You will not be at the concession stand when Aaron Judge steps into the batter's box. You will not channel surf when he's scheduled up. You see it already in batting practice when opponents stop and watch just to see if he's really THAT strong.There's an aura around players like
You will not be at the concession stand when Aaron Judge steps into the batter's box. You will not channel surf when he's scheduled up. You see it already in batting practice when opponents stop and watch just to see if he's really THAT strong.
There's an aura around players like Judge. They create that for an entire team as well. On Sunday, Judge hit two more home runs -- his 20th and 21st, tops in the Majors -- as the Yankees defeated the Orioles, 14-3, to finish a three-game weekend sweep.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Judge and other #ASGWorthy players
There are home runs, and there are the home runs that you do not forget. Reggie hit those. Mickey hit those. Statcast™ tracked Judge's sixth-inning home run on Sunday at 495 feet, the longest in the Majors this season.
"I've never see anything like that," Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez said.
Wait, it gets better: Statcast™ clocked that ball at 118.6 mph, making Judge the only player in baseball this season with three home runs with an exit velocity of at least 117 mph.
Players who can change games -- and franchises -- as quickly as Judge make the players better up and down the batting order. He's the face of these new Yanks and leads the American League in all three Triple Crown columns: .344 batting average, 21 home runs, 47 RBIs.
"Everything that he does, it's just not a power bat," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is a complete player, and we're reaping the benefits of it."
Afterward, Judge wanted to talk about the bigger picture -- what his home runs have meant for the first-place Yankees. Speaking of that, the Yanks outscored the Orioles, 38-8, in the three games.
"I'm really in a good position here, surrounded by a lot of good players, young and old," Judge said. "They're just putting me in a good spot."
The Yankees hit 12 home runs in the three games against the O's, including three apiece by Judge and Starlin Castro. Their weekend slugging percentage was .836. At 37-23, they're leading the AL East by 3 1/2 games.
This division race may ultimately come down to Red Sox vs. Yankees. At the moment, though, no AL East team is better than the Yanks. They lead the Majors in runs and home runs. Their 3.60 staff ERA is the best in the AL.
The Yankees are young. They are talented. They are confident, too. That's growing day by day. If this was a statement weekend, it was an emphatic one.
Funny thing is, it wasn't supposed to happen this quickly. Sure, general manager Brian Cashman said he was trying to balance two very different things: keeping the Yankees competitive while rebuilding around young players.
This is what Cashman has done: He has built one of the best farm systems in baseball while also delivering one of the best Major League teams. Girardi -- who doesn't get enough credit for guiding the ship through this transition -- started five players 27 or younger on Sunday.
Among them: 25-year-old Judge, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2013 and will be the biggest attraction at this year's All-Star Game, and 24-year-old Sanchez.
They are the new cornerstones. As great as Judge has been -- 1.168 OPS -- Sanchez is also establishing himself as a star. He hit his 10th home run of the season on Sunday and is the fourth player in history to hit 30 home runs in his first 90 games.
No one was quite certain what to make of the Yankees on Opening Day. Their waves of young talent made for a bright future, but there were doubts about how good they'd be in 2017.
If you're looking for reasons to believe they're the real deal, those are easy to find.
Let's check out five:
1. Go through any of the great Yankees teams of past years, and you'll find iconic names. That is, players who did things that created indelible memories. There's a magic around Judge, and in a magical season, a larger-than-life player feels like a requirement. He has been that good this season.
- The Yankees have a plus-59 run differential in June (85-26) and have hit 15 home runs in the past four games. That means the Yanks are more than just good. They're wildly entertaining. In the end, this matters, too, especially in New York. That offense is a reflection of a deep lineup, and of a blend that includes recent Cashman acquisitions like Aaron Hicks and Castro along with holdovers like Brett Gardner, Carsten Sabathia, etc.
- The bullpen is championship-caliber. Yankees relievers have a 2.69 ERA this month and haven't had their closer, Albertin Chapman. He's nearing a return from the disabled list, which would give the Yanks two relievers with overpowering closer stuff -- Chapman and Dellin Betances.
- Was the rotation good enough? That was the largest question, the one that made the Red Sox the consensus favorites in the AL East. Sabathia is continuing a career renaissance (7-2, 3.66 ERA) while Michael Pineda (7-3, 3.39) is miles better than the past two seasons. Meanwhile, youngsters Luis Severino (5-2, 2.75) and Jordan Montgomery (4-4, 3.55) have transformed a potential trouble spot into a strength.
- This season was supposed to be about working the young players into the mix and giving them a chance to adjust while also contributing to winning. What the Yankees could not have guessed is the contributions they'd get from Gardner, Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury (now on the DL). They've been more than mentors. They've helped with winning at various times and in various ways.
All in all, it's everything Cashman and Girardi could have hoped for. Let's admit it: Baseball is better when the Yankees are competitive, and baseball is way better when the Yanks are interesting.
And when they have the most interesting player in the game.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.