October 5, 2022

Aaron Judge's 62nd Home Run And MAGA's Rejection Of Reality

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hit his 62nd home run of the season last night and set a new American League single-season record.

I think we can all agree on that.

However, there are some people that also believe Judge is now the holder of the major league single-season home run record. These people do not recognize the 73 home runs that Barry Bonds hit in 2001 because Bonds (very likely) used performance-enhancing drugs during that season.

To be consistent — though I question whether those people care about consistency — those people must also refuse to acknowledge Mark McGwire's 70 home runs in 1998, Sammy Sosa's 66 home runs in 1998, McGwire's 65 home runs in 1999, Sosa's 64 home runs in 2001, and Sosa's 63 home runs in 1999. There is not too much said about those non-Bondsian five seasons, though. The ire is pretty much focused on Bonds. (I know McGwire is white, but I'm sure racism is part of the equation.)

Hearing these people and reading their opinions is exactly like listening to a Donald Trump supporter insist that the 2020 election was rigged and that Trump actually won re-election in a landslide. It's historical denialism — an obstinate refusal to live in reality.

Sadly, it isn't only cranks like Roger Maris Jr. who insist Judge is the "true" and "clean" home run champion. Even a respected sportswriter like Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated referred to Judge as "the authentic home run king" and "the new standard":
Bonds is the official home run champion. Judge is the authentic champion. One has the official designation. The other is unofficial but has the prestige of authenticity. Which would you rather have? . . .

With No. 62, he is the authentic home run king and the new standard, the one to be chased by all others who come after him.
Which would I rather have? Well, I like accuracy and facts, so I prefer the official over the unofficial.

John Feinstein, another writer with an impressive resume, stated back on September 22 with the iron certainty of a religious zealot that "if you truly love the game", Maris's record is the all-time record. Christ, what a pompous ass. (Sorry, I shouldn't offer my opinion before you have the chance to read his words.)
When Aaron Judge hits his 62nd home run of the year . . . he will become the single-season home run king.

Period. . . .

The record is not Barry Bonds's 73, Mark McGwire's 70 or any of Sammy Sosa's three 62-plus home run seasons. . . . It doesn't matter what baseball’s record book says . . .

Many in the media keep reporting that Judge is closing in on Maris's American League home run record. That's true. But when he goes past Maris, he will hold the all-time single season record for home runs. . . .

So when Judge hits that 62nd homer, we should all not only stand and applaud, but we should get chills.

He will have made history. Real history.
Christ, what a pompous ass. The headline on this essay — which Feinstein probably did not write — really makes you want to slam your head down on your desk a few times: "Aaron Judge Is Chasing Real History, Not Barry Bonds's Phony Version".

Judge has said that he considers Bonds's 73 as "the record. I watched him do it. I stayed up late watching him do it. That's the record."

Feinstein brushes that aside like an annoying housefly, telling us Judge was simply an ignorant nine-year-old boy in 2001, who grew up near San Francisco and was obviously brainwashed.
It's understandable that he thinks Bonds has the record. But he's wrong.
The unimpeachable reality is this: in 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 fair balls over the outfield walls of various major league baseball stadiums. Those hits were ruled home runs when they were hit — and they remain home runs to this day. No one can adopt his or her personal version of reality and still expect to be taken seriously.

Matt Bai of the Washington Post points out something that "we're learning as a society: Just because somebody tells you a good story doesn't mean that reality is any less real." (We're not doing such a good job of learning that, actually.)

However, Bai makes an incredible error of judgment in his column. Right after telling of his early days at Newsweek, covering the 1998 home run race with a huge dollop of naivete ("we talked about this sudden explosion of home runs without a shred of journalistic skepticism") he thinks about Judge and states — as an absolute fact — "This is not a man who cheats."

I have no idea if Aaron Judge cheats or does not cheat. How could I? He should be considered "not a man who cheats" until proven otherwise. However, Bai cannot honestly make that statement without going back to his 1998 naivete.

There are other inconvenient facts regarding Bonds's accomplishments. We don't know exactly what Bonds was taking and when. We don't know what other hitters were taking and when. We don't know what opposing pitchers were taking and when. We might think we know, based on what the players looked like or some rumours we read somewhere or based on what we would have liked to be true, but none of that is evidence. The only evidence is the many baseballs that were hit over the fences.

What about historic achievements that were awarded or denied by blown calls? Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game in 2010, but it's absent from the record book because of a blown call on the 27th out by umpire Jim Joyce. Other calls much farther from the spotlight — dozens of them every day — affect the outcome of games and players' statistics, either extending or cutting short at-bats. Are we going to start denying the occurence of all of those instances? Or cherry-pick the one record by the player we don't like?

Judge acknowledged this reality:
Seventy-three is the record. In my book. No matter what people want to say about that era of baseball, for me, they went out there and hit 73 homers and 70 homers, and that to me is what the record is. The AL record is 61 . . .
Judge does not deserve a medal for acknowledging reality, but he's clearly astute enough to acknowledge what should be obvious to everyone. And now, the AL record is 62. The major league record remains 73.

1 comment:

accudart said...

My feelings for the orange one is he should be rotting in a cell....so I don't think at least for me that the comp works.

I am OK with the debate over the record. I agree that Bonds has both HR records but....
I can somewhat understand, Bonds was such a hard guy to like not that should play into it. I will always be the Hank Aaron camp. The people in the Judge camp could hear that maybe it's still Ruth record possibly. He now trails by two and unlikely to get another shot with those extra 8 games:)
I think it's fine for the debate.