Yankees fans convinced they were in the catbird seat in the Aaron Judge chase were thrown for a loop on Tuesday for a million reasons, from Jon Heyman and Susan Slusser’s tweets to a Winter Meetings lobby suddenly filled with orange smoke.
In truth, though, the uncomfortable feeling started hours earlier.
When Aaron Judge was named TIME Magazine’s Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, the honor came with expansive coverage and a tell-all interview where he opened up more than most expected, considering how close to the vest he’s kept things since arriving in New York.
While fans knew he felt disrespected and somewhat betrayed by Brian Cashman leaking the Yankees’ preseason extension offer on Opening Day (recall the Anthony Rizzo conversation: “You don’t think I’m worth more?”), the level of disrespect wasn’t fully quantified until Tuesday’s comments to TIME leaked.
Clearly, this is some long-held resentment over what Judge viewed as a negotiation tactic to turn the fans against him.
Aaron Judge flirted with leaving Yankees for Giants in TIME Magazine
Brian Cashman has tried this on Derek Jeter. He tried this on Bernie Williams. The media has only gotten more pervasive in the time between Jeter’s tense negotiations and Judge’s.
If Cashman knew he was breaching Judge’s trust — and he did — then he didn’t care. And Judge pocketed that, hit 62 regular-season home runs, and reached the offseason with the same energy he had in April.
Until Hal Steinbrenner changed everything Tuesday night, of course.
Then, of course, there were the echoes of long-held dreams, and one last reminder that he grew up wanting to call the Bay Area’s baseball team home.
“Oh, don’t print the thing I just said to a journalist,” Judge cooed. “If that got out, the Yankees might squirm a little bit. And we wouldn’t want that. So I’m just going to say it in private right now, to you, a guy who isn’t recording this or writing it down.”
Mr. Cashman, he showed you all the clues.
Judge pushed all the right buttons, right down to the final minutes, dropping breadcrumb after breadcrumb in this interview and taking a meeting with the San Diego Padres prior to Steinbrenner’s last offer.
If not for some maneuvering Tuesday night, it seems these discussions might’ve been fated to take a darker turn.