“They act like legends cannot co-exist”:Yankees Big 3 are terrorizing MLB coast to coast

Kendrick Lamar scoffed at any notion of there being a Big 3 in the rap world. “F— the Big 3. It’s just Big me!” 

For the 2023 Yankees, that was also true. But the 2024 incarnation are reverting that message.

In 2023, Aaron Judge was the Kendrick Lamar of the New York Yankees offense. It was just Big Him. No one else came close to his production when he was healthy.

In 2023, Giancarlo Stanton was the J. Cole of the Yankees’ offense. Cole is one of the best lyricists of his generation, but he decided to go silent when the attention was on him. When the Yankees needed Stanton to perform at his hall of fame level, he didn’t.

In 2023, Juan Soto was Drake. Drake is the hitmaker, the superstar and the rapper who provides No. 1 records to anyone who links with him in songs, including Lamar. He was the star of the trade market. The Yankees traded for him to bring Judge, Stanton and Soto together with the hopes of an explosive offense that was extinct in 2023.

Cole once rapped, ‘They act like two legends cannot co-exist.” Through two months of the 2024 season, the Yankees are living out the manifestation of Cole’s lyrics.

Judge, Soto and Stanton all homered in Friday’s 8-0 win over the San Diego Padres. Each of the Yankees’ sluggers is on the top-10 list for MLB’s home run leaders. Judge ranks third with 16, Soto ranks fifth (14) and Stanton ranks seventh (13). Their 43 home runs combined matches the number the Toronto Blue Jays, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals have each hit. It’s more than the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox.

As I am writing this Aaron Judge just homered again in San Diego, so make that 17 for the Yankees captain.

“We faced lineups like the Dodgers where it’s like you have Mookie (Betts), (Shohei) Ohtani and (Freddie) Freeman,” former Yankees swingman, now Padres starter, Michael King said before the game. “It’s a similar style where you have to make sure you’re on for those guys and you also have to make sure that there aren’t many people on base when they’re up because that’s when damage really occurs.”

King, who was the centerpiece of the Soto trade, said he helped with scouting reports before the three-game series opened Friday night. Safe to say he didn’t help much.

After hearing loud boos in his first plate appearance back in San Diego, Soto crushed a 423-foot two-run home run off Padres starter Yu Darvish, who entered with a career-high 25-inning scoreless streak.

“It’s not surprising at all,” Soto said when asked about the Yankees’ success against Darvish. “We’ve been doing this since day one of the season.”

Judge then followed Soto for the duo’s first back-to-back blasts of the season. He sat on a hanging slider and sent it 409 feet into Petco Park’s second deck over the left-field wall. It was Judge’s 10th home run in his last 18 games. Judge had a .725 OPS through May 2. He’s now third in MLB with a 1.030 OPS. Entering Friday’s game, Judge and Soto combined for a 182 wRC+, the best mark for any Nos. 2 and 3 hitters in MLB.

Stanton has been one of the biggest surprises for the Yankees. The slugger had been a disappointment dating back to the second half of the 2022 season. After undergoing a body transformation and swing changes, Stanton has an .815 OPS. A noticeable difference this season is even when the Yankees’ designated hitter isn’t clobbering home runs, he’s still a threat for damage. That wasn’t always the case last season.

He’s always had the ability to be the exit velocity king and hit mammoth home runs, like the one he hit into the second balcony on the Western Metal Supply Co.’s brick building to cap a five-run third inning for the Yankees. For Stanton in the past year and a half though, it’s everything in between the home runs that has been a struggle. He said it’s been a gratifying start to the season because he’s seeing results after an offseason of change.

“The best part is he’s just such a presence now in the middle of the order,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Whether he comes through or he doesn’t though, I think you see that presence that he is in our lineup and obviously it’s tough having to navigate through Juan and Judgey there and then (Alex Verdugo) there, but then G’s waiting there, and you know how dangerous he is. And he’s felt like that real threat to me every day he’s been in.”

The Yankees aren’t 36-17 just because of Judge, Soto and Stanton. Their starting pitching has been superb. Their bullpen has the second-lowest ERA. Anthony Volpe has taken the leap in his second year. Contributions have come from just about everybody on the roster.

So to Judge, there isn’t a Big 3 for the Yankees. This isn’t the Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or the Golden State Warriors with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Judge may not like the Big 3 label, but it’s true with how he, Soto and Stanton have delivered.

“We’re a Big 9. We’re a big 26,” Judge said. “Everybody in this clubhouse, man, is a big part. I would never narrow it down to just one guy. Every guy is a stud in their own right. We’re a part of something special.”


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