Stepping into this quagmire, without doing on his own, Aaron Judge, who wears the same pinstripes as Maris and Babe Ruth, and does things in summer 2022 are as unusual as his predecessors did in the 1920s and 1960s, respectively. Judge had 55 home as of Thursday, and with the Yankees only 24 games to go toward the end of the season, he’s unlikely to hit Barry Bonds’ (mysterious) mark of 73. Unlikely. But don’t take your eyes off him.
There’s ink to be poured about what the correct home run record should be, because the Bonds were on the run “Dignified” and “Pure” And whatever else he’s done to artificially build himself into an all-time champion on home soil, whether for a season or in his career. The only other players to hit more than Maris in the summer of ’61 are similarly stained – Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in both 1998 and 99, and Sosa again in 2001, the year Bonds established the record.
Home jogging hitting, like anything in baseball, is usually a product of where the sport was at at a particular time: the dead-ball era, the bowler year, the steroid era, squeezing ball of 2019 and so on. In 2022, Judge is a total freak, spitting on the belief that the ball has traveled less this year by firing shot after shot over the fence.
When Maris surpassed Ruth’s record of 60—a figure that Babe had reached in the 154-game season in 1927—he was pushed by teammate and icon Mickey Mantell, who finished with a score of 54. That fits with history. Most often, there is Robin riding alongside Batman. Not ready for some intense baseball feelings right now? You may want to leave this column. The rest of you, come on.
The only seasons in which more than 50 players hit 50 wrecks was 2001, the year the Bonds set the current mark; and 1998, the year McGuire and Souza created what seemed like magic by tracking and passing Maris. In each of those seasons, four players reached the age of 50 – Bonds, Sosa, Luis Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez in 01; McGwire, Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Vaughn in 1998. Remember the days when chicks dug the long ball?
There were 13 seasons prior to this season in which the player hit no fewer than 55 teammates. Nine of those years, at least one other player turned 50. And that was true during the Bonds-McGuire steroid era, of course. But this was also true in 1938 for Hank Greenberg (58) and Jamie Foxx (50). That was true in 2017, when fellow judge Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 for Miami while hitting judge 52 as a Yankees rookie. This was true for Maris and Mantle.
Separating yourself from the power pack, as the judge does, is something that hasn’t really happened since the days of Ruth, which we’ll get to. The judge will almost certainly stand alone 50 years later when the season ends in early October. Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber has had to hit 14 players in his team’s last 25 games to hit 50; St. Louis Paul Goldschmidt and Austin Riley of Atlanta have roughly the same 15 games to get to that level.
What amounts to it is that Judge is beating the league at a rate not seen since Ruth, who basically played a different sport than his contemporaries. In 1920, Ruth hit 54 people when her closest pursuer, George Sisler, ran 19. (That year, Ruth hit more times than all but one other. Team.) The following season, Ruth took the then-record of 59 hurdles when the next best team in the league – Ken Williams and Bob Muzel – reached 24.
Did the judge advance in the 19th round at home to Schwarber? That would be the most since Ruth turned 54, and he managed the next best duo of Huck Wilson and Jim Bottomley 31 in 1928. In the 93 seasons since then, only Jamie Foxx—who beat Ruth by 17 people in 1932 and 14 home in . 1933 – He came close to this gap.
The season isn’t over, and it would be great to see when and if the judge hits Ruth at 60, Maris at 61, Sosa 63 from 1999 or 64 from 2001, McGuire 65 from ’99 or Sosa 66 from ’98. These are all accessible landmarks.
As of Thursday, Judge had made 9.29 percent of his panel appearances. (It’s worth noting that Ruth’s best was 8.75 percent in 1920.) If he got the same number of impressions on the boards he’s averaged thus far, and earned the same rate, for the rest of the season, he’d hit 10 more. He finishes with a score of 65 – which would equate to him being fourth all-time.
But while that blast toward history will be noticeable, what he does in relation to the rest of the league best defines the impression of his season.
There is plenty of time, over the last three weeks, to reconsider the correct one-season record at home. I’ll be honest: I’m torn. I don’t incriminate Bonds, McGwire, and the rest, because who knows if everyone’s clean — even now, with a strict drug-testing program in place for so long? But it’s hard to deny that the top of most homeowners’ list of season reads as dirty. I’ll leave it as an interesting debate in the sitting room, and I respect both opinions.
What’s undeniable, though, is that Aaron Judge distances himself from his power-hitting peers in a way that not even Bonds and McGwire did in their most prolific season. This gives his season an indisputable distinction.