The Yankees have been imploding, but slugger Aaron Judge is having a season for the history books.
The 30-year-old’s chasing a Triple Crown and, with 55 homers as of Wednesday afternoon, he’s on pace to break Roger Maris’ American League single-season home-run record of 61.
Judge is putting up incredible numbers, but fans are also wondering about the most important digits: Will No. 99 still be in pinstripes next year?
Unless the Yankees sign him to a contract extension, he will become a free agent this winter, which has led to rampant speculation about his future, given his rising stock. This week, team president Randy Levine told The Post’s Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman on “The Show” podcast that the Yankees “know his worth and what he means. I don’t know what’s in his mind. All we can do is show him how much we’d like him to remain a Yankee.”
But Judge, who is notoriously private, hasn’t tipped his hand. In fact, he has refused to even address nearing Maris’ milestone, saying, “I’ve got nothing for you. I just try to do whatever I can to help us win. I show up and am ready to go.”
A source pointed out, “He’s a good teammate, but he keeps to himself. He is extremely guarded.”
And his closed chambers have only added more mystique to the Judge lore, which began in August 2016 when the 6-foot-7 outfielder arrived in The Bronx, hitting a homer during his first Major League at bat.
Fans immediately fell in love with his clean-cut image and saw him as a harbinger of future dominance for the team, which hasn’t won a World Series title since 2009.
The usually stodgy corporate franchise lapped up all the attention given to their prized 2013 first-round draft pick. During his rookie season in 2017, they created the Judge’s Chambers, a three-row courtroom-themed section in the outfield, where fans dress in black robes and white wigs. And he gave them reason after reason to cheer, winning the Home Run Derby, breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie home-run record and being named American League Rookie of the Year.
The four time All-Star’s dominance has only grown, and his blockbuster performance in 2022 has even helped to keep the team’s television ratings soaring despite the Bronx Bombers’ nosedive this summer.
“There has been an incredible buzz surrounding Judge’s pursuit of the home-run record,” Howard Levinson, the YES network’s senior vice president of ad sales, told The Post. “Each Judge at-bat is an event unto itself, and we have seen viewership spikes when he is up. Our season ratings are up significantly over last year — 19%.”
Judge’s on-field prowess only stoked public interest in his private life, and his reluctance to open up to fans or the media was reminiscent of another Yankee great: Derek Jeter. However, Judge, who describes himself as a Christian in his Instagram profile, is even more closed off than the famous shortstop.
“Throw was private but didn’t mind his name being out there. He was showboat private,” an insider told The Post in 2020. “Aaron is the total opposite. He is quiet quiet.”
Also unlike Jeter, he didn’t look for love in the pages of US Weekly or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
During his rookie season, he dated media strategist Jen Flaum, who alerted the world to their relationship in a Halloween Instagram post showing the pair dressed up as Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
But the couple split, and around 2019, Judge returned to his roots: He reunited with Samantha Bracksiek, 29, whom he first dated during his high school days in Linden, California, a small community about 95 miles east of San Francisco.
The town, which has an annual cherry festival complete with a cherry pie-eating contest, has united behind their native son. Even the downtown pizzeria Pizza Plus has turned its backroom into a shrine to Judge and sold T-shirts that read “Straight out of Linden” with his number 99 on the back.
Judge seemed to find his way to Linden by divine intervention. At 2-days old, he was adopted by Patty and Wayne Judge, who were both teachers in the town.
“I feel they kind of picked me,” Judge told The Post in 2015. “I feel that God was the one that matched us together.”
At about age 10, Judge, whose older brother John is also adopted, came to the realization that he and his parents didn’t look alike.
“So I started asking questions, and they told me I was adopted and answered all my questions, and that was that. I was fine with it. It really didn’t bother me because that’s the only parents I’ve known.”
Even as a baby, Judge showed signs that he’d have an imposing physical presence.
“We kind of joked that he looked like the Michelin Tire baby,” his father said. “It wasn’t long before the four ounces of formula was just the appetizer, and it had to be the formula with the oatmeal to pacify him.”
At Linden High School, Judge excelled at basketball, baseball and football, a sport that notched him scholarship offers from top programs, including Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA.
But Judge told ESPN, “I fell in love with baseball at a young age. . . It drew me in.”
He played baseball at Fresno State, and Bracksieck followed him, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science. Meanwhile, the pair dated through his minor league career and split in 2016.
After the couple quietly reunited, Bracksieck was thrust into the headlines in 2020, when she was busted for a DUI in Arizona, dropping her boyfriend’s name during the arrest. At the time, sources said it was uncharacteristic for Bracksieck, who, like her boyfriend, flew under the radar.
The pair remained together and last December, they tied the knot in Hawaii.
Most recently, they were photographed taking in a US Open match, perhaps squeezing out the last bit of pulp from the Big Apple.
Last October, Judge said he wanted “to be a Yankee for life.” It remains to be seen if the pair are planning a move to another city, or if the Yankees can woo the slugger back with the payday he expects.