Judge, Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Photo Credit: New York Yankees

Will Judge ever be the same?

The Yankees have been defined by Aaron Judge these last few seasons.

When he goes well, the Yankees have a chance to win games. When he is not playing due to an injury, they struggle to gain footing and traction.

With Judge on the injured list after injuring his toe by crashing into the fence at Dodger Stadium on June 3, there’s no telling when he is coming back. He tried to be back for the All-Star Game, but that isn’t the case now since he withdrew from the Midseason Classic with his toe still hurting.

Judge has played catch and done some light hitting, but he has a long way to go until he is back in the lineup. He has yet to run, and that has to be a concern. If he can’t run, he won’t be playing. That’s all there is to it.

Here’s what caught my attention when he spoke to the assembled media last week: His toe doesn’t feel great, and it may never feel normal again.

This could be a recurring problem for a long time for the Yankees star. If this is on his mind mentally, this can’t be good. If he is thinking too much about that injury, this could affect his performance and his ability to ever come back. Most often than not, this becomes mental when a player worries about getting hurt again rather than getting back on the field and being back to the same player he was.

Players tend to struggle because it becomes mind over matter when they let the injury get into their head. That’s the challenge Judge is now facing. It shows he is human.

There’s nothing worse than a player doing so well just to get hurt and go through the process of coming back. It becomes a struggle if the injury continues to reoccur or if there is a fear of that happening.

Before Judge can get back on the field, he has to overcome his fear of injury.

It could be how Judge handles his rehab that will determine how he comes back. He has been known to be better trained to get ready for the season, but if he goes all-out, he can be susceptible to another injury. Therein lies the problem: How does he find a happy medium of not going too hard yet trying to be ready to get back? That’s another problem he has to face before getting back on the field again.

When the Yankees resume to play on Friday in Denver, there will be 71 games left. Fans are going to want Judge to hurry up with his rehab and get back to playing. They don’t want to hear about setbacks and such. Not when a team is struggling to gain footing and traction at 49-42 with the season getting away from them.

It’s hard enough as it is with the rehab. It won’t be any easier when there is a sense of urgency that comes with it. That’s another battle Judge has to deal with.

I just wonder if Judge will ever be the same player he was over the years. He should continue to hit home runs, but the more he gets hurt, the more his ability gets taken away. He has been injury-prone in his history. This injury he had at Dodger Stadium reminded everyone that.

Baseball is a very demanding sport. Players have to grind through 162 games a season for six months. There is a lot of wear and tear on the body because of how grueling it is to play six or seven days a week during the season. It’s no wonder why you see so many players get hurt so often, especially pitchers.

It’s not just playing, but it’s working out in a calendar year for a player to be fit to play in a long season. Players need to find the balance of going all-in and not overdoing it, too. That’s easier said than done. Most players like Judge go all-in since it’s the only way they can.

How many injuries and rehab processes can Judge keep enduring? It seems this has been the constant of his career along with his majestic home runs.

Even he knows this is becoming a mental thing. If he is thinking about another injury or if his toe will ever be the same, this should raise questions about how much more can Judge go through this.

It can’t be good if he is wondering if he should go through this now.

Whether he comes back this season, it’s irrelevant.

It’s always going to be if he is ever going to be the same player he is and if can he battle his demons moving forward.

Only time will tell.

You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.