It was a number we didn’t even think about when we were kids. Only if you were born in a specific time, where you were an impressionable youth between 1998-2003, would 60 seem reasonable, or even reachable, or something to be expected to happen semi-regularly. It was never even talked about.
While Aaron Judge crossing the threshold into the immortal last night inspires a lot of insipid discussion, most of it from Jon Heyman, it’s still worth the time to marvel at 60 home runs in a season. As we’ve previously said, it doesn’t really matter how anyone views the seasons of Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire, the only modern players to get above 60 home runs in a season. Judge is hitting in a completely different environment. He faces fastballs regularly that would have had hitters 20 years ago questioning their profession, if not their existence. The average fastball in 2002, the last year FanGraphs has data for, was 89.4 MPH. It’s 93.6 now. There wasn’t anyone throwing 95 MPH cutters. There are no such things as hitters’ counts anymore. According to StatCast, Judge has only seen fastballs on a third of his 2-0 or 3-1 counts. It used to be you could count on a fastball when ahead in the count. Now it could just as easily be a slider that cracks the air like a whip as it dives toward the other batter’s box.
Still, the effort to use Judge’s season to erase what came before isn’t worth the effort, nor is it accurate. If steroids made things so easy for everyone, how come only three guys hit 60 or more homers? Shouldn’t everyone have traipsed across the line if PEDs were the only answer?
Sixty just seems like such a gargantuan number, we forget that Judge’s teammate Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 not all that long ago. Ryan Howard hit 58. Luis Gonzalez hit 57, which seems truly ridiculous now given the rest of his career, but he didn’t infringe on the numbers people hold dear and he won a World Series, so his outlier just gets glossed over. But 60, just hearing that makes it feel like Judge has left them all in the dust. Which he very well might do by the end of the season, should he get to 64 or 65.
Perhaps what Judge should be most saluted for is the most successful bet-on-yourself season of all time. The Yankees tried to get Judge a contract extension for less than he was worth, and he decided to show them how much more it was going to cost them to now give him what he’s worth. If they even want to. He easily could be commanding $45 million a year after this, and if he doesn’t get anything close to it, the union will have a decent collusion case on its hands.
This is only the ninth time anyone has waded into the 60 home run pool, out of 146 MLB seasons and the thousands and thousands of players to have tried. That’s what’s truly staggering.
60 home runs. You used to get laughed out of a room suggesting someone could reach that number before a season. It feels like it splats the baseball season like Monty Python’s foot. It becomes the only number of the 2022 season. However it’s defined, it’s an accomplishment every baseball fan will remember, which is what’s important here.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, we go over to the Chicago Cubs, who suck at everything on most levels. That includes their social media:
They did have the good sense to take it down, but as we know everything lives forever on Twitter and the internet. Anything that makes reference to the darkest day in Marlins history and the death of Jose Fernandez is unfathomably distasteful, which is a pretty fine way to describe the Cubs as a whole these days.