Since its inception in 1985, there have been a lot of big names to become the home run derby champion. The likes of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ryan Howard have all won the trophy, but there haven’t really been any consistent “powerhouses” of the derby. Griffey won it three times between 1994 and 1999, with back to back wins in ’98 and ’99, but that’s as close as it gets to being the king of the derby. With Aaron Judge’s dominant performance at the 2017 home run derby, it seems like the 25-year-old slugger could own the contest for years to come if he wants to. It’s something the derby needs.
Obviously, right now Judge is involved in discussion for a much more important trophy, the AL MVP. Judge is on pace to flirt with 60 home runs at his current pace, something that hasn’t been remotely touched since Ryan Howard hit 58 back in 2006. However, Howard only won the derby once, coming in ’06.
Back to the derby, what brings up this discussion is how effortless Judge made it look at this year’s event. He was hitting double-deckers to the opposite field on what looked like half-assed swings. And when he pulled the ball? Forget about it. Judge hit four homers over 500 feet, the most memorable going up and over the fountain in left center. And when he didn’t hit it to the back window of Marlins Park, he also hit one so high it banked off the roof of the park, and probably would’ve left the park if it kept going.
With this all in mind, it’s not crazy to predict that, if he enters every year, Judge could break Griffey’s record for cumulative derby wins. At age 25, with his peak years ahead of him, who would say that Judge can’t win 6 or 7 derbies by the time he hangs up the cleats?
The home run derby has seen dozens of hall of famers win the theatrical contest, but Judge has an opportunity to be the face of the derby for a very long time and become the unanimous home run derby king.