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Is MLB’s single-season home run record tainted? Should Aaron Judge be seen as the true champion?

Roger Maris Jr makes a bold claim, calling Barry Bonds’ home run record “illegitimate” and says that Aaron Judge is the actual home run champion

Roger Maris Jr makes a bold claim, calling Barry Bonds’ home run record “illegitimate” and says that Aaron Judge is the actual home run champion
Nick TurchiaroUSA TODAY Sports

The elephant in the room has raised its head again. When Barry Bonds was left out of the Hall of Fame in last year’s vote, effectively ending his chances, barring a Veterans Committee entry at some future point, to be enshrined, the schism among the baseball faithful was laid bare between those who believe that the use of steroids should disqualify a player from accolades and those who argued that the achievements stand regardless of any PED use.

Without reaching anything like a consensus, baseball has taken the traditional approach of simply sweeping unpleasant things under the rug and hoping that they simply go away.

Into this fray, now wades Roger Maris Jr. The son of the New York Yankees single season home run champion has spoken at length about Aaron Judge breaking the MLB record. Not the Yankees team record, or the American League Record, but the MLB record. When questioned on this, he confirmed that he believed everything above his father’s mark in the single season home run list to be illegitimate, principally due to the use of performance enhancing drugs.

“I think it means a lot, not just for me. I think it means a lot for a lot of people,” says Maris Jr. “That he’s clean, he’s a Yankee, he plays the game the right way. I think it gives people a chance to look and somebody who should be revered for hitting 62 home runs, and not just a guy who did it in the American League. He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ. That’s really who he is, if he hits 62. I think that’s what needs to happen, I think baseball needs to look at the records, and I think baseball should do something.”

To be clear on the records, the single season home run record is 73, hit by Barry Bonds in 2001. Three years prior to that, in 1998, Mark McGwire hit 70 and in the same season Sammy Sosa hit 68. They repeated the race the following season when McGwire hit 65 and Sosa hit 63. Then in 2001, the same year that Bonds hit his record number, Sosa hit 64. As it stands today, Aaron Judge sits tied with Roger Maris Sr. for number 7 in the all-time list.

Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids to help heal injuries faster in the mid-90s, while Bonds was adamant that when he tested positive for steroids that they were ingested unknowingly as part of a vitamin supplement. Sammy Sosa has been steadfast in his denial that he has ever used steroids.

Prior to the 2003 season, performance enhancing drugs such as steroids were not actually banned in baseball, so even if all of them did use them and knowingly, no rules would have been broken. However, many fans still view the use of steroids, even before the current ban was instituted, as cheating.

The opposing view is that while a PED may give you a strength boost, it will not help you actually hit a baseball. So while it may have taken a few feet of flight off of their long ball, a player would still have hit a booming shot without PEDs. Short of trying to measure the distance boost and the distance of every home run hit, a virtual impossibility for hits of that era, there is no way to accurately estimate how many home runs should be considered “valid” and how many are suspect.

Opponents say “Fine. Just disqualify all of them.” And while many, if not most baseball fans would see this as an over reach, Maris is clearly one of the ones who is fine with this solution.


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