Baseball Ethics: Let Aaron Judge Hit! [Updated!]

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.

16 thoughts on “Baseball Ethics: Let Aaron Judge Hit! [Updated!]

  1. You didn’t mention he has a shot at the triple crown which would only be the 2nd time since 1967.
    2012 AL Miguel Cabrera DET .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI
    1967 AL Carl Yastrzemski BOS .326, 44 HR, 121 RBI

    • In their place (I wish), I’d be demanding that the manager let me pitch, arguing that I could strike him out, something he does at an impressive rate. They’d tell me to shut up.

  2. Those juicers who hit all those homers, did they hit them off pitchers who were juicers? What’s the comparative advantage of juicing for hitters vs pitchers?
    Meanwhile, the Jays have to win games, and, if neutralizing an opposing batter helps, then that is what they must do.
    Meanwhile, as I write this, Judge has walked, flied out, and grounded out in tonight’s game, so he’s getting some opportunities.
    Bogaerts also is 0 for 2, so Judge clings to that possible triple crown.

  3. As you well know, there are game situations when it makes sense to intentionally walk a hitter or pitch around him. In those cases, I’m fine with the walk. But walking Judge just to avoid giving up that 61st homer is a terrible idea for the following reasons:

    1. It makes the opposing pitcher and coaches look spineless.
    2. It lessens the experience for the fans, most of whom spent a small fortune for the chance to see history.
    3. It continues to give hitters like McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds notoriety they absolutely don’t deserve.

    If I were on the mound facing Aaron Judge, I’d be sorely tempted to groove fastball after fastball…giving him the best chance to reach 74 and finally get Barry Bonds fully eliminated from the home-run conversation.

    One final note…Judge’s 9.7 WAR is astounding considering a few years ago some statistic group determined each WAR was worth $6m in salary.

  4. And the ethical difference between strategically walking Judge by giving him nothing to hit and deploying a modern day, soon to be illegal radical shift is…?

  5. Let’s use an example from the NFL as a counterpoint.

    In 2007, Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears was coming off an incredible rookie season, and prior to the November 25, 2007 game the Bears had with the Denver Broncos, it was clear that he was to return specialists what Walter Payton was to running backs and what Tom Brady is to quarterbacks: the GOAT.

    Prior to the Bears-Broncos game, punter/kickoff specialist Todd Sauerbrun vowed he would not kick away from Hester.

    Eventually during the game, Hester proved why he was the GOAT return specialist. He had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. Later, he had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

    Both returns wiped out Broncos leads, and the Broncos lost in overtime, in no small part because Sauerbrun played with fire (figuratively).

    So, in this case, with a hitter like Judge having the season he’s having, and if I’m the manager of the opposing team, I’m telling my pitchers, “Don’t give him something he can smash.” Especially if I’m managing Toronto, and knowing my team is only a half-game ahead of Cleveland for the last wild card spot.

    Toronto’s pitchers have an ethical obligation to NOT endanger their team’s playoff chances.

  6. In the triple crown race, Bogaerts has slipped to 3rd at .309. Judge is currently leading at .3134, and Luis Arraez is 2nd at .3133. This was the most problematic category a couple weeks ago for Judge, when he was about 9 points back, but he has continued to hit and the field came back to him.

    As far as pitching to Judge, it is certainly one of baseball’s many unwritten rules that each team should put forth its best effort, regardless of their position in the standings. So you should be pitching (or not) to Judge based on whatever the game situation might be. Certainly I hope that my Texas Rangers, who face Judge the final four games of the season, will do so next week.

    Just had a random thought regarding the lockout this past spring. This upcoming series between the Rangers and Yankees was scheduled for the first week of the season — I wonder how well Judge was hitting at the beginning of the season compared to now. Interesting what if.

    Regarding playoff positioning, it is interesting in the American League. The three division winners are set. However, the Baltimore Orioles (!) still have a very outside chance at one of the wild card bids — they are 5 games back of both the Mariners and Rays with 7 to go, and they lost the season series to both those teams, so they would lose a tie breaker. The Blue Jays are 6 ahead in the loss column with 6 to play, but if the Orioles are not eliminated by Sunday Baltimore and Toronto will close the season against each other — if the Orioles sweep them, they would win the season series and thus win the tie breaker and the wild card slot.

    What does all that mean? The Orioles have maybe a 2% chance of making the post season, BUT they play Judge and the Yankees this weekend, so these might still be meaningful games for the Orioles.

  7. This is not directly related to Judge’s feats, or the ethics of pitching to him, but I ran across some interesting tidbits when doing some of the baseball research.

    There have been three American League players to hit 60 home runs in a season. All have been Yankees. All three of those Yankee teams finished first (although this year’s team is only first in their division, they have not yet won the AL pennant). The 1927 and 1961 Yankees went on to win the World Series.

    Roger Maris won AL MVP in 1961, Judge may yet win that honor (especially if he wins the triple crown). Babe Ruth, despite having perhaps his greatest season did not win the then equivalent of the MVP award. Why not? Well, he had won it in 1923 and the rules back then said that prior winners were not eligible to win it again. Somewhat akin to the Big 10 not letting you go to the Rose Bowl two years in a row.

    You will recall the ‘asterisk’ Maris had for many years because he hit his 61 home runs in a season that was 162 games instead of Ruth’s 154. Well, did you know that the 1961 Yankees actually played 163 games? Evidently they played the Orioles to a 5-5 tie one day and the game had to be made up later. I suspect it was probably suspended due to the American League curfew (or maybe a rain out), and the rules required a whole new game — but stats from that game counted. As near as I can tell, Maris did not homer in the tie game nor — looking at the most likely game to be the makeup — does it appear he homered in the makeup game (but I can’t be certain).

    Addendum to that — the 1927 Yankees also had a tie game, so they played a total of 155 games that season, but Ruth hit his last homer in game 154. Ruth did not homer in the tie game, but I about fell out of my chair seeing that he played against Ty Cobb that day.

    Maris hit his 61st in the last game of the season. But Ruth hit 3 home runs in the last two days of the season to get to 60. Does that mean Judge is bound to wait until next Wednesday to hit his 62nd?

    ========================

    Enough of the trivia and on to the bizarre. I asked Google to tell me who played October 1, 1927 and it was happy to oblige. You will be interested to know that some of the results from that day included:

    The Kansas City Royals lost to the Minnesota Twins.
    The Philadelphia Phillies lost to the San Francisco Giants.
    The Atlanta Braves lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
    The Cleveland Guardians lost (twice) to the Detroit Tigers.
    And the previous day, Ruth hit his 60th home run against the Minnesota Twins. I kid you not — just ask Google.

    I can figure out where they got these team names (I’ll leave that as an exercise for the student) — except some of them are wrong. Bad google.

    • Before they were the Twins, they were the Washington Senators and Washington Nationals.

      So, that may be where Google got its info.

      Kind of like saying Caitlyn Jenner won the decathlon.

      -Jut

      • Close, but the Nationals have nothing to do with this — they came from Montreal, which didn’t exist in 1927.

        Otherwise, you are correct about the Twins — the first Washington Senators franchise moved there in 1961, I believe. The second Washington Senators franchise move to Texas in 1972 to become the Rangers, and Washington was without a team for a long time.

        But the Kansas City Royals have no ancestry — they were an expansion team in the 60s after Finley move the Athletics to Oakland. The Athletics were in Philadelphia in 1927, then they moved to Kansas City, then to Oakland. If google was tracing the ancestry it should have referred to them as the Oakland Athletics, not the Kansas City Royals.

        ==========================

        But more to the point, why not simply use their actual names (and logos from back then). Just say that the Boston Braves lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers. What’s so hard about being accurate?

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