Yankees’ Aaron Judge reacts after striking out swinging against the...

Yankees’ Aaron Judge reacts after striking out swinging against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Maybe the time has come for Yankees fans to try some positivity with Aaron Judge.

At this point, it couldn’t hurt. Worked for the other guy across town, right?

A few standing ovations at Citi Field and all of a sudden, Francisco Lindor — after the jeers turned to cheers — is hitting go-ahead homers, lefthanded even.

As we’ve seen, money can’t buy you love, whether you’re making $341 million like the Mets’ shortstop or $360 million in Judge’s case.

Incredibly, the Yankees’ captain — a former MVP and unquestionably the team’s most popular player (before Juan Soto showed up) — has not earned himself immunity from getting the Joey Gallo treatment, as he did during the ninth inning of Saturday’s 2-0, 10-inning loss to the Rays in the Bronx.

Judge already had struck out three times before coming to the plate, with nary a boo to be heard. But with the game scoreless in the ninth, Judge went down flailing again on four pitches, managing to foul off one and swinging through the three others, the last an 86-mph slider from Jason Adam.

Instantly, the boos rained down.

By now, we should be used to such vitriol in these parts, whether it’s Flushing or the Bronx. But when Judge is the target, the noise just hits differently. You almost do a double-take, like “are they really booing Judge?”

Yes, 100% they were booing Judge. And even if you’re among those who believe he shouldn’t get a lifetime pass for that 2022 All-Universe season — when he was named MVP and maybe even set the legit, PED-free single-season homer record with 62 — didn’t Judge earn himself a somewhat longer grace period?

“I’ve heard worse,” he said. “And I’d probably be doing the same thing in their situation.”

Give Judge an A-plus for diplomacy. He knows better than to spar with disgruntled fans, regardless of their lunacy. But what are these people so ticked off about?

Judge is off to a terrible start through 21 games. After Saturday’s Golden Sombrero, he is hitting .179 with 11 RBIs and a .682 OPS — numbers that are woefully un-Judge-like and roughly half of Soto’s production (.354 average, 20 RBIs, 1.077 OPS). But the Yankees have done a decent job winning in spite of him (14-7) and sit atop the AL East.

Plus, the Yankees have been home for only two days, splitting with the Rays. Doesn’t Judge get a bit of a longer reprieve to straighten himself out?

It was only Wednesday when he delivered the two-run single in the ninth that beat the Blue Jays and staved off what would’ve been a demoralizing sweep by a division rival at Rogers Centre. Are people’s memories really that short?

“It’s the Bronx,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s beloved. And those will turn real quick.”

Maybe so. But there also were extenuating circumstances that could have called for some restraint. Did we mention that Saturday also was Aaron Judge Bobblehead Day, rescheduled from last season’s rainout? Or that John Sterling was honored in a pregame ceremony after abruptly calling it a career earlier in the week?

Sterling got some silver cuff links, a pinstriped jersey emblazoned with the No. 5,631 (for games broadcast) and an 83-inch TV. He also was serenaded by his very own roll call — “John Ster-ling” — from the entire stadium, not just the rightfield bleachers.

And Judge? His ears were ringing with boos upon leaving the field. Oh, well. That’s baseball, Suzyn.

“It’s always disappointing,” said Nestor Cortes, who was cheered loudly all afternoon for his seven scoreless innings, which included nine strikeouts. “I feel like he’s done a lot for this team, a lot for this organization. We know he’s going to come around. He’s going to be our Judge, obviously. It’s just a matter of time.”

Mid-April is no time for sweeping generalizations, of course. Judge insists he’s fine physically despite the abdominal issues that sidelined him toward the end of spring training.

But it’s not only about his statistical malaise. He just hasn’t looked right at the plate. Missing badly with awkward swings. Not anywhere near his usually intimidating self. He seems more on the defensive in the batter’s box, and that’s not the Judge we’re accustomed to seeing for an extended period, whatever month it is.

“I think it’s kind of a mix of everything,” Judge said. “Plus getting pitched pretty tough, especially the teams we’re facing, not getting too many pitches to do damage with. But I’m still getting some pitches to hit and I gotta capitalize on them. I think that’s what it comes down to, staying aggressive in my zone. When I do that, usually good things happen.”

With Judge, there’s no reason to doubt the process. The only thing that stopped him in the past — his kryptonite — has been injury-related, and the Yankees aren’t copping to any medical issues. So for now, we’ll reluctantly believe Judge is simply being human. And the Yankees have to hope that Judge being subject to the same failures as ordinary mortals is only a fleeting phase.

“Happens all the time with greatness, every year,” Boone said. “We’ll scratch our heads, and then you’ll look up in a few weeks, and wow, Aaron Judge is Aaron Judge.”

That’s probably the only way to quiet the boos, even for the Yankees’ captain. Doesn’t make it right, but that’s the Bronx.


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