TAMPA, Fla. – For a moment on Tuesday, at the beginning of his press conference after the Yankees’ first full training in spring training, Aaron Judge seemed torn.
I was tired of hearing about the Houston Astros. He desperately wanted to focus on the 2020 season. But Judge also recognized his platform.
He is the fundamental player of the baseball glamor franchise, a charismatic slugger with an impeccable reputation. Commissioner Rob Manfred did not hold the Astros players responsible for their theft of posters, so Judge added his powerful voice to the chorus that condemned them and their 2017 title.
“I just don’t think it has any value,” Judge said. “You didn’t win it. That’s how I feel, it didn’t win. It didn’t win by playing the game correctly.”
The Astros needed seven games to expel the Yankees in the 2017 American League Championship Series, and seven more to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. José Altuve of Houston won the Most Valuable Player Award from A.L. about Judge, who hit 52 home runs with a base batting percentage plus 1,049 that season.
Judge congratulated Altuve on Twitter after the announcement in 2017, but deleted the message this offseason. Even before Manfred’s investigation, everything changed for Judge with The November report in The Athletic detailing the illegal electronic theft of posters by a franchise he once admired.
“I eliminated it just when the story broke out, just when Mike Fiers came out and declared that this was what was happening,” Judge said of his tweet, referring to the former Houston pitcher who set out the plan. “Since I heard that, I was sick to my stomach. He respected those guys a lot and what they did, especially what they did for the city of Houston: a team that was in the last place, drafted correctly, attracted the right players and finally reached the World Series.
“I had a lot of respect for them, the way they played and what they did. And to discover that he didn’t win, they cheated, that didn’t suit me. I just didn’t feel that the post I really wanted to say was the same. “
Judge is far from being the only player to denounce the Astros. Mike Trout on Sunday He told reporters that he had “lost some respect” for some of the Houston players, and Nick Markakis of the Braves said he thought “every individual there needs a beating.”
Shortly after Judge spoke, a Yankee fan named LeBron James, winner of a handful of M.V.P. Prizes in his own sport, he published his thoughts on the scandal that consumes baseball. “Listen, I know I don’t play baseball, but I’m in sports and I know that if someone cheated on me by winning the title and I learned that I would be angry,” he said. wrote on twitter, adding a censored expletive.
But the Astros scheme may have affected Judge uniquely. Dodgers Cody Bellinger said last week that Altuve “stole an M.V.P.” de Judge, who said Tuesday that he agreed with many of Bellinger’s comments, but failed to make the same accusation.
“The most important thing is that I have to make sure the next time I don’t keep the vote so close,” Judge said. “I have to go out and win directly, so there’s no doubt.” He won it and that’s how it is. “
Altuve really defeated Judge in the vote, with 27 first-place votes from baseball writers to both Judge. (The other first-place vote went to José Ramírez of Cleveland.) More important, the judge said, the Astros hoax could have cost the Yankees a pennant. The Yankees have not been in the World Series since 2009, when Judge was in high school.
“I was quite angry, quite annoyed to know that they probably tricked us into the possibility of reaching the World Series,” he said. “To hear that you were fooled by that opportunity, it’s hard to let it pass.”
Manfred said Sunday that the lasting shame of the scandal was a form of punishment for the Astros players. However, he officially gave them no discipline in exchange for cooperation with their research. That was the only way to discover the truth, Manfred explained, and the players’ union would surely have fought penalties.
Even so, like so many others in the league, Judge was offended by the fact that the players had their way.
“When it comes to a player-driven scheme, I feel that the players involved should be punished,” Judge said. “I think Yu Darvish was the one who said that if you play in the Olympic Games and win a gold medal and discover that you cheated, you cannot keep that gold medal.” But they don’t pay me enough to make those decisions. “
Manfred is, and decided not to leave the Astros championship. The players have kept their championship rings, and although they apologized in general terms last week, they also defended the legitimacy of their title. In a sport that values the ritual of recognizing failure, that posture has enraged their playmates.
“If I have a bad game and I’m wrong, I will stand in front of the microphone and say: ‘Hey, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I did this and that, it depends on me.” Judge said. “Not really hearing that from some of the players is what bothers the baseball community. People lost jobs, people lost money, people lost many important things to them. “
The first question the judge asked on Tuesday was really about a different issue: his pain in his right shoulder, which prevented him from hitting or throwing. The judge called it “nothing alarming,” and manager Aaron Boone said an MRI exam showed nothing abnormal.
Judge began her off-season training in early November, shortly after the Yankees lost another A.L.C.S. in Houston The memory of that defeat has led Judge for months, he said.
Did the Astros also cheat in that series?
“To think they just stopped at 19,” said the judge, “it’s hard for me to say that.”
The past behavior of the Astros casts doubt on all their achievements since then, another sad consequence of the scandal. For players like Judge, who take their roles as caregivers of a social institution seriously, the stain of deception will adhere to the Astros. Shame alone is not enough punishment, but it is something.
“Wherever they go, they will listen to it, and even away from the field, it will be difficult for them,” Judge said. “That is the thing. We are all role models, whatever happens, and we have to make the right decisions because we have the children looking at us, we have other classmates looking at us, observing every movement we make. If you try to deceive the rules or try to make something bad, it will eventually come to light. It always does. The truth always comes up. “