Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 60th home this season last week. Now Judge leads the majors in home runs, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases, WAR and several other statistical categories. Judge is hitting .316/.419/.703 with 60 home runs, 128 RBI, 123 runs, 16 stolen bases and 9.7 WAR (that’s “wins above a replacement player”). The 60 homers tie him with Babe Ruth for the long-standing so-called “154 game season record,” and put him one behind Roger Maris for the American League season record for homers, 61 (set by Maris in ’61, and celebrated in Billy Crystal’s excellent film, “61”).
61 represents another landmark, though, a more important one. It is the most home runs hit by a Major League Player who was not jacked-up on steroids. The list ahead of Maris reads, 1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001 (Cheater)
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998 (Cheater)
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998 (Cheater)
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999 (Cheater)
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001 (Cheater)
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999 (Cheater)
McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, all as National Leaguers, used banned performance-enhancing drugs to hit more than 61 home runs.
Judge isn’t cheating. He’s a natural mutant, like Babe Ruth. He’s 6’7″, weighs close to 300 pounds, and looks bigger than that. There are eight games left in the season; before the last five games, in which he went homerless, Judge at least had a theoretical chance to hit the 13 home runs he would need to catch Bonds, the worst cheater of the bunch. Now that seems out of reach, but every member of that slimy, embarrassing list that Judge can pass equals a boon for baseball.
Pitchers aren’t pitching to Judge now: nobody wants their name “to live in infamy,” like poor, mediocre Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard, who never did anything of note in his short career except throw the ball that Maris hit for his record-setting homer. Yesterday, Judge was walked four times by Toronto Blue Jay pitchers.
For heaven’s sake, let the man hit. Pitch him tough, pitch him well, but give Aaron Judge a chance to knock some of those shameful names down the all-time season homers record list.
This Red Sox fan is rooting for him.
UPDATE: Judge hit #61 tonight.