It got a little dicey there towards the start of December, but Aaron Judge will officially take the field as the next Yankees captain on Opening Day against the San Francisco Giants, his hometown team.
He'll also be a Yankee for Life, thanks to Hal Steinbrenner, his own conscience and view of his forthcoming legacy, and the good-natured needling of Anthony Rizzo, who handled his own contract situation early in the offseason.
Apparently, that new deal came with a referral bonus. Does Judge count as a "new employee" after spending his entire career in pinstripes? Let's put a pin in it.
Turns out, Rizzo's continued presence in the Bronx was a factor in Judge's decision to come home -- but not just because the first baseman is among his best friends. His best friend's best friend also had to be included in the package deal.
Judge revealed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon that Rizzo texted him relentlessly, often including photographs of the two Yankees' dogs together. Kevin Rizzo, a dachshund, deserves nearly as much credit as Hal Steinbrenner, an owner, for hammering this one out. And yet only one of them has met the Pope. What a shame.
Anthony Rizzo's dog Kevin Rizzo helped bring Aaron Judge (and Penny) back to Yankees
Additionally, while the fine folks of Baseball Twitter have seen Kevin Rizzo before, in all his glory ... how often have we gotten a peek at Penny Judge?! Feels like a rare sighting of a reclusive pup.
Look at those pals. How did Judge ever even consider separating them long-term and switching coasts? If those dogs are ever required by contract law to spend even one minute apart, I'm committing Arson.
Someday, when his career is in the books, Judge is now poised to join Ruth, Gehrig, Maris and the rest in Monument Park, with his No. 99 retired for all to gawk at. But perhaps we should consider putting Kevin Rizzo in Monument Bark.
Now, it's up to Anthony, Aaron, Kevin and Penny to chase the ultimate goal: bringing No. 28 back to the Bronx.
And finally getting Kevin the Pope's ear, like he's always requested (probably for a nibble).