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It's Clear Where Aaron Judge Falls In Home Run Record Book

Aaron Judge's season is waylaid by opinions and bloviating. I will add mine, I guess.

Unless you have been living under a rock or do not care about baseball, Aaron Judge has tied Roger Maris's 1961 record of 61 home runs.

Congratulations to Aaron Judge. If this were a different piece I would talk about how this is the best "betting on yourself" season of all time. Aaron Judge started 2022 by turning down a seven-year, $213.5m contract extension from the New York Yankees, thinking he was probably worth more than that. Oh, is he ever. He has slugged his way into a much larger contract.

Unfortunately, I am here to address the elephant in the room.

Here We Go

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa all took steroids. They 'roided up like they were inflating bicycle pumps. We all know this and it is not refuted. Steroids alone don't give you the skill to hit the ball hard, though. They do make you stronger. Before 2001, Bonds' career high in home runs for a season was 49, and he typically hit anywhere from 33-45 home runs a season. He was already a first-ballot hall of fame player before he ever touched PEDs. He was already (arguably) going to end his career as the greatest hitter of all time before he touched PEDs. With all of that out of the way, let us move on.

Boomery Take Incoming

I don't often find myself having opinions that are considered "boomer" kind of opinions, but I do find myself feeling like maybe I do this time. I think the home run records set by McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds are absolutely tainted.

The numbers those players put up before the steroids vs while they took them are proof enough. Facts are not a "choose your own adventure" but ignoring some facts to suit a narrative sure is. They are called "performance-enhancing drugs" for a reason. I do not think MLB should remove those records or put an asterisk on them. Those players did the thing. We should not, however, for binary right and wrong, consider those players' accomplishments to be as impressive as Aaron Judge doing it without PEDs. If it comes out Judge was using PEDs then we of course change our mind. That is what happens when you base opinions and stances on facts and figures.

At this point, we are arguing over ethics, which is dicey, but the facts are: those early 2000's records are largely the result of PEDs.

What I Find More Nefarious

This is where I find myself confused more than anything. People I follow, respect, and admire, have opinions I did not think they would have. I pride myself in adoring this newer generation of thinkers for being moralists. Some would bemoan the era of "social justice warriors" and garbage expressions like that, but I applaud the way we have collectively done our best to progress as a society in the ethics and morals we choose to focus on. With that said, I find it a little reprehensible that we (as a collective nerdy/progressive/younger opinionated lens) seem to treat steroids in such a casual manner. They have a terrible effect on the body and to treat them like some idealistic rebellious entity feels contrary to the progressive view the MLB community tends to have on eras that are long passed. I do not think this makes me "boomery." I feel like we are missing the mark here.

Beyond the treatment of the steroid era, there is a disgusting retconning of Barry Bonds going on around here. I keep reading that his reputation is only due to "he was mean to the press one time" and that is unfettered garbage. Barry Bonds was a colossal prick, and that is putting it kindly. It is mind-numbingly hypocritical to say, (correctly) criticize Aroldis Chapman while celebrating Bonds. I hate using what feels like a whataboutism to describe hypocrisy, but I guarantee this is out there. If Chapman were setting some kind of record right now (or any other player who was found to be a domestic abuser) this would be different. Not to say Bonds was never mischaracterized or ever treated unfairly, but his overall reputation is a fair charge.

Last Thoughts

Believe what you will about the home run records. I treat them with more nuance than what I seem to be reading. What I will not do is pretend steroids were great and we should bring them back. Nobody else should either.