Here Comes the Judge! Aaron Rises to Top of Home Run Derby
All Rise! Aaron Judge is the new Home Run Derby Champion. He won it in his first appearance, and did so in the home of the two-time defending champion, Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton came in as the guy to beat, but he was upset in the opening round by another New York Yankee rookie standout, catcher Gary Sanchez.
Although Stanton failed to advance, he put on quite a show for the Marlins fans in his home park. He hit eight bombs over 480 feet. Twelve came off the bat at over 115 MPH.
Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sano took out Mike Moustakis of the Royals in the first round as well, then took Sanchez out in the second round to advance to the finals.
Judge beat another hometown favorite, Justin Bour, in the first round. Bour put up a high number in his first round match-up with Judge. But Aaron was equal to the task, hitting 23 bombs. One of them was clocked at 117 MPH and went 501 feet. It was the longest home run since Statcast began measuring them.
Another rookie sensation, Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers, beat Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies in the other first round match. Bellinger, who started the season in the minor leagues, was down 14-10 in the final minute, but got in the groove and won his first round match-up over Blackmon on a 446 foot drive in the final seconds.
With Bellinger and Judge going head to head in the semifinals, we witnessed what might be a great rivalry for years to come. If not always in the Derby, these two appear to be locks for appearances in All-Star Games and World Series matchups for years to come. Judge struck the first blow in this budding rivalry when he beat Bellinger 13-12 to advance to the championship round against Sano.
Against Bellinger, Judge hit two bombs over 500 feet. He still had over a minute left when he surpassed Bellinger and also had over a minute to go when he took down Sano to win the title. It was as impressive as any display of power in Home Run Derby history.
It will be interesting to see if this Derby and Judge's historic performance will entice more of the game's great sluggers such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman, Yoenis Cespedes and Nolan Arenado to get in next year. Perhaps the field will need to be enlarged to 16 next season?
What else will this year's Home Run Derby mean in the future? This will perhaps be looked back upon in the same light as the year Michael Jordan won the Slam Dunk Contest in the NBA. When Judge, Sanchez and Bellinger are all inducted into the Hall of Fame someday, the 2017 Home Run Derby will be talked about as where it all began.
Maybe we will get to see a Yankees vs Dodgers World Series this fall. That would be well worth watching just to see how many long balls these young sluggers will hit.