Aaron Judge's rookie run for the ages ends one win shy of World Series

Judge: 'Through ups and downs, this team came to play every day' (0:31)

As his rookie season comes to an end, Aaron judge thanks the Yankees' veterans and explains he "had a lot of fun playing with them." (0:31)

HOUSTON -- New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was talking about perhaps the greatest rookie season in baseball history like it was no big thing. The Baby Bombers had grown up in October, turning into the Comeback Kids. And it was Judge who led them.

They were down in the wild-card game, and won. They lost the first two games of the American League Division Series to the best regular-season team in the AL, the Cleveland Indians, and won. They had come back against the Houston Astros after losing the first two games of the championship series, and almost won.

In Game 7 of the ALCS, Judge, who hit more home runs than any rookie in the history of the game, made an all-time catch, robbing Yuli Gurriel of a round-tripper of his own in the second inning.

If the Yankees had won, it would have been remembered forever. Instead, it is an Endy Chavez play; a tremendous memory, but ultimately a hollow one.

So there Judge was in the losers' locker room at Minute Maid Park after a 4-0 defeat to the Astros, patiently answering every question.

Judge is going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. Even though he lost to the Astros, he might beat Jose Altuve for the regular season AL MVP award. He was the Home Run Derby champ. And now he is probably the face of baseball.

Even with all this, the 6-foot-7, 282-pound 25-year-old doesn't show an ounce of arrogance. He's not the greedy sort, but he's definitely not satisfied.

"No, we didn't win the World Series," Judge said. "I'm not satisfied with that. That's why we play. That's why we train. That's why we do everything in the offseason. It is to win a World Series. We came up short."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was the first one to compare Judge to Derek Jeter. Though Jeter won it all as a rookie in 1996, he was never the individual force Judge was in 2017.

Judge might not finish with a career like Jeter's, but the way he carries himself shows up beyond the box score. The Yankees have not named a captain since Jeter retired, but Judge -- if he continues to perform -- seems destined for that role. It's largely because he puts the team before his vast individual accomplishments.

"He's a natural-born leader," Girardi said. "And that doesn't happen at an age where he's at, where people look to him, and it's already happening."

Judge handles it all with Jeter's touch, and he might just be another modern day baseball Midas. He and the Yankees came up short of their goal, but what can't be ignored is how quick a learner Judge has proven himself time and time again.

He struggled at Triple-A, in the major leagues and during the postseason. He figured out every level. If the Yankees had won the ALCS, he likely would have been the MVP.

In the series, Judge hit .250 in 24 at-bats, but he had three of the Yankees' six homers and seven of the team's 21 RBIs. He is the most important player in the organization, even after starting the season fighting for the right-field job in spring training.

"I don't think I would have predicted that he would be an MVP candidate, from what we saw last year," Girardi said of Judge, who struck out in half of his 84 at-bats in 2016. "I knew the heart was there. I knew he had a great head on his shoulder. I knew the work ethic was there. I knew the talent was there. But that's a lot to ask from a rookie to be an MVP type of candidate."

Judge seems to have the perspective of someone much older. He said he hasn't reflected on what this year has meant for him yet, though he did concede it's been a "crazy journey." It just didn't end the way he wanted.

"It's frustrating," Judge said. "You just want to get the job done. We were one win from the World Series."

Just like Jeter, that's all that matters to Judge. He had one of the greatest rookie seasons in baseball history -- and he is not satisfied.