”
Long also has compared Yoenis Cespedes to Jeter because of the way the Mets slugger thrives in New York.
This spring training, Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis — a former Jeter teammate — said Boston’s Mookie Betts reminds him of you-know-who.
“Just everything about them,” Davis said. “The way Mookie kids around. How serious he is about his game. That’s how Jeter was. Jeter would come in and give everybody [/DROPCAP][expletive]. But when they went out to play, it was all business.”
In 2012, Didi Gregorius caught the eye of then-Arizona general manager Kevin Towers, who acquired the shortstop from the Reds.
“When I saw him, he reminded me of a young Derek Jeter,” Towers said.
Three months after Towers was fired, Arizona traded Gregorius to the Yankees to replace Jeter at short.
Actually, this comparing thing has been going on for ages. After Jeter won his first World Series in 1996, another Yankees legend was asked what he thought of the shortstop.
“I like what I see of this kid Jeter,” Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio said. “He reminds me of Phil Rizzuto.”
Aaron Judge played in the 50th game of his MLB career Monday night. Comparing his stats with Derek Jeter’s at that same point:
JUDGE (2016-17) JETER (1995-96)
164 At-bats 112
39 Hits 30
33 Runs 16
4 Doubles 4
1 Triples 2
14 HRs 1
31 RBIs 17
.238 Avg. .268
22 Walks 15
67 Strikeouts 26