The numbers of those who cheated should be discounted

Last night, Aaron Judge blasted his 50th home run, continuing his incredible 2022 campaign. It’s highly debatable whether Judge will actually break Roger Maris’s Yankees and American League single-season record of 61 home runs.

On the one hand, he’s now on pace for 63 home runs, and seems to have recovered from a short-lived August drought. This year, he had twelve home runs in the month of May, eleven in June, and 13 in July. Back in his rookie season, he went on a late-season tear, and ended up with 15 post-August homers. So, it would by no means be a major stretch for him to get to 62.

On the other hand, Judge has slipped slightly behind Roger Maris’s 1961 pace (who had 51 one home runs after the same 129 team games). Also, Judge is likely to take some days off before the playoffs and he was intentionally walked twice last night, and if other teams pitch him the same way, he could be deprived of a sufficient number of at bats.

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The bottom line is, it’s equally plausible that Judge could have a home run slump in September, or end up soaring past Maris.

While the final tally of his season is very much up in the air, one thing that we should broadly agree on is that if Judge does get to 62, he should be considered the all-time single-season home-run leader, because he would have had the most ever for a clean player.

Looking back, in over 100 years since the start of the live-ball era, there have been only eight seasons in which a player hit 60 or more home runs, and six of them occurred during the peak of the steroid era (1998-2001). This is clearly not a coincidence, and while those seasons cannot be excised from the record books, among fans, Judge should be acknowledged as the real all-time leader if he gets to 62.

The one counter-argument could be made is of course the asterisk applied to Maris’s home-run record, because Ruth hit 60 back when the season was 154 games and Judge, like Maris, would have a 162-game season with which to work. So, silencing the asterisk crowd would require him to get to 61 before the last eight games of the season, which would be more difficult, but not impossible.

Either way, the numbers of those who cheated should be discounted.

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