Just a few hours before one wayward “Arson Judge” brought a Universe to its knees, the New York Yankees were blindsided by a much more finely-tuned piece of media: Aaron Judge’s Time Magazine interview to celebrate his “Athlete of the Year” crown.
Surprisingly, Judge pulled very few punches in what should’ve been a puff piece, bringing his six-month-old feud with the Yankees front office over his preseason extension offer back to the forefront. To toss a little additional Tajin in the wound, he brought up his teenaged prediction that he’d be playing for the San Francisco Giants before sheepishly “advising” the magazine not to print it.
Advice not taken!
During a time when Yankee fans were reading tea leaves, the Judge interview tidbits read like a Boston Harbor full of oolong, and team executives were just as taken aback as the average Twitter scroller.
According to an unnamed executive who spoke to ESPN, the Yankees thought Judge was a goner when they read the Time piece — and, remember, he was also reportedly flying to San Diego at the time, something else the team felt blindsided by.
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All in all, it’s kind of a miracle that Judge turned around and snubbed San Francisco (and the Padres!) in the end.
Ultimately, though, these quotes just represented an opportunity to send a message rather than sever a relationship. Judge’s teenaged fantasy of being prom-king-turned-Giants-outfielder was a nice piece of leverage, but the circumstances of his legacy have changed plenty since he turned 18. Hell, he even used to wear Red Sox t-shirts on occasion.
In the end, finishing his career as a well-compensated Yankees legend was ultimately more important than following in Barry Bonds’ footsteps.
The word on the street the day of the Primetime Arson was that the Yankees were totally in the dark about the right fielder’s final decision. Creating uncertainty was the goal, more so than leaving the Yankees and kicking the team on the way out.
Opening Day 2023, of course, will feature the Yankees and Giants facing off at Yankee Stadium in front of 50,000 Bronx residents who spent Dec. 6 making plans to boo the hell out of their right fielder.
Instead, Judge will take the first step in cementing the legacy that Yankees insiders thought he’d disintegrated.