NEW YORK — For some, Aaron Judge’s season has a special sheen because he appears to be Mr. Clean.
Judge would be considered the record holder if he surpassed Roger Maris’ 61 homers if it weren’t for the steroid taint hanging on the tainted trio of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
“To me, the record holder for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” writer George Will said. “There’s no doubt we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in Judge’s case. He is clean. He doesn’t do anything that forces other players to put their health at risk.”
The tops of Bonds 73 and other Steroids of the Era are considered by critics to be ghosts, sets as bulging as the biceps of these games.
Judge entered Monday with 55 homers in the New York Yankees’ first 141 games, leaving 21 games to go. Judge towers over everyone else, and not just because he’s 6-foot-7: Kyle Schwarber is second in homers with 37 for Philadelphia.
Judge has hit 22,676 feet of home runs this year – 4.29 miles – with an average distance of 412 feet, according to MLB Statcast.
“Judge is like Secretariat at Belmont,” broadcaster Bob Costas said, recalling his 31-length Triple Crown victory in 1973. “He’s percentages above everybody else. He’s down now – he’s hitting .300, so he’s a classic great. Great players have power and average. Well, it does. And in the context of this season and this era, that’s really something. And surely the most valuable argument for this year should be in the mind of every reasonable person.”
With Chandler’s matte black maple bat, Judge is hitting .307 with 121 RBIs – 12 more than anyone else.
By the 1990s, baseball’s great debate was whether Maris’ 1961 season should count as a record because he played more games.
Ruth’s 60 in 1927 was the standard for 34 years. Maris’ mark held at 37 until Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998, part of a seemingly complete streak that led Sammy Sosa to 66. McGwire followed with 65 the next year as Sosa hit 63. The power peaked in 2001 , when Barry Bonds hit a previously unfathomable 73 and Sosa 64.
“Personally, I think those records are tainted, and that’s why I’m rooting for Judge a lot,” former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said. “I think he’s absolutely clean. I don’t think there is any performance enhancing drug involvement or taint with Judge. And so I think one of the reasons his performance is so enlightening and so fascinating is that it’s completely clean.”
Since penalty drug testing began in 2004, the highest total was Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 for Miami in 2017.
“Fans, writers, Hall of Fame voters, all those groups that matter will make their own judgments about how his accomplishments should be weighed against other players who may have been revealed to be using performance-enhancing drugs. performance,” said current Commissioner Rob Manfred. . “They will put proper weight on these performances. I found Judge’s performance to be as compelling and captivating as any I have ever seen.”
Maris’ legality was debated because the American League schedule increased to 162 games in 1961 after expansion. With Maris at 35 homers, then-Commissioner Ford Frick ruled on July 17 that if anyone surpassed Ruth by more than 154 games “there should be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under 154- match schedule.”
This “badge” became known as the “asterisk” and remained until September 4, 1991, when a statistical accuracy committee chaired by Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.
At 30, Judge has an unblemished reputation in an era when every player is tested for performance-enhancing drugs during spring training and is subject to random testing during the season and offseason.
McGwire admitted in 2010 that he used steroids while breaking Maris’ record. Bonds and Sosa maintain that they never knowingly used banned substances.
“No one thought when Hank Aaron hit 715 that he was a better home run hitter than Babe Ruth, but he had surpassed Ruth’s record. Nobody thinks that Pete Rose in his day was better than Ty Cobb, but he passed Cobb’s record – authentically,” said Kostas. “People put steroids in a different category because it’s obvious, it’s a half-decade cluster of these things happening. And it’s not just the three of them. You have other guys hitting 50 pawns or guys hitting 45 chips who previously hit 18. Everyone understands that, at least everyone who is paying attention. And so if Judge ends up hitting 65, that’s different than McGwire or Sosa hitting 65.
Changes in the sport meant players faced different conditions. Ruth started in the dead ball era, Maris pitched at the dawn of expansion, Judge faces pitchers who are throwing harder than ever.
“It’s a dead end, it seems to me, to keep comparing eras,” Will said. “Ruth didn’t play against African-Americans. Ruth didn’t play night games and had intercontinental trips and all that. The judge is much bigger then the pitchers are much bigger. … Judge people by what they do against their peers.”
As Judge approaches the milestone, what counts more: 61 or 73? originally appeared on NBCSports.com