Can the Giants pass the Aaron Judge litmus test?


Last week, with a wink and smile, American League MVP Aaron Judge came to San Francisco to do some baseball team shopping. The Bay Area’s baseball team store is not very robust. There are just two options on the shelf here, but one of those options has very much caught the eye of the man who just cranked out 62 home runs last season. And the 6’7 outfielder has certainly caught the eye of that one option he is considering (it’s the Giants, in case the byline did not give it away), and they did everything they could to convince Judge to skip his other visits and just go home with them right on the spot.

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Alas, Judge left town without a deal being signed, and so we began to wait. And waited. Took a break for turkey and waited some more. You watch a Warriors game, but you’re still waiting. The 49ers won, but the waiting continued. Oh, the waiting, it truly is the hardest part.

Realistically, the chances of the Giants signing a player like Judge are small to begin with. It is not often one of the best sluggers in the game becomes a free agent like Judge, especially fresh off an MVP season the year prior. It is even rarer when these sluggers are from Northern California and have childhood connections to the Giants. I see you starting to connect dots and see patterns, and yes, this is a somewhat similar situation to the one the Giants faced before signing Barry Bonds back in 1992. But the connections stop there though. Bonds basically grew up in the Giants clubhouse, had a fan favorite for a father, and an all-time legend for a godfather. These deep familial ties went a long way to bringing Bonds to the Giants. Such ties do not exist for Judge, and the allure of playing for a childhood team only goes so far.

Meaning the Giants were not able to rely on emotions as much with Judge during his visit and their subsequent pitch to him, and instead had to resort to pure baseball reasons. And this is where the Giants test begins, and where the nerves begin to ratchet up.

Much has been made about “Farhan’s Plan” to turn the Giants into a contender. Farhan Zaidi has spoken to what the plan is (go to about 21:20 of this episode of Garlic Fries and Baseball Guys) and how the Giants plan to achieve said plan with varying degrees of detail. But for obvious reasons, the Giants cannot share the WHOLE PLAN with the media and fanbase. There are certain bits of proprietary information that teams are simply reluctant to share for competitive purposes.

Aaron Judge is not a member of the media, and despite what his interests were rooting-wise in 2002, he is not part of the fanbase either. He is being tabbed by the Giants as a potential future centerpiece of the organization, which means the Giants very likely pitched him on the WHOLE PLAN in a way that mere mortals like you and I could never imagine.

Again, we have no idea exactly what was pitched to Judge by the Giants' front office. But my guess is it most likely included the following:

·  How the Giants plan to compete in the future
·  How they intend to make that plan come to fruition
·  How Judge makes the plan coming to fruition much more likely

Other details will be discussed too (how much of a cut he gets on Judge wigs, where he wants his courtside seats at Chase Center etc) but the vision on the field is the main sell. The Giants most likely pitched Judge on their deepest inner workings of where they see this franchise going in the next 5-10 years. Every nook and cranny explored, every setback identified and ready to be dealt with, every reason to believe that these planned parades down Market Street won’t just happen when the Warriors are done playing in June.

These words the Giants threw at Judge will flock about his mind like the seagulls that will one day fly above him as he stands in the Oracle Park outfield, and how they resonate in Judge's mind will put the Giants on blast. Should Judge decide that the Giants pitch was worth taking a swing on, sending it far into the San Francisco night and donning the orange and back number 99 jersey, the rest of the baseball were most certainly take notice. It will be Judge's way of saying “Hey everyone, these Giants sure got some winning ideas over here, and boy are you going to want to get in on the action!”

On the other hand, what does it mean if Judge takes his talents back to New York, or even somewhere south of the Bay Area? It does not have to mean the Giants' plan is full of pixie dust and lies, but it would be an indictment on either how far along the outside world views the Giants and their plan or how believable that plan is right now. Maybe the Giants are not sleezy used car salesmen trying to dump a 98 Civic on you for $5,000 over its Blue Book value, but they are not exactly selling Porsches either. They are somewhere in between, and somewhere in between is not the place to be when winning championships is the goal.

Aaron Judge may not be The Answer to all the Giants' ills. His presence in the lineup is not guaranteed to magically make the Giants better than the Los Angeles Dodgers in the regular season, or the Houston Astros in the postseason. He’ll make the Giants better, but maybe not enough better. But he will make the Giants cooler. This meeting last week can almost be looked at as the Giants making a pitch to join the cool kids' table at the cafeteria. If they can sit next to Judge during lunch, then you got a new big guy on campus coming your way. The Giants will feel like it’s 2010 again (or 12 or 14 you can’t go wrong with any of them). The Giants will be cool again. Life is fun when the Giants are cool. It makes being a Giants fan feel even cooler when the Giants are cool.

But to get rejected from the cool kids' table would be devastating for a team so desperately trying to be accepted as relevant and entertaining again. Sure, the Giants will rebound. They’ll pick themselves up and maybe go sign a Carlos Correa and possibly pair him with a Brandon Nimmo, which would also make the Giants better. But it will be a sobering setback of a reminder of just how far away this team truly is from returning to the highs of the early 2010s again.

The Giants have pleaded their case. It is now time for Aaron to render his, uh, decision. One that will either propel the Giants into a blissful future or doom them to more miserable years in the desert.

Why are you still nervous?

Featured Image Photo Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports