Two days ago, when the rumor yawned, stretched and climbed from its coffin, I was a complete Yankee climate-change denier. The rumor defied logic.
Here was Aaron Judge, arguably the Yankees' most important prospect since Jeter, hitting .351 in Tampa, playing solid defense, age 24, having proved himself at Triple A and having earned his rightful shot at a major league roster - and the Yankees were going to kick him in those beach ball-sized nuts and send him to Scranton? Nah. Couldn't happen. No way. Nevah!
Then I remembered Rob Refsnyder, who two years ago hit .364 in the Grapefruit continuum. He stole bases, hit a homer, and he had played a year at Triple A - surely had earned a shot. But the Yankees had Stephen Drew...
And then I recalled Francisco Cervelli, who for two years had been a Yankee catcher and good luck sign - who twice was rushed to a hospital in his Yankee uniform - cruelly dumped a day before coming north. (The Yankees traded George Kontos, to this day a serviceable reliever, so they could give the backup catching job to Chris Stewart and make Cervelli disappear.)
I thought of Mark Melancon and Melky Cabrera, discarded by a front office that had concluded they could best be converted into aging salary dumps - because, after all, that's that the Yankees represent: Big money veterans whose best years came with other franchises, an ongoing carnival of former all-stars plugged into a tradition that has sputtered now for 15 years.
Yep, think about Refsnyder and the rest, and you can read today's tea leaves in a large Times Roman font: The so-called "Baby Bombers" is a mere advertising slogan, like the theme for Cellino and Barnes.. and yes, the Yankees will always choose a tired, bloated veteran - and his contract - over a young player. So today, we brace ourselves for news that Aaron Judge is going to Scranton (if he's not traded to another team.)
The Gammonites are reporting universally that Judge will be demoted so the Satan-spawned contract of Jacoby Ellsbury can be seared into the grass of center field. Technically, the Yankees have touted an Olympian competition between Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, suggesting all spring that they would give youth a chance (even though Hicks is 27.) Meanwhile, Ellsbury and - yes - Brett Gardner are bolted into the lineup, despite each having done little over the last 12 months to generate hope.
Once again, the Yankees choose money. And listen: I'm not mad at Ellsbury or Gardner; both play hard and are, by all accounts, fine teammates. The problem is a front office that on Monday announces fiscal austerity - holding the line on Robbie Cano - and then on Tuesday bestows a seven-year deal to a china doll like Ellsbury. Hal Steinbrenner claims the Yankees should contend and rebuild simultaneously, which veers back and forth between policies, leaving a front office that cannot stick to a plan.
I get it that the Yankees want Judge to play every day. I get it that Hicks doesn't resemble the stumble bum who last year hit .217. I get it that Gardner and Ellsbury have earned a first-round bye in spring competitions, and you don't shelve a veteran simply because of a crappy month of March.
But here is what will happen: Sent to Scranton, Judge will be demoralized. He'll start in a deep slump. He'll fall into bad habits. He'll try to overcompensate by hitting home runs. And then, the worst: Yankee scouts will point to his problems and whisper to their Gammonitic water boys (and girls): "See? We told you!" Because in a certain way, the front office will want it to happen. Judge's failure will justify their decision to send him down. And another great Yankee hope will fade into the landscape of central Pennsylvania, until - that is - Judge winds up with another team.
I get it that Judge may need all of 2017 to figure out major league pitching.
But he cannot do it in Scranton.
You know, folks complain that we're too negative on this site. Well, when the Yankees start winning, trust me; You'll see us gush with positive thoughts. But not today. If the Yankees punt on Aaron Judge, they are punting on the hopes that they have selling.