Yankees superstar Aaron Judge salvaged the evening when he tied Babe Ruth, the most legendary Yankee of them all, with his 60th home run, and he sparked the most improbable late comeback victory of the season. Judge is a continuous cause for celebration. Number 60 is the latest and one of the best chapters in a book about a season of personal achievement that is not to be believed.
Judge never talks about records, awards or individual accomplishment, acts in fact like they are meaningless. He did give the crowd that begged for a curtain call a brief wave after he unloaded to left field for No. 60, but only following some serious encouragement from teammates and manager Aaron Boone. Like Roger Maris 61 years ago, he wouldn’t have done it without the push, and it was over in a New York second.
His mates owe him. He is putting together maybe the greatest season in baseball history and has carried his ailing team practically to the finish line, putting it on his back, and ensuring that the Yankees stay just far enough ahead of the Rays and Jays. Those are two good teams that are filled with talented mortals. Judge, though, is playing like he’s from another world.
“He’s been doing it all year. He’s the man,” declared running-mate Giancarlo Stanton, who followed Judge’s shot leading off the ninth four batters later with a rocket of a grand slam, also to left, that pulled out the improbable 9-8 win over the Pirates. Judge is doing it all, all right, including inspiring ailing teammates. Stanton scarcely looks like he can move at times since returning from the injured list yet somehow conjured the walk-off shot.
Judge is so good the competition isn’t the great Shohei Ohtani anymore. He’s blown away the field in MVP discussions. It’s Mickey Mantle, and Ruth and Maris.
“I don’t think about the numbers,” Judge said before saying the names of all those Yankees greats. “You never imagined as a kid getting mentioned with them.”
It’s real now, and the closest rivals are in history. They are Ruth, who he tied, and Roger Maris, who holds the Yankee and American League record at 61 homers. It is a magic number in Yankees history, and if not for some players who had chemists as friends, would still be the official record.
On the field following the game, YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits mentioned to Stanton that Judge had reached 60 home runs, and Stanton, without hesitation shot back, “And he’s not done yet. … It’s going to be fun to watch.”
They flashed 60 up on the board, over and over, and Aaron Boone, as amazed as anyone, said he paused to “drink it in.” Boone said of 60, “It was one of those sort of unreachable numbers.”
Up next is Maris’ 61. That will go down, too, and likely very soon. Really, it is hard to fathom, almost impossible to believe.
To all my friends in the OC, it’s no insult to say Judge is having a better year than the great Shohei Ohtani. Both Shohei Ohtanis, that is, the hitter and the pitcher.
Judge is having a better year than Maris when Maris hit the real record 61 home runs. The best comp for Judge is Ruth, who set the standard for power at the big-league level almost exactly 100 years ago. On a side note, Ruth also happens to be the player most frequently compared to Ohtani for obvious reasons.
Neither Judge nor Ohtani has a candy bar named for him yet, but Ohtani inspired just about all the advertising at Angel Stadium, which is likely why when higher-ups came to owner Arte Moreno with Ohtani trade ideas, Moreno was heard to say he’d rather be rid of the higher-ups.
And it’s why the Yankees are in no negotiating position when Judge allows them to make another offer this winter. The discussion may go something like this: “What would you like, Mr. Judge?”
When someone told Ruth regarding his $80,000 salary that even the president didn’t make that, legend has it that Ruth retorted, “But I had a better year.”
Judge can say that about anyone. His season is maybe better than the very best. Throwing out Barry Bonds’ seasons, and I wish we would, the best seasons were turned in by Mickey Mantle (1956 and 1957), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Lou Gehrig (1927) and of course Ruth (1920, 1921 and 1927).
Everything to know about Aaron Judge and his chase for the home run record:
No one has ever dominated the leaderboard like this. Judge leads in home runs, RBIs, runs, extra-base hits, total bases, runs created, adjusted batting runs, adjusted batting wins, times on base, offensive win percentage, HR per AB, RE24, WPA, cWPA, REW, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+ and of course WAR. Sure, they have come up with a lot more categories. But Judge leads them all.
No one has lapped the field in home runs like this in nearly 100 years. Judge is 20 ahead of the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber, who has 40. It’s a down year. For everyone else.
“I mean it’s unbelievable, 60 to 40, Boone said. “It’s been awesome to watch.”
That goes for all of us.