Slugger Aaron Judge has had an incredible season for the New York Yankees. He leads the American League in runs, runs batted in (RBI), walks (BB), on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage. He is also the league leader in on-base percentage plus (OPS), OPS+ and total bases. Judge's 2022 season is one of the greatest pre-free agency seasons in major league history.
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Maybe most importantly, Judge leads the league in home runs. He extended that lead Tuesday night when he led off the game against the Texas Rangers with his 62nd home run of the season. Judge became the sixth player to hit 60 or more home runs in a single season. His 62nd home run is also the most ever hit by an American League player, one more than former Yankee Roger Maris and two more than other former Yankee Babe Ruth.
Notably, Judge also hit his two historic moonshots away from Yankee Stadium. His 61st home run ball landed in the Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen, and his 62nd homer was sent into the stands in Texas, where the AL record dinger was caught by fan Cory Youmans.
The New York Yankees now have three American League single-season home run record holders in their long and illustrious history -- as if the Bronx Bombers needed another piece of baseball history to claim.
Judge hitting his 62nd home run as the leadoff hitter would probably be the part that would surprise Maris and Ruth the most. Both sluggers were batting third in the Yankees' order when they hit their record-breaking home runs. Still, Judge only needed to see three pitches in the first inning from Rangers right-hander Jesus Tinoco -- at Globe Life Field in Arlington, in the second game of a doubleheader -- for this 62nd homer, creating a new American League record.
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Judge is still 12 home runs away from breaking Barry Bonds' all-time record of 73 in a single season, as fans of any team that isn't the Yankees will quickly tell you. He still also trails Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, who currently have the second through sixth most home runs in a season. Those players all hit their milestones during the so-called steroid era, though, a fact that has drawn recent comment from fans.
There is an argument to be made that Judge is the "cleanest" home run total in MLB history, and it's being loudly made by Maris' son, Roger Maris Jr. Judge also stands alone this season. In contrast, McGwire and Sosa had to share their spotlight during their 1998 chase for 62.
The Yankees Need to Refocus Swiftly
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While this feat is worth celebrating in the dugout, that needs to happen quickly for the Yankees. After a rollercoaster of a regular season, a deep playoff run with incredibly high expectations from fans looms large. The last time the Yankees made a deep run into the postseason, manager Joe Girardi lost his job, which should be a wake-up call for current manager Aaron Boone.
There is also the impending negotiations with the slugging outfielder this offseason that will be complicated at best and contentious at worst, especially if Judge can win the AL triple crown.
Judge's quest for 62 and Albert Pujols' chase for 700 career home runs have been the major stories at the end of this MLB season. However, these two will continue to be linked in the winter. The Yankees have to consider Pujols' 2011 contract with the Angels ($240 million, 12.8 wins above replacement) as a potential worst-case scenario for Judge's future.
That is a discussion for another time, though. The Yankees' new home run king and single-season record holder, and their fans, should take a moment to enjoy this accomplishment. That's especially true if Judge ends up trying to break Bonds' record next season in a different uniform, whether it's in the National League (on a team such as the Giants or Mets) or even for the Yankees' arch rival, Boston Red Sox.
Either way, Judge's record of 62 round-trippers is something no one can take away from him. And the smile across his face as he crossed home plate is something his parent and Yankees fans everywhere will never forget.
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