Hal Steinbrenner
Kim Klement | USA TODAY Sports

Hal Steinbrenner really wants Aaron Judge to re-sign with his Yankees.

At least, the owner said as much at an MLB owners meeting in Midtown on Tuesday. Steinbrenner told reporters he and Judge have spoken a few times since the end of the season. They also had an in-person meeting. Steinbrenner then emphatically reiterated the same old story we’ve heard from general manager Brian Cashman: Judge is important to the Yankees and they’re prepared to make him a significant and lucrative offer.

He wasn’t kidding about the money either, reportedly adding, “I don’t have an absolute payroll number in my head.”

Some Yankees fans might be happy to hear this. After all, New York also re-signed first baseman and Judge’s close friend Anthony Rizzo on Monday. That should motivate the likely American League MVP to spurn offers from the Giants, Dodgers, and others.

But anyone who’s been paying attention knows that, though certainly well-intentioned, Steinbrenner’s words are meaningless. Judge just hit .311, set a new AL record with 62 home runs and led the majors with 131 RBI. The Yankees were always going to be in play to re-sign him. Cashman’s bad Billy Beane impression and playing modified Moneyball with the roster only stretches so far.

In reality, no Yankees fan will believe the team is serious about re-signing him until the news breaks that Judge has. It doesn’t matter that New York’s payroll was the third-highest in MLB in 2022. Long gone are the spending habits of Hal’s late father George.

Would we even be having this conversation if The Boss were still with us? No, he would have signed Judge to a new (and probably overvalued) contract before Opening Day. Not only that, Cashman’s original seven-year, $230 million would have been blown out of the water.

Steinbrenner must take this lesson to heart, even if he is something of a reluctant emperor. He can see, even from his office TV down in Tampa, how essential Judge is to the Yankees’ future. Now, he just has to follow through and do what George would have done, even with all the media pontificating: Shut up, strap in, buckle down, and close the deal.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.