There has never been much about New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge that people would ever describe as “discreet.”
The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Judge is a mammoth of a man, especially for a baseball player, and his frame combined with the fact that he’s a slugger for the Yankees, the most recognizable brand perhaps in all of sports, has always meant that there’s an outsized microscope and spotlight on Judge.
That searing scrutiny has contributed to the latest cheating scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball.
During Monday’s tilt between the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, Judge belted a booming home run at the top of the eighth inning but not without the Blue Jays announcers noticing something a little sideways with Judge’s eyes.
“You don’t wanna go throwing allegations around without knowing but…”
Aaron Judge homers as the Toronto broadcast says he’s being suspicious pic.twitter.com/XWzoNrkvB4
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 16, 2023
Shortly before belting that home run, the Blue Jays announcers called out a quick sideways glance towards the dugout area from Judge.
Indeed, in the video, it does appear as if Judge flashes a sideways look toward the Yankees dugout.
During the same at-bat that the announcers were discussing the suspicious look, Judge launched a 462-foot home run, per ESPN.
Was Judge acting suspicious during his plate appearance?
It doesn’t take much to connect the dots as accusations of cheating soon erupted.
While the announcers in the clip never outright accuse Judge of cheating, they strongly hint at it while stopping just short enough. Twitter responses (a quick Twitter search of “Aaron Judge Cheating” will yield quite a number of angry tweets) and social media haven’t been nearly as generous.
What is Aaron Judge looking at?
Yankees cheating again huh. MLB will ignore it again though because they’re not the Astros. pic.twitter.com/FKktnLDK8y
— V̷a̷t̷o̷r̷ (@Vator_H_Town) May 16, 2023
Obviously, given the star power involved, it’s understandable that all eyes were now on what exactly Judge’s eyes were doing during that scrutinized at-bat.
Judge has since explained that the sideways glance was to identify the players in the Yankees dugout who were making noise and complaining about one of the umpires who had just ejected Yankees manager Aaron Boone for arguing a strike call during that same at-bat.
“There was kind of a lot of chirping from our dugout, which I really didn’t like in the situation,” Judge said, per ESPN.
“[Judge] was kind of looking over like, ‘I’m hitting here,’” Boone told reporters, corroborating his star slugger’s theory that he was hushing his teammates with his eyes.
Whatever the case, it does seem unlikely that Judge would resort to cheating in that circumstance. It was the top of the eighth inning, and despite any mounting frustrations with the umpiring, the Yankees were up 6-0. That’s a rather comfortable lead at that point in a baseball game. The Yankees ultimately won 7-4.
It is also worth noting that, as The Guardian notes, if the pitcher was tipping his pitches (subtle signs with the catcher that denotes what pitch is coming next) and the Yankees dugout was providing Judge that information by yelling, it’s not technically against the rules. It is frowned upon. Only the use of additional equipment or mechanisms breaks any particular rule.
For baseball, regardless of any rules actually being broken, even the impression that something untoward is happening is not good for the sport.
Most recently, the Houston Astros have fallen under intense scrutiny for sign stealing, although their improprieties involved using additional equipment for aid, thus running afoul of the rules.
Despite sign-stealing scandals involving some of its most prominent franchises (the Yankees are the big brand, the Astros have won two of the last six World Series and are the defending champions), those may not even be the two worst scandals in baseball history.
That dubious distinction belongs to the entire steroid era of baseball, where all of its top stars were alleged to be juicing, and the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” scandal, where several members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series in exchange for money.