No one could’ve predicted that Aaron Judge’s contract season would feature 62 home runs and enough memories for Yankees fans to blubber on about for seven lifetimes. I’d be interested to see what the non-New York fan reaction would have been if Judge’s historic season came in a different uniform.
As easy as it would be to write the transition, “And maybe we’ll find out next year when he signs with a different team,” I’m not going to do that because the chances of him repeating this season are minute, minuscule, tiny, slim, thin — whatever best denotes “Not gonna happen.”
Name a hitting-related stat, and Judge most likely led the league in it this season. I’ve been tracking his performance all year not because I care about Roger Maris’ record or the Yankees, but because I thought it was hysterical that the team notorious for having the deepest pockets low-balled its best player and MVP.
While there are some questions about his durability, any other apprehension the front office had gradually vanished with every ball he disappeared into the bleachers. I’m not even that old by baseball fan standards, and it’s insane to me that Brinks truck hasn’t made a delivery to Judge’s residence yet.
There have been reports that the Giants are prepared to surpass the Yankees’ offer. Judge is from California and grew up a San Francisco Giants fan, so there’s a possibility he could be lured away for the right price.
If it’s not the Giants, there is a market, albeit a limited one, for a 30-year-old player coming off that kinda year. Even though not every team can afford to dole out a decade-long deal worth north of $300 million, the Mets can — and that’d be the biggest blow to the Yankee persona.
Perhaps Brian Cashman is relying on prestige to make up for the money they’re hesitant to pay Judge, which would be peak Yankee arrogance amid a World Series drought. For stars, a large part of the allure of New York is the comfort of knowing they’ll be taken care of financially. Being overpaid has long been a perk of being a Yankee.
My guess is he re-signs to a huge number and relegates this column to the same level of hand-wringing currently reserved for the Judge and Shohei Ohtani MVP argument. (You don’t break the 60-home run mark for the first “legitimate” time since 1961 and lose the MVP. Records are too important for baseball writers to overlook.)
The other upside to playing in the Bronx is winning championships, something the Yankees haven’t done since 2009. For another franchise, 13 years is hardly a dry spell. Blame the Astros, blame bad luck, blame bad managing, blame ownership, or just blame the fact that it’s really hard to do.
Regardless, New York isn’t far off. The reason the Yankees of my youth were perennial contenders is that they had a core group of homegrown talent surrounded by the best infrastructure money could buy. Punting on Judge is antithetical to the club’s most recent run of success. If this kind of deal is going to kneecap the team’s budget, I have myriad questions about the team’s finances.
Yes, I’ve giggled endlessly at Judge’s contract season to end all contract seasons. The reality used to be that the Yankees shrugged off bad contracts like the lead in an action movie shrugs off flesh wounds. “So what?” was at one time the collective response to criticisms levied at shitty contracts.
If this was happening in the early aughts, Judge would have a lifetime deal, and Yankee haters would already be bemoaning Ohtani’s inevitable move to New York, along with the usual outrage over payroll disparity.
In 2022, the Dodgers and Mets have more money on the books than the Yankees’ $264 million, and the Phillies —the Phillies! — are a mere $10 million short of that. I could understand scoffing at an all-time season if No. 99 wasn’t single-handedly responsible for a hefty portion of the team’s 99 wins. This isn’t a Mike Trout scenario where the numbers are hollow.
Replacing an MVP’s stats with an amalgamation of position players is something Brad Pitt does in a Moneyball, so it’s alarming (as well as hilarious) to see the Evil Empire scrutinizing every credit and contemplating the same move.
What’s funnier: The Yankees being so strapped for cash that paying Judge risks compromising what were previously thought to be bottomless coffers, or Judge signing with San Francisco a year after he had New York fans happy crying?