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THE MYTHICAL YANKEES’ ROOKIE

By Murray Chass

June 18, 2017

Who exactly is Aaron Judge?

The New York Yankees’ rookie right fielder has been so spectacular in the early months of the season that he qualifies for the sobriquet of phenom.

But who is Judge really? Let me offer some suggestions:

Roy Hobbs is the main character in Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel “The Natural” and the 1984 film of the same title, a baseball player who overcomes his wound from being shot by a mysterious woman and, with his magical bat Wonderboy leads the New York Knights to the pennant. A telltale clue that links Judge to Hobbs is the crooked owner of the Knights who tries to get Hobbs to throw the playoff game for the pennant. He is known only as The Judge.

Joe Hardy (“Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo.”) is the character in the 1955 Broadway musical “Damn Yankees” who makes a deal with the Devil to enable the hapless Washington Senators to beat the mighty New York Yankees. Has the Yankees’ Judge made a deal with the Devil that will enable him to help make the Yankees great again?

“Crash” Davis is an aging catcher, in the 1988 film “Bull Durham,” who catches on with a minor league team to help a young pitcher, “Nuke” LaLoosh. Granted Davis is not a hitter in Judge’s class, but Kevin Costner, who played him, is said to have hit two home runs during filming with the cameras rolling.

Roy Tucker is “The Kid from Tomkinsville,” one of a highly regarded series of books by John R. Tunis, an author who in his day was to young male readers what J. K. Rowling is has been in this era.

Calico Joe Castle is the central character in John Grisham’s 2012 novel “Calico Joe,” which was inspired by the 1920 death of Ray Chapman, who was hit in the head by a Carl Mays fastball. After an improbably brilliant start to his first season¸ Castle is intentionally hit by a pitch, ending his career.

Joe Shlabotnik, Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player, is an unlikely candidate to be Judge’s alter ego, but I thought I’d throw him in here because Charlie Brown has long been my favorite cartoon character.

All right, all of these characters are fictional. But so is Judge, isn’t he? Could any real person produce the numbers he has put next to his name? Here, at a glance, were those numbers before Saturday’s games:

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PUJOLS PASSES THE SMELL TEST

By Murray Chass

June 11, 2017

When Albert Pujols recently hit the 600th home run of his career, I went to the Elias Book of Baseball Records to check its list of players Pujols joined. I was struck most by three names: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa.

Bonds heads the list with 762, Rodriguez is fourth with 696 and Sosa eighth with 609.

I cite these three former players because their home run totals are questionable. Their totals are questionable because the players who hit those home runs have been linked to the use of performance enhancing drugs. They hit the home runs, but how many did they hit that were chemically aided?

None of the 600 home runs Pujols hit has been questioned because he has never been linked to PEDs or accused of using them. He has nothing to confess. The same cannot be said for …

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YOUNG GEMS SPARKLE IN YANKS’ G.M.’S SHOWCASE

By Murray Chass

June 4, 2017

Who said the New York Yankees couldn’t win as long as Brian Cashman is their general manager?

It seems to me that I might have said something like that in questioning why the Yankees continue to retain Cashman when he would have been fired long ago if George Steinbrenner were still running the team. However, Hal Steinbrenner, who is running the team, is a different boss, and he seems to be intent on being the anti-George.

That change has benefited Cashman, and the Yankees have unexpectedly played the first third of the season in a way that is also beneficial to …

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