Last summer, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge delighted baseball fans with an extraordinary Home Run Derby performance, launching 47 bombs on the way to a Derby crown. In watching the rookie spray line-drive homers to all fields round after round, it was easy to imagine his annual performance becoming a highlight of the baseball calendar for years to come.
Except, as it turns out, it won’t be. Because Aaron Judge apparently hates fun. Via ESPN:
After winning last year’s Home Run Derby in Miami, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is “leaning” toward not competing in the event again.
“One and done, Home Run Derby champion,” Judge told reporters Thursday morning. “It was a cool experience. I enjoyed it all, but I don’t think I really need to go out there and do it again.”
Judge was asked whether his post-All-Star slump was the reason for his apparent retirement from the Derby, which might have been a sensible explanation, but he said that wasn’t it:
“Not at all. That’s the least of my concerns,” Judge said. “I know everyone always talks about [how] the Derby will do that, but it didn’t have that effect on me.
“Derby wasn’t even that big of a toll, to be honest. It was just like taking BP. It wasn’t anything too taxing. I wasn’t trying to swing 110 percent. I was taking a normal 80-90 percent swing, just trying to make contact.”
So if it’s not fear of exhaustion, we’re left to assume that Judge simply wants to deprive us of an awesome viewing experience, one that could bring joy to diehards and casual fans alike. What a jerk.
Obviously we can’t actually fault Judge for bowing out of the Derby. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant have participated in the event only once apiece, and Mike Trout never has. Even Derby hero Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t do it every single year. Meanwhile, the Derby’s most analogous counterpart in another sport, the NBA Dunk Contest, annually features a field short on stars, with LeBron James having never once given it a try. Stars saying no is an expected element of these All-Star events.
In the end, Judge can’t be forced to participate in the Derby if he doesn’t want, and it’s hard to really blame him for preferring a night off, out of the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean his decision to sit out doesn’t suck for baseball fans everywhere.