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Aaron Judge is in a one-man race for home run immortality

Breaking Down Aaron Judge’s Historic Season

I bet it’d be the new divisive issue around steroids. Judge’s unblemished record when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, combined with the tainted résumés of the tainted sluggers with 62 home runs or better, will be on the table for continued discussions unless he hits 31 more home runs this season to best Bonds. It won’t be too different from whether those same admitted steroid users deserve induction into Cooperstown. McGwire, Bonds, and others timed out on the ballots before but still have the chance to get elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame through the veterans committee.

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By no means do I think Judge, the AL MVP favorite, is taking any banned substance, far from it. I truly believe it won’t come out later that the Yankees’ best player is gaining an unfair advantage. In between this season and the home-run chases at the turn of the century came baseball’s reckoning with steroids. Judge would be an idiot to even consider going down the lane that got so many greats in trouble over the last two decades, especially doing so in New York, where the spotlight couldn’t be bigger. 

That’s what makes No. 99’s chase for individual glory beyond appetizing. He plays home games in the Bronx. The Yankees are one of the most beloved and hated teams in North American sports, no doubt holding the top spot in baseball. Even the Astros horrid on-field cheating and off-diamond treatment of women doesn’t top the long-standing visceral hate for the Steinbrenner enterprises. The best and most marketable athlete playing for a franchise based in the largest media market in the country is trying to have one of the best power-hitting seasons ever.

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There’s no team in baseball with the pedigree of the Yankees. Hopefully, Judge’s greatness gets recognized as the overall New York record, and therefore he’ll be atop all of MLB minus the juicers, not separated by an old-or-new modifier to denote the difference in stadiums or how far the game has grown in the six decades since Maris set the record.

As Judge gets deeper into the season, especially if his clip of home runs doesn’t slow down, every at-bat will matter more. It’ll be like the chase for a no-hitter or perfect game with live look-ins every time the Yankees play. And nothing like Judge’s chase, with 60-plus home runs easily in the ballpark of possibilities, has happened since baseball’s steroid crackdown. Buckle up. 

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