The Yankees have only played two games this season, but Aaron Judge is already concerned that his team lacks the focus required to maximize their potential.
Aaron Judge isn’t the longest-tenured player in the Yankees clubhouse, but he’s already emerging as a real leader for the franchise. When he speaks, his teammates listen. Judge had some sobering words for his team after their 5-3 loss to the Orioles on Saturday afternoon.
After the game, Judge expressed his concern that the Yankees weren’t playing with enough desperation. He specifically pointed out how much playing with their “backs against the wall” in the 2017 playoffs gave the team a serious lift. The towering outfielder lamented the “missed opportunities” that the Yankees let pass them by last season.
Some people will inevitably deem those comments as an overreaction to one loss in April. However, it’s exactly the sort of attitude the Yankees need from their most talented slugger. If New York wants to win the AL East this season, they cannot afford to take any opponent for granted. After all, the Red Sox won the division last year by eight games. The Yankees have a serious gap to close.
Defense was a particular problem in the loss to the Orioles, the Yankees made three costly errors that allowed Baltimore to score two unearned runs. The fact that those two runs represented the final margin of defeat for New York was not a coincidence.
Leaving 11 runners on base was also a factor in New York’s inability to impose their will on Baltimore. That was a big issue for manager Aaron Boone’s team last season and rectifying it was a big point of emphasis for the Yankees this offseason. Signing free agents like D.J. LeMahieu who specialize in putting the ball in the play was part of that plan, but the coaching staff also worked with Judge and other returning players on changing their approach with two strikes. Yankees hitters struck out nine times against the Orioles on Saturday.
It will be interesting to see if Judge’s words have any immediate impact on his team. The probable answer is yes. He may not officially be the team’s captain, but he’s the biggest literal and figurative leader in the Yankees clubhouse. Don’t be surprised to see the team react to his words when they take the field again on Sunday.