Aaron Judge’s return is good for him, the Yankees, and baseball. Too bad for others

It was 5:20 a.m. when the West Coast awoke to find that things had returned to their natural order.

The bad guys won. Small children have become small. The giants won again, which means the giants failed again.

Aaron Judge returned to the Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million contract, the type of contract only some teams are willing to pay and only some can successfully complete.

The San Francisco Giants have been here before. In December 2014, they were the top bidder for Jon Lester, who chose the Cubs instead. The Giants believed they were on the verge of landing Zack Greinke a year later when the Diamondbacks added a sixth year to the ace’s offer. Before the 2018 season, the Giants were a finalist for Shohei Ohtani, who went 400 miles south of Anaheim. They tried to trade Giancarlo Stanton, but the then-Marlins star used his no-trade clause to block his path to the Bay Area. After the season, Bryce Harper ignored hundreds of millions of dollars from the Giants and signed with the Phillies instead.

“I can tell you that a lot of fans are very upset with the organization right now,” Jake Montero, director of digital at KNBR — basically the Bay Area’s WFAN — said Wednesday. “This is the third or fourth time a team with unlimited resources has been left behind by the biggest fish in free agency.”

San Francisco Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi Conrad answers questions from the media at the MLB GM meetings in Las Vegas.
Team president Farhan Zaidi became the latest Giants executive to pursue a free agent when Aaron Judge decided to re-sign with the Yankees.

A smaller market rages and the Yankees’ Death Star is once again in full swing. Judge returned, seemingly using several other teams to squeeze every dollar (and year) out of him, once again acting like the Yankees: When they wanted a player, they usually landed that player.

Usually, the Yankees coaxed the player with an unmatched purse during the game. This time they may have been outbid. The Yankees, according to The Post’s Joel Sherman, said the umpire met with the Padres on Tuesday and believed he would go for 10 years and $400 million. They thought the Giants would match any offer, with President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi hoping the Northern California-raised Judge would bring his heart back home.

The Yankees won the player not for the dollar. Yankees fans will show their appreciation for the team and the player beginning March 30, when the season opens against the same Giants in the Bronx.

How many people will be waiting for the giants when they come home?

Last season — one year removed from a remarkable run to 107 wins and without any COVID restrictions — the Giants drew 225,000 fewer fans than in 2019, which was abysmal. Getting fans to a nice ballpark is a growing challenge, and in 10 years, the Giants’ home game average has gone from 41,696 (2012) to 30,650 (2022). Not because they haven’t offered enough contracts to stars in recent years, but because they lack star power.

San Francisco Giants fans arrive before Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in San Francisco, California.
The Giants are looking for a star who can reverse a decade-long decline in attendance of more than 10,000 fans per game.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

“The fans showed their frustration by not coming to the park last year,” Montero said. “I think that’s going to be the case this year, unless the team can get someone like that [Carlos] Correa.”

But will Correa – a legitimate star in his own right – solve the problem? The Herculean umpire who doesn’t miss a bat every time he steps into the batter’s box might be the most marketable star in the game (or at least second only to Ohtani).

Judge was the most obvious path for the Giants, and the Yankees — as they often do — put up a roadblock.

That was good for Judge, who finally showed that he valued his legacy as a Yankee above the potential comforts of playing near his family (and getting paid for it all the while). It’s been good for the Yankees, who might regret it in seven or eight years, but they’ve made a big contribution that they just had to have. That bodes well for Major League Baseball, which continues to have literally the biggest star in the sport’s biggest market, which has a big problem selling its stars. Most likely, Judge will remain a Yankee for life.

“I hope the ref stays for the game,” Anthony Rizzo said last month, “because you see a lot of franchise icons that don’t deserve it. [from] a team that has done so much for them.”

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) runs to the dugout during the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium, Monday, May 23, 2022, in the Bronx, New York.
While Aaron Judge has made no secret of his desire to play for the Giants, the Yankees’ legacy and deep pockets will keep him in the Bronx for the next nine years.
Corey Sipkin

The Yankees did what they had to do and cruised to the second-highest payroll in sports, According to Spotrac, just behind the Mets. Both New York teams still have a lot of work to do.

In an era of luxury tax penalties and great wealth throughout the game, there are plenty of reasons for other markets to look askance at New York.

After the judge’s decision, order was duly restored.

Today’s back page

New York Post Back Cover December 8, 2022.
New York Post

Read more:

⚾ Mets sign Jose Quintana for $26 million… The next signing could lead to the trade of Carlos Carrasco… VACCARO: The Mets left Steve Cohen with no choice.

🏀 Knicks’ defensive changes pay off in tight win over Hawks

🏒 Youth “Rangers” won over “Golden Knights”.

Stop and Lugo

Brooks Raleigh #30 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on September 28, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Brooks Raley had a breakout season for the Rays in 2022, striking out 61 in 53 ⅔ innings.
Diamond Pictures/Getty Images

Seth Lugo’s return to the Mets might not have happened anyway, but Wednesday’s trade — in which GM Billy Eppler landed lefty Brooks Raleigh from the Rays — added another dimension to Lugo’s time with the only franchise he’s ever known. was a sign.

A do-it-all for the Mets in his seven seasons, Lugo became the team’s unconventional best option against lefties last season. The Mets’ bullpen lacked a reliable lefty or southpaw at all for much of the season, and the righty Lugo limited lefty hitters to a .167 average.

Raley, who like Lugo could be used for multiple innings, could step into a similar role. He excelled against lefties who scored 170 against him. The Mets traded minor league lefty Keyshawn Askew to Tampa Bay for the 34-year-old.

Lugo, who has reportedly often stated his preference to be in the rotation, is reportedly drawing a lot of interest as a starter on the free agent market, and the Mets haven’t shown the same appreciation for him.

New York relief pitcher Seth Lugo (67) pitches during the MLB game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 18, 2022 in Atlanta.
Seth Lugo’s interest in becoming a manager means the Mets aren’t ready to explore what other teams might be like.
Sportswire icon via Getty Images

If this is indeed the end, Lugo — always good but rarely great and often overlooked — would have finished his tenure with the Mets 15th in games played. would be, 275 – ahead of legends like Ron Darling (257) and Sid. Fernandez (255), Turk Wendell (285) and Roger McDowell (280) were close behind.

Sweet revenge

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons haven’t teamed up for games like Wednesday, when Durant and Irving led the Nets to a 122-116 win over the Hornets.

They came here to win a championship, so now they’re here to beat the Celtics.

Their latest failure — a 103-92 loss at Barclays Center on Sunday — mirrored many of the problems that emerged in last season’s playoffs, when the Celtics swept their first-round series. The Celtics were taller and longer, blocking drives and passing lanes. Boston swarmed Durant with a series of double teams in the fourth quarter, and the Nets couldn’t adjust quickly enough, lacking ball movement.

Can Simmons solve problems?

Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum drives for a basket during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on December 4, 2022 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Just as Jayson Tatum and the Celtics have been in the playoffs, the Nets have been tough to stop in their first meeting this season.
NBAE via Getty Images

A healthy and mobile Simmons will be the Nets’ best option to limit Jayson Tatum, who has scored 29 points. When Durant gets chased, Simmons has the ability — if right — to get to the rim and finish or lay off the lob for a big like Nick Claxton.

Targeting Friday against the Hawks to work his way back from his calf strain, Simmons admitted he missed the game against Boston.

“We got three more plays against them,” Simmons said at practice Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to these games.”

The next matchup is on Jan. 12, when the Nets will get another look at how this core stacks up against the NBA’s best.


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