Aaron Judge has tied Roger Maris. The New York Yankees superstar reached a magical number with homer No. 61 against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
After fouling off multiple 3-2 pitches, Judge launched a 94 mph sinker off of Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza over the left-field wall at Rogers Centre and into the Toronto bullpen. The two-run blast gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead in the seventh inning and secured Judge's place in baseball history.
The 30-year-old Judge tied the American League and franchise record for homers in a single season with the go-ahead blast. With his next long ball, he would supplant Maris as the all-time standard bearer in pinstripes and in the AL.
Judge received a standing ovation from the Blue Jays home crowd as he rounded the bases. When he reached home plate, his Yankees teammates were there to greet him with a round of hugs and high fives.
Many will view Judge as the game’s all-time home run standard bearer, period. The only seasons to surpass Maris’ 61 were mounted by Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in MLB’s much-discussed steroid era. All three either came under strong suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs (Bonds, Sosa) or admitted to it (McGwire).
The record books, though, still say Bonds’ 73-homer 2001 season holds the crown. And regardless, Judge is making history that stands out with or without steroid era context. There have been many years of great athletes, stellar sluggers and pure home run threats. No one has approached these heights in decades. The closest any player has come was Judge’s teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 homers for the Miami Marlins in 2017. The closest any modern AL player had come was Alex Rodriguez’s 57-homer campaign in 2002.
Maris' son thinks 61 is the ‘real record.' Judge views Bonds' 73 as the mark
The Maris family was deeply involved in the 1998 home run chase that saw 61 tied and then broken for the first time. They were on hand to witness Mark McGwire hit No. 62. When McGwire's use of performance-enhancing drugs was reported, the former Cardinals slugger reportedly called the Maris' widow to apologize.
Kevin Maris, Roger's second son, told New York Magazine that he would be “excited” for Aaron Judge if he eclipses his father's legendary 1961 season. He also waded into the now decades-old argument over whether the home run barrages of Bonds, Sosa and McGwire — allegedly aided by steroids — should be immortalized in the record books.
“I think public opinion says that Dad really has the record,” Kevin Maris said. “How can you celebrate people that have been known to cheat the game? It’s not done in any other sport. So I’d have to go with the court of public opinion.”
For his part, Judge isn't swayed. He told Sports Illustrated he considers Bonds the single-season home run king. It's worth remembering Judge grew up in Northern California while Bonds was bashing in San Francisco, and was 9 years old during the 2001 season.
Is there other history on the line?
Yes. Judge is making a run at the Triple Crown. Long leading comfortably in homers (duh) and RBIs, he has surged into the lead for the batting title, too. It's still a close race with Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts and Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez, but Judge is threatening to take this hallowed honor, too.
His 11 multi-homer games in 2022 are also tied with Sammy Sosa (1998) and Hank Greenberg (1938) for the most in a single season. He has been pouring on homers in bunches, crushing Nos. 56 and 57 in one game against the Red Sox, then Nos. 58 and 59 in a game against the Brewers.
The best of Judge’s historic 2022 homers
There have been so many homers. Let's relive some of the most memorable. Ever a player of measurables, we'll take stock of his homers in quantifiable superlatives.
Longest: Early in the season, there was much discussion of the Baltimore Orioles’ deeper left-field fence and how it might be containing the Yankees. Part of that fury was stoked by Judge himself, who in May called the changes to Camden Yards were “a travesty” after the deeper wall cost him a three-homer game.
“I'm pretty upset,” Judge told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “It just looks like a Create-A-Park now.”
By July, he found a solution. Just hit one 465 feet — way, way over the wall.
Shortest: Hitting this many homers in one year requires at least a few borderline fly balls to go your way. So we tip our cap to the homer that just made it over, an opposite-field wall-scraper against the White Sox that no one knew would be the 12th in a very significant season of roundtrippers.
Hardest: Clawing back from their lowest point after a dreadful August swoon, the Yankees swept a two-game set against the Mets partially thanks to a cathartic, supersonic blast from Judge.
His 48th home run of the season left the park at an eye-watering 115.9 mph. It allowed Yankees fans — and perhaps the team — to breathe for at least a moment after weeks of pressure buildup.
Most important: You could make a good case for that shot against the Mets, but by Win Probability Added and Championship Win Probability Added, Judge’s most significant long ball came against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 10.
It was your classic backyard baseball fantasy: The Yankees were down two with two men on in the bottom of the ninth. He walked it off with a towering homer down the left field line. That put them up four games in the AL East and kickstarted a run of winning that put what was thought to be a competitive division out of reach for much of the summer.
Betting on Aaron Judge
Should you be so inclined, there are several futures bets to be made on Judge’s prodigious MVP and home run total odds but, like with many things in life, you’ll have to spend money to make money. Judge currently sports a -5000 moneyline at BetMGM to win the AL MVP and -650 to hit more than 61.5 homers. So, to potentially win $10 on an MVP bet, you would need to wager $500, while to win $10 on the home run total bet, you would need to put up $65.
How will Aaron Judge’s season affect free agency?
The Yankees made what appeared to be a fairly reasonable contract offer before the season started — seven years, $213.5 million that would have begun in 2023. Judge and the Yankees settled on a $19 million salary for 2022 shortly before they were due to go to arbitration. Judge, of course, was always well within his rights to push toward the free agent market. And as it turns out, he made the right decision.
His 2022 has been a roaring success, one of the most glorious contract year wins in recent memory. While the Yankees season as a whole has cooled off recently, Judge is still barreling toward a monster payday. At this point, the homer history doesn’t matter so much as sustaining his overall excellence and avoiding serious injury.
When he hits the market this winter, he could now reasonably command something in the neighborhood of $300 million. The main limiting factor is his age. He’ll turn 31 in April, which puts a cap on the length most teams would be willing to sign up for.
Beyond the Yankees, his potential suitors could include the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox.