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The Yankees didn’t even have one last, great dramatic moment to turn to in the end. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, presumptive American League Most Valuable Player awardee Aaron Judge had a chance to extend the Championship Series with a home run blast akin to his whopping 62 in the regular season. If nothing else, his spectacular run in a contract year showed that he was built for dramatic moments such as that which faced him. And so he calmly stood against noted Astros closer Ryan Pressly. Last June, he got the better of the right-handed pitcher by driving the go-ahead winner via a walk-off single. This time around, his best option was to go yard.

As things turned out, Judge — and, by extension, the Yankees — didn’t have one more superb shot in him. Four pitches later, he was gone; the groundout that sent them all packing for yet another early exit, by their perennially lofty standards, proved more telling than any of his hits that came before it. Once again, they were upended by their hated rivals. And once again, they wound up being irrelevant. Their savior cooled down considerably in the postseason, and it was an arguably predictable offshoot of his night-in, night-out stints under the klieg lights.

To be sure, fans will, no doubt, consider the Yankees’ 2022 campaign for what it was — an avenue for Judge’s brush with immortality. Even as titles are admittedly significant, they take a back seat to individual accomplishments that stand the test of time. That said, the Bombers cannot but be disappointed with the outcome. Never mind that their difficulties in the Division Series against the lowly Guardians telegraphed their plight. And forget that their litany of excuses includes those deemed reasonable even by their most vociferous critics.

The Yankees should have an interesting offseason, and not simply because they’re, well, the Yankees. Needless to say, their first order of the day is to sign Judge to a new contract, preferably for the long term. So what if he’s 30? If there’s anything the year they had showed, it’s that he moves the needle for them — for better or worse. He may have had a forgettable playoff stint, but he underscored his professionalism and work ethic from Day One. They would do well to ensure that he stays in pinstripes. Else, they risk being mired in mediocrity, blinded by the birds in the bush to see with clarity the one in the hand.

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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