By Ernie Palladino
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Compared to the way the Yankees started the season, New York baseball has definitely hit a lull.
So thank heavens for Aaron Judge. He’s going to turn into the area’s saving grace before this is over.
The Mets, whose troubles were only punctuated against the Nationals this week, have proven they can’t stand up to quality teams. Unless Jacob deGrom is on the mound, there’s no reason to pay attention to them. Between losing key players every other day and Terry Collins’ strange decisions regarding his pitchers, the Mets’ season ended long ago.
And the Yankees, it seems, aren’t far behind. With Wednesday’s 7-6 loss to visiting Toronto, they have lost 16 of the last 22 and remain four games behind the Red Sox. They’re still up in the wild card race, but if this young team has indeed found its level, even the second spot may end up being a reach.
But at least there’s Judge.
He may well wind up as the sole attraction around here, and a particular favorite of every grown-up who broke his toys as a kid. His homers — 29 of them now — have already caused considerable damage to Yankee Stadium.
If the proprietors at Marlins Park were smart, they’ll put up some extra padding around their outfield attractions for the All-Star activities. If one of Judge’s shots could destroy a gate to the left of Monument Park, as his fourth-inning cherry bomb off J.A. Happ did on Tuesday, imagine the havoc he might wreak against a Home Run Derby pitcher who isn’t trying to get him out.
But that’s part of the fun of watching Judge. He doesn’t always hit those lazy moon shots that sail and sail and take forever to settle into their landing spots. A lot of his homers go out on a line — fast.
Fun fact: He has the four hardest hit balls in the majors this year. That homer against Happ went out at 118.4 mph, the fourth fastest exit velo this season. He has gone as high as 121 mph.
As Judge has shown, that’s hard enough to dent property. And we haven’t even discussed a batting practice shot earlier this season that shattered a flat-screen TV behind a concession stand in left.
The modern baseball fan likes homers. So it’s no surprise that the 25-year-old giant has become baseball’s biggest attraction. Indeed, the All-Star committee breathed a relieved sigh when Judge announced that he would indeed participate in the Home Run Derby.
But Judge’s appeal goes beyond stats.
Just about everybody likes to see stuff go boom.
Judge makes things go boom.
A busted gate. A broken TV. Maybe Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria will have to invest in a new centerfield scoreboard after Judge takes it out Monday.
That’ll get the fans buzzing.
Then again, those All-Star attendees will only experience what New York has been watching all season. And, given how the year has turned for Joe Girardi’s young, up-and-coming group, Judge may wind up as the sole attraction during the second half.
He’ll likely prove to the country Monday that he’s worth the price of admission.
It’s a good thing. If the Yanks and Mets continue to slide over the next month, he’ll be the only thing worth watching.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino