Yankees manager Boone vividly recalls wild ‘Arson Judge' fiasco

Yankees manager Boone vividly recalls wild ‘Arson Judge’ fiasco originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – A shower at the MLB Winter Meetings usually isn’t followed by a frenzy of a non-stop buzzing cell phone. For New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, that was his world in December 2022 when he stepped out of the shower expecting to get dressed for his usual run-of-the-mill media car wash.

Boone in reality was stepping into one of the craziest offseason scenes in recent memory. All because of one tweet. Not any tweet.

Maybe the most-tweeted misspelling ever.

Arson Judge will live on forever. Aaron Judge, however, is in his second season of a nine-year, $360 million contract to remain a Yankee. The alternative was the Giants or San Diego Padres, and for a few minutes, columnist and MLB Insider Jon Heyman had the whole baseball world believing Judge was headed for the Bay instead of the Bronx.

Heyman on Dec. 6, 2022 tweeted “Arson Judge appears headed to Giants,” only to then tweet four minutes later that the Giants hadn’t heard from Judge and apologized for “jumping the gun.”

“It wasn’t a high time,” Boone recalled Friday at Oracle Park during his pregame press conference before the Yankees play the Giants. “But it turned the next morning.”

That’s when the 2022 MVP made it official he was sticking with navy pinstripes instead of orange and black.

Although Boone didn’t believe Heyman’s initial tweet was true, typo and all, he admitted seeing it made him “uneasy.” Boone hadn’t talked with Judge yet and couldn’t be 100 percent certain which direction his superstar Northern California native was leaning. But the two did talk later that night, six or eight hours after social media went ablaze following dinner around 9 p.m., before Yankees ownership had even heard from him.

Boone’s phone again was lighting up the next morning. This time, the messages were all positive. The sentiment wasn’t exactly the same in San Francisco.

“Waking up literally the next morning from texts and stuff from friends that he was back, it was pretty early in the morning, it was obviously a good wake-up call,” Boone said.

Judge, a three-sport star at Linden High School, is playing the Giants at Oracle Park for the first time since the whole debacle a year-and-a-half ago. Friday actually will mark the first time Judge has ever played the Yankees in San Francisco. He was dealing with a strained left oblique in 2019 when the Yankees traveled to play the Giants.

The former AL MVP has played 15 games in the Bay Area, hitting five home runs at Oakland Coliseum, and has played the Giants three times at Yankee Stadium. In those three games, Judge hit .462 (6-for-13) with two home runs and four RBI.

Judge followed his historic 2022 season by hitting 37 home runs last year. No Giant has hit 30 home runs since Barry Bonds last played in 2007.

As for what kind of reception Judge will receive from Giants fans, Boone took a long, thoughtful pause. Boone played 12 MLB seasons and is in his seventh year managing the Yankees. His family is of baseball lineage, bleeding the same tone of red as the seams of a ball. Although Judge’s batting practice generated the most pre-game fandom at the ballpark in years, Boone knows the boo birds likely won’t be completely silenced.

“I don’t know. I mean … like, I don’t know. I really don’t know,” Boone said. “I mean, I know he’s excited to come play here. I know Northern California means a lot to him, his family is still here. I know he’s excited to be back.

“I would imagine, like most superstars, there’s a level of mixed reaction all the time. It certainly is the case when we go places, so I’m sure there will be a little bit of that. But he’s also such a beloved figure for being one of the faces of the sport, that it’s kind of hard to dislike Aaron.”

Whatever feelings Giants fans have towards Judge will be heard. Feelings are feelings. The reality is, Judge has played all 58 games this season and leads all of the major leagues in home runs (18), walks (45), slugging percentage (.617), OPS (1.020) and OPS+ (186), while topping the American league in doubles (18) and total bases (129).

It took one game for Shohei Ohtani to record his first two hits in San Francisco earlier this month, and two games for him to launch his first long ball nearly into McCovey Cove. The Giants will do everything in their power to keep a zero next to Judge’s hit totals at this park, and cheers or boos aren’t going to make a difference.

“I think Aaron’s, in my opinion, where he should be,” Boone said.

We’ll see if Oracle Park agrees over the next three games.

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