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The initial reaction was to roll your eyes at the Yankees — and specifically Aaron Judge — for being soft. And understandably so.

This season began with Gerrit Cole throwing a hissy fit over Billy Crystal’s first pitch. It ended with manager Aaron Boone whining about the open Minute Maid Park roof. And now we have a pair reports suggesting Judge and others could want out because the fans booed a bunch and reporters were critical? That the Bombers have an “external toxicity” issue, as SNY called it?

But take a beat and think through it.

A small group of idiots likely crossed the line into abusive, unacceptable behavior at the ballpark and on social media during the ALCS. But the overwhelming majority of Yankee fans behaved the same way they have behaved for the last century and will for the next century.

The local press can be rough when things go south and the Yankees fail to meet their championship expectations. But no franchise in the market gets more kid glove treatment than the Yankees. Just look at how so many columnists have twisted themselves into pretzels this week to avoid calling for general manager Brian Cashman’s firing after 13 World Series-less seasons.

New York is not for everyone. There are likely some players who want out and others who would not want in. But there are likely far more who want to be here, or are neutral on the concept. So what is the real agenda here?

One opinion: The Yankees have serious doubts they can re-sign Judge. For whatever reason(s). And it is time to start spinning. Talking heads keep on saying the Yankees are the favorites to re-sign Judge. But why?

There is no evidence owner Hal Steinbrenner is willing to pay top dollar. All indications are Judge was offended to some degree by the pre-Opening Day offer and Cashman’s negotiating tactics. His public comments on the matter have been incredibly cliched and emotionless.

Judge and his wife are from the West Coast and their families are still there. The Dodgers and Giants are both expected to show serious interest. And, perhaps most importantly, Judge’s best chance to win championships in the immediate future may not be with the Yankees.

Add it all up and this feels like it may be a 50-50 situation for the Yankees at best. And if they know they will not use the tool that can change everything — the almighty dollar — than they had better start laying the foundation of excuses. Perhaps that includes an attempt to shift blame onto the soon-to-be-even-more-outraged fans? Because how dare they boo Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks.

This narrative could also be valuable beyond explaining away a Judge exit. It also serves as an excuse for when Boone and Cashman sign no other free agents of any consequence this winter and again try to bargain hunt their way back down the Canyon of Heroes. It was not that they were cheap, it was that no one worth anything wanted to take their money because of the mean fans.

Perhaps this is all much ado about nothing. It is just post-mortem whining that will go nowhere. And maybe the Yankees will re-sign Judge, make a good faith effort to spend this winter and do everything possible to close the gap with the Astros. But all indications are they are far more concerned with profit margins than pennants. And this drip-drip-drip of inside baseball talking points sure feels like a calculated effort to start cushioning the blow when that becomes clear again.

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James Kratch can be reached at

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.