Aaron Judge owning Giants, SF crowd closes door on Yankees' free agency stress

New York Yankees v San Francisco Giants
New York Yankees v San Francisco Giants / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Following the 2022 season, the future of the New York Yankees was very uncertain. They had just gotten bounced by the Houston Astros in the ALCS, but in the form of an embarrassing sweep. Aaron Judge was hitting free agency after Brian Cashman tried to throw the slugger under the bus right before Opening Day. Everything felt bleak.

And it reached a boiling point when Jon Heyman's famous "Arson Judge appears headed to the Giants" tweet made its rounds for about 10 minutes without interruption that offseason. That was it. Judge was returning to play for his hometown team, the Yankees' best player was gone, and the playoff futility would only worsen (if they could manage to make it there).

But then a series of reports surfaced suggesting that Judge indeed hadn't made his decision. The next day, Hal Steinbrenner phoned in from Italy and sealed the deal in the form of a nine-year, $360 contract. Judge was back in pinstripes after what felt like a very legitimate scare.

As for the Giants, they were hung out to dry, which has frequently been the case for them with big-name free agents over the last decade or so. They tried for Carlos Correa, but they didn't like what the medicals revealed. Trea Turner turned them down, too. The list goes on.

Though the Yankees endured their worst season in 30 years in 2023, the Giants have been much worse off since winning their last World Series in 2014. And Judge rubbed it in Friday night during the Yankees' series opener vs San Fran.

Aaron Judge owning Giants, SF crowd validates Yankees' free agency stress

Each time he stepped into the batter's box, Judge heard boos from the crowd. The fans in the Bay Area aren't letting go of the MVP frontrunner spurning their team to take less money to remain in New York. Yankees fans understand. They'd feel the same way.

But when you poke the bear, don't expect to get away with it. In the top of the third inning, Judge put the Yankees on top with a rocket three-run homer that he tattooed off Giants starter Jordan Hicks, who entered this game with a 2.33 ERA. When all was said and done, Judge charged four earned runs to the right-hander as he went yard to dead center three innings later.

Judge finished the night going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, two homers and four RBI in his first game in San Francisco since ditching the Giants in free agency. He now leads MLB in home runs and is the undisputed best hitter in the planet at this point in time.

Yankees fans absolutely do their fair share of complaining, but the Judge appreciation and gratitude runs deep. Despite suffering a toe injury last year that saw him miss 56 games, Judge has been the league's most fearsome hitter when he's on the field since the start of 2023 after signing that massive extension. And that stress fans experienced when his Yankees career was in limbo only served to keep New York fans on their toes.

Judge defeating the team that was second in line for his services and silencing an unruly crowd that's still reeling from his free agency decision made it all the more worthwhile.