There was kind of a big moment in baseball last night.
The Mets clinched the NL East. Sorry Aidan (and others), I had to. Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the season, tying Roger Maris for the 7th-most homers in a season all-time and atop the Yankees’ franchise list. He’s going to hit another for sole possession of the franchise mark.
61 years since 61.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 29, 2022
Aaron Judge has written his name alongside Roger Maris in baseball's record books. pic.twitter.com/1V4Gums34C
He may or may not move up a few more spots on the all-time list.
1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999
But look at those names. All known steroid-users. For what it’s worth, Sammy Sosa maintains that he never used steroids. Major League Baseball released a report naming him among a group of 100-some players who tested positive.
So in some people’s minds, Aaron Judge just tied the only real single-season home run record. It’s tough for me to see it that way, even though I want to. 61 is the clean home-run record. Logically, I know that. Sadly, there is a voice in my head that says, “yeah but Bonds hit 73” any time I try to frame it that way. Major League Baseball isn’t helping, either, by continuing to recognize those single-season marks.
It makes me sad. I loved baseball as a kid. I grew up watching the Orioles (and will forever harbor a grudge towards Peter Angelos for tanking the franchise and Jeffrey Maier for that uncalled fan interference). Watching Cal Ripkin Jr. chase down and break Lou Gherig’s consecutive games mark is one of my earliest “big” sports memories.
Watching the home run records go down however many years later was fun. And then steroids ruined it. They took the wonder and awe out of the accomplishments and out of those mythical numbers. Any baseball-loving kid could tell you 61 (Maris, single-season) and 755 (Hank Aaron, career) off the top of their head. Until I looked it up for this post, I couldn’t remember 73 (Bonds, single-season) or 762 (Bonds, career).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to watch guys mash the ball 450-plus feet. There is a part of me that doesn’t care if they do that with or without steroids. Watching the ball sail into the night sky, launched impossibly far by a batter is awesome. If you told me it was medically “safe” for guys to use certain performance enhancers, I’m not sure I would care if Major League Baseball legalized them.
But the baseball records are forever cheapened, diminished by guys cheating to break them. At least for me.
Speaking of home run records, shout out Albert Pujols, who joined the 700 home run club last week and as far as I know, did it clean. Only Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds hit more in their careers. Fun fact: someone calculated that Pujols has spent north of 5 hours of his life trotting around the bases after a homer.
What do you think of asterisks? Will Aaron Judge be the home run king if (when) he hits number 62? Has the taint of steroids taken the shine off the apple?