Baseball is alive and well in New York, regardless of the emotional swings Mets and Yankees fans experience daily. Amid the anguish and inexcusable loss, both ball clubs are still part of Major League Baseball’s elite. Besides the inevitability of making the same playoffs for the first time since 2015, the Mets and Yankees would also have to win at least 90 ball games, which hasn’t happened since 2006, when both finished with identical records of 97-65.
Aaron Judge is electrifying as he chases Roger Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 homers. He handled the pressure with grace and humility while single-mindedly focused on helping the Yankees win a world championship. Unfazed by the overwhelming attention, Judge’s upcoming free agency has become a matter of great importance. Believe it or not, Judge’s free agency could determine baseball supremacy in New York for the next decade.
Don’t think for a moment that the problem will be easily solved with a decade-long contract with an average annual value of at least $40 million. Franchisees who are serious about Judge will realize long before negotiations begin that they will likely be paying too much for his services. The mindset should pay off for a decade, but hope for seven quality seasons and payback in other business-related pursuits. This is by no means an indictment against Judge, but an honest observation regarding the structure of long-term guaranteed contracts, current trends in free agent spending on elite ballplayers and the economics of baseball.
A recent development speaks volumes about the Mets and their possible pursuit of the judge in free agency. Sandy Alderson will step down as team president and move into a special advisor role once his successor is chosen by owners Steve and Alex Cohen. Instead of seeing this as an internal power struggle, it’s a moment of pride and definition. Alderson’s transition means there is a high level of trust and stability within the franchise and the dysfunction that plagued the Mets is slowly becoming a distant memory.
Steve Cohen treats the Mets with great respect as a beloved community asset. Excellence doesn’t happen overnight, as Cohen confronted toxicity and ineptitude with a renewed mindset focused on responsibility. Learning valuable lessons through his mistakes, Cohen leads the Mets with enthusiasm while investing in human capital and employee morale. Along with a genuine commitment to the fan experience, Cohen is rebuilding the Mets through innovation, strategic partnerships, on-field excellence and an unquenchable desire to win. Like George Steinbrenner at his zenith with the Yankees as primary owner, winning is like oxygen for Cohen.
A man who has amassed billions in wealth based on an intimate understanding of data, Cohen didn’t experiment with the latest trends in executive hiring and decided to invest in a proven leader with extensive experience at Buck Showalter. Alderson and Showalter’s broad contributions to the Mets’ new winning culture demonstrate the importance of thought leadership, organizational structure and meaningful collaborations. It feels like the franchise is finally aligned with fan expectations.
The consensus is that Judge will stay in the stripes, but never underestimate the temptations that are always present in free will. Judge is not only the cornerstone of the franchise, but he is the embodiment of the iconic Yankees brand. He is the rock on which the franchise is built whose simple acts of kindness have endeared themselves to generations of fans. In addition to redefining what “precious” means in baseball parlance, Judge is the personification of class and excellence.
Recently, the Boston Red Sox signed a 10-year, $170 million jersey patch sponsorship deal with Mass Mutual to begin at the start of the 2023 season. obtaining a jersey crest sponsorship. It wouldn’t be impossible to see the Yankees receiving at least $20 million a year. It could be a lot more if Judge proudly wears the stripes next season.
There’s an age-old question worth pondering: Are fans attached to individual athletes or to the uniform? Judge will be the ultimate litmus test as he has a deep and personal relationship with Yankees fans. Will they feel the same if Judge leaves the Bronx? What if he crosses the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge to play for the Mets? Should the Yankees be worried about brand value if the judge leaves via free agency?
The back pages of the New York tabloids have always been a clear sign of victory and defeat in the battle for supremacy between the Mets and the Yankees. Now, victory will be determined in the schoolyards of boroughs, suburbs and counties across the tri-state area. A key aspect for the future of baseball in New York is who will win the tween demographic. How nice it must be for Cohen to see seven-year-old fans walk through the doors of Citi Field wearing Francisco Lindor jerseys, can you imagine what it would be like if those blue and orange jerseys had the judge’s name on the back. ?
As Cohen eliminates unhappiness from the Mets vocabulary, questions arise about his aggressiveness in pursuing Judge. In addition to revised thresholds and penalties in the new collective bargaining agreement specifically aimed at owners such as Cohen, the Mets have some serious decisions regarding several of their own free agents. Right-handed pitcher Jacob deGrom plans to exercise the exclusion clause in his contract and will command a significant raise with an average annual value like teammate and right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer’s $43.33 million. Another high-profile free agent for the Mets, closest right-hander Edwin Diaz, will seek a $10.2 million salary boost from his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Aaron Judge should never play for any other franchise other than the New York Yankees. The unpredictability of free will is conducive to surprises and unexpected partnerships. Excitement surrounds the New York Mets as the battle for market supremacy will be fiercely contested over the next decade. However, it all starts with Judge’s future in the Bronx.