Could that memorable conclusion have marked Judge's final Opening Day in Yankees pinstripes?
Judge and the Yankees did not reach an agreement on a contract extension before the outfielder's self-imposed Opening Day deadline, meaning that any potential discussions about a new deal will take place after the season, when the star slugger will be eligible for free agency.
"I'm just disappointed, because I've been vocal about wanting to be a Yankee for life," Judge said. "I want to bring a championship back to New York. I want to do it for the fans here. They're family. This is home for me, and not getting that done right now, it stinks. But I've got a job to do on the field. I've got to shift my focus to that and go play some ball."
Judge rejected a seven-year, $213.5 million extension that would have started in 2023, according to figures provided by general manager Brian Cashman. Judge's 2022 salary has yet to be determined in an arbitration hearing; Judge filed at $21 million and the team countered at $17 million.
"We were unsuccessful in concluding a multi-year pact," Cashman said. "Obviously our intent is to have Aaron Judge stay as a New York Yankee moving forward. And I know that is his intent as well, which is a good thing. We'll be entering those efforts in a new arena, which will be at the end of the season, when free agency starts. Maybe that will determine what the real market value will be."
The proposed deal would have been valued at $30.5 million per season, establishing the highest average annual value ever issued to a Yankees position player and exceeding the $27.5 million AAV of Alex Rodríguez's final contract with the Bombers.
It also would have represented the largest extension that the Yankees have issued, eclipsing those agreed upon by Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million) and CC Sabathia (five years, $122 million). Judge said that he would have preferred that the proposed financial figures remained private.
"It didn't take me by surprise," Judge said. "They've got a job to do. They can do whatever they need to do. It didn't surprise us, but I like to keep a lot of this stuff private. There's nothing to get upset about; it's business."
Judge and his agent, Page Odle, are seeking one of the largest deals ever issued to an outfielder. That group features: Mike Trout (12 years, $426.5 million), Mookie Betts (12 years, $365 million), Bryce Harper (13 years, $330 million) and Giancarlo Stanton (13 years, $325 million).
Judge has said that he and Odle would not negotiate with the Yankees during the season, believing that doing so would be a distraction.
"We've got so many things to focus on, a lot of good things happening," Judge said. "I don't want this to be a distraction for the team. After today, it's done."
Stanton said that he is confident Judge's "laser focus" on the field will not change because of the stalled contract talks. Stanton added that he considered the emphasis on reaching a deal by Opening Day "a little overexaggerated."
"We'll push it to the side. He's got work to do, and we've got to focus," Stanton said. "He knows what he has to execute every night, and the pressure of every day here. He'll be fine."
One of the sport's most recognizable stars, Judge has slashed .276/.386/.554 with 158 home runs and 366 RBIs in six Major League seasons from 2016-21.
The unanimous 2017 American League Rookie of the Year, a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger, Judge paced the Bombers in all slash line categories last season, hitting .287/.373/.544 with 39 homers and 98 RBIs in 148 games.
"He's been a great Yankee, he's an impactful player and he's one of the game's great players," Cashman said. "Our hope is that at some point we'll find that common ground that we both feel comfortable with. We're happy he's in pinstripes and we look forward to him leading this team this season."
Passing on the extension represents significant risk for Judge, who played in 242 of a possible 384 regular season games from 2018-20 due to various injuries.
"Very few people get this opportunity to even talk about an extension," Judge said. "Me getting this opportunity is something special, and I appreciate the Yankees wanting to do that. I don't mind going to free agency. It is what it is. … At the end of the year, I'm a free agent. I'll talk to 30 teams and the Yankees will be one of those 30 teams."