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Aaron Judge Is What Happens When You Let Paul Bunyan Play Baseball

The 2017 Home Run Derby confirmed what we already knew: Judge is the king of dingers

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Aaron Judge is 7 feet, 4 inches tall and 372 pounds. He was born to a lighthouse keeper and a fisherman and grew up carrying small boulders up hills to build character and find additional sources of fiber. It was he who, while on vacation, noticed a leak in a Dutch dam and kept his finger in it until the villagers could come repair the hole. Everyone he has ever met in his life is, by strict anatomical comparison, a leprechaun. The first baseball bat he ever swung was a cedar sapling, which had died of natural causes because Aaron Judge, who weighs 416 pounds and has a body mass index of 2.7, would never hurt a tree. He is now 8 feet, 9 inches tall.

Here is a message I sent to my colleagues at 8:01 post meridiem on the East Coast, a few dozen seconds after Pitbull & the Sparkle Butts cleared the stage/mound for the 2017 Home Run Derby to begin: “So everyone is just pretending to entertain non-Judge winners, right?” I do not share this with you to boast of my correctness but so that you, if you are someone who entertained a future in which Aaron James Judge, upon being presented with a series of meatballs courtesy of Yankees batting practice pitcher and probably very sore human being Danilo Valiente, would hit fewer home runs than his fellow professional baseball players, can come forward and admit that it was all a nice joke. Those other seven boys: They had heart. They are good at their jobs. They are nice and lovely individuals. They also were never going to hit more home runs than Aaron Judge, which they seemed basically to know. Dodgers rookie phenom Cody Bellinger, fresh from an impressive 12-dinger semifinal session, was asked by the ESPN broadcasting team how he felt about his odds against the Yankees outfielder, who, by point of fact, is merely 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds in reality. Bellinger’s response: “Negative-12.”

Now that we all have risen, like so many Miami maintenance workers will Tuesday morning to inspect the structural integrity of Marlins Park’s windows and excited-fish sculpture, it’s time to give out awards to the evening’s other winners.

Most Hand

I did not know that I needed to see what a baseball would look like in the hand of professional Twitter troll and occasional Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid. I was wrong:


Here is a number: 504. Here is another number: 513. Those are the distances, in feet, that consecutive baseballs hit/massacred by Aaron Judge traveled. Aaron Judge plays baseball like a kid making stuff up about a video game performance. This is what Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances, whose job duties include “do not let people hit home runs,” did after the 513-footer.

Did I yell YASSSSS KWEEN at my television? Is Betances yelling YASSSSS KWEEN here? Did my cat, who by this point in the derby was aware that there was something at least as interesting as a bird inside of the box her humans were staring at, also think the feline equivalent of YASSSSS KWEEN?

I don’t know. Here is what I do know: 513 feet is longer than 1.5 football fields. FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN FEET.

Riggedest, Corruptest, Wonderfullest, Futurest of Baseballest Succession of Events

Baseball, you might have heard, is in some trouble. The youths of America do not watch it, nor do all that many people outside of the elderly white man demographic. This is bad.

A few years ago, Major League Baseball finally figured out that the Home Run Derby, which should always have been a — ba dum tss — home run for national baseball excitement, was mostly not exciting. So the league tweaked the format in 2015, principally by instituting timers and competitive elimination brackets.

Three years into the experiment, it’s a clear success. I would describe the dramatic, entertainment, and competitive aspects of Monday’s competition as a collective 30 out of 30 on the “dope as hell” scale. Sure, I and many other mere mortals expected the eventual Judge-fest, a.k.a. Judgeageddon, a.k.a. the Judgment, a.k.a. 99 Problems and All of Them Are Aaron Judge, to come about in the end. But the bracket format was, frankly, a delight: Each and every round featured a tense head-to-head that would be won by a single-dinger margin. Everyone was perpetually on the brink, and also obviously giddy. It was joyous and intense and a spectacular showcase of some of baseball’s best players doing baseball’s most obvious best thing. It was great.

But, well, that delightful result took some manipulation. It is reasonable to think that MLB was, much like the buoyant Miami home crowd, at least a little bit interested in the success of Marlins right fielder and defending derby champ Giancarlo Stanton. So when, tasked with topping Gary Sánchez’s opening bid of 17 home runs, Stanton’s pitcher began to ignore the requirement that he wait for his last ball to land before firing off the next one, nobody intervened. He cheated, in short, and was allowed to cheat, so obviously that even the broadcasting team began to ask why it was being permitted.

It was terrific TV. Also terrific TV: Sluggers earning 30 seconds of bonus dinger time by reaching the pointedly dubious mark of two 440-plus-foot home runs in a session. Hey, Earl, that look like four-forty to you? Yeah, Bill, 443 at least!

Did MLB do some rounding up here for drama’s sake? Maybe not. Would the league have held back Stanton if he had managed to best Sánchez’s mark, instead of falling one home run short? Perhaps. Would MLB have fudged things however it could had things started to go south for Judge, the fairly unambiguous front-runner for Future of Baseball? Maybe. I don’t know. Judge winning and Stanton almost contending was terrific TV. Baseball sure would like to make terrific TV more often.

Best Use of a Baseball Bat

Charlie Blackmon hit 14 home runs on Monday night. None of those were even close to being his most inspired use of a bat this evening:

Best, Biggest, Tater-Mashing Man

Aaron Judge, the 2017–2024 Home Run Derby Champ.