Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris for the most home runs in American League history on Wednesday Night in Toronto. If #99 can launch one more, he will have more home runs in a single season in baseball history.
What’s that you say? Barry Bonds hit 73 once for the Giants? Mark McGuire belted 70 for the Cardinals? Sammy Sosa hit 66, 64 and 63 dingers in three seasons for my Cubbies? All true.
Or is it? It is abundantly clear that all of the aforementioned sluggers cheated. The visual evidence is quite apparent: Bonds’ head went from that of a typical human being to something one would see at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. McGuire went from a lanky rookie to the type of champion lumberjack one would see on ESPN8 (The Ocho).
And Sosa? Well, let’s just say when he lost an ability to speak English when testifying about steroids in baseball on Capitol Hill, that may have been a strong sign Slammin’ Sammy may not have been telling the truth about his own use.
Roger Maris’s son was on hand at Rogers Centre to see Judge’s big moment. And he shared the same sentiment any sane and sober fan of the game would provide if asked to opine about what this 61st homer really meant (emphasis mine) after the game.
“I think it means a lot, not just for me, I think it means a lot for a lot of people,” Maris Jr. said afterward. “He’s clean, he’s a Yankee, he plays the game the right way. I think it gives people a chance to look at somebody who should be revered for hitting 62 home runs and not just as a guy who did it in the American League.
“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ. That’s really who he is if he hits 62 and I think that’s what needs to happen. I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”
The stats pre-steroid and (alleged) post-steroid use is night and day. When Bonds hit 73 home runs, he did so at age 37. Ten years earlier, in his sixth season in the league as a seasoned veteran, he hit 25, or about one-third as many in Pittsburgh as his record-setting season 10 years later in San Francisco while being obviously much older.
Similar “improvements” occurred with Sosa and McGuire well into their 30s, a decade of age when ball players almost always begin declining, particularly as it pertains to bat speed and the ability to stay healthy.
Aaron Judge plays the game with class.
He doesn’t get in trouble off the field.
Most importantly, he doesn’t cheat.
When No. 62 comes off the bat for Judge, never mind what the record books say. Never mind if Major League Baseball doesn’t remove Barry, Mark and Sammy from the top of the home run kings pantheon.
The court of public opinion has always ruled in baseball.
The debate occurs at your local bar or barbershop or at a summer barbecue. Public perception is everything. Simply broach Bonds and ask what the first word is that comes to mind. “Power” won’t be one of them. Same goes for McGwire and Sosa.
Broach Judge in the same context and you’ll get a different response. “Tall,” “Powerful” and “Classy” will be the likely answered.
Add home run king to that soon. Because that’s what we’re looking at in Major League Baseball: A player worthy of that title.
Joe Concha is a Fox News Contributor and a two-time Jersey Shore beer pong champion (doubles division).