I don’t actually have that many jerseys. Part of it is a function of cost, part of it is a bit of weirdness being a grown adult man wearing a different grown adult man’s clothing. I have a red Mike Trout, a purple Trevor Story, a home pinstripes Gerrit Cole, and a home Aaron Judge. After yesterday, there’s a very real chance that the Judge jersey follows the path of my Story. It becomes not just laundry, but laundry that doesn’t really mean much anymore.
Rosters change over time, and for the most part, fans accept that. I grew up as a Yankee fan with the Core Four (and Bernie!). None of those guys are still with the team, obviously. Nobody from the big 2013 spending class is either, and honestly, not that many of the Baby Bombers are left. I’m still a Yankee fan, though.
And really, that’s all I could think about yesterday, when the news came down that the Yankees weren’t able to agree to an extension with their best player. Yes, there’s certainly a chance they bring him back later this year, but he’s going to test the market, and the Yankee preference for long-term financial flexibility has to have some kind of impact on their chances of bringing him back.
It’s clear, though, the Yankees are relying on the inertia of fandom. Fans kept coming out after Derek Jeter retired, they kept coming out after Robinson Canó walked, and the Stadium was full yesterday despite an underwhelming offseason. We root for the laundry, we find new players to cheer for — and sometimes new players to disdain — and the cyclical nature of fandom just goes around and around.
I can accept this, and still be mad that the team wasn’t able to keep Judge in house, guaranteed, for his entire career. They named a part of the stadium after him, after all. There was no “Jeter’s Wall” or “Sandman’s Gate” (although that second one sounds cool as hell) when the last Yankee franchise players were here. Like Jesse talked about earlier today, the team is financially positioned in a way where it would work to add a large extension. And they’re not going to.
It’s not really the job of a front office to make an “entertaining” product. It’s the role of marketing folks to sell the product, and the job of an FO to win as many games as possible given both internal and external constraints. I don’t know whether the decision on Judge was more based around his projected performance four or five years from now declining to the point where it wasn’t worth it, or those constraints putting pressure on their ability to offer more.
Still, even though it’s not Brian Cashman’s job to appeal to the fans, part of the downside of the money, power, and recognition that comes with running the New York Yankees is, you’re as much the face of the franchise as any player — arguably more given that he’s the single through line of the last 25 years of Yankee baseball.
So when you hold a press conference two hours before the first pitch of the season to tell us how disappointed you are in your own negotiations failing, and your club’s top prospect in Anthony Volpe now has to debut with the dual pressures of being the reason you passed over Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, as well as the expectations of the New Franchise Player since your last one just walked, you’re not going to get much sympathy from me.
Brian Cashman missed this offseason, badly. His team is still good, if not as good as it could be, I’m still going to root for them, and when the next crop of laundry comes up, I’ll find favorite players there too. But I might think twice before adding to my jersey collection. It just feels less and less like the Yankees invest in their fanbase the way the fanbase invests in them.