Aaron Judge made MLB history Sept. 20 when he hit his 60th home run of the season. The Yankees outfielder had registered the ninth 60-home run season in MLB history and became just the sixth player to ever do it, joining Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth.
Judge was characteristically humble after the game, a 9-8 victory sealed by a walk-off Giancarlo Stanton grand slam.
"To get a chance to play baseball at Yankee Stadium, packed house, first-place team, that's what you dream about," he told reporters.
Sixty, however, had a lot of other implications for Judge. It meant he was just one home run behind Maris for the American League record set in 1961.
Judge tied Maris on Sept. 28 with a go-ahead home run against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He has less than a week to take sole possession of the record.
What is MLB's single-season home run record?
The MLB single-season home run record was set in 2001, when Bonds hit 73 home runs. There was a second 60-home run hitter that season, with Sosa hitting 64 homers.
There is, of course, controversy surrounding Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa, who hold six of the now nine 60-home run seasons, given their participation in the Steroid Era. However, they're still in the record book even if they were held out of the Hall of Fame, so their numbers still count.
With Judge sitting at 61 with five games left in the Yankees' season, he would need a beyond-historic tear to reach Bonds. Some totals are within his grasp, however.
What is the American League single-season home run record?
Judge is in the company of a Yankee legend at 61. He's tied with Roger Maris for the Yankees — and the American League — record.
The top of the AL home run list begins and ends with the Yankees, and it's full of baseball royalty. Judge has already passed Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. Maris is simply last on the list.
American League home run leaders
|1998||Ken Griffey Jr.||Mariners||56|
|1997||Ken Griffey Jr.||Mariners||56|
|2010||Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||54|
|2006||David Ortiz||Red Sox||54|
Can Aaron Judge win the Triple Crown?
To reiterate just how special this year is for Judge, he's in position to win the Triple Crown. He leads the American League in home runs and RBIs and is four points off the lead in batting average through Oct. 2.
Judge is batting .311 for the season; the Twins' Luis Arraez leads the AL at .315.
There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Before that, there hadn't been one since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski achieved the feat.
Judge is well ahead of Mike Trout in home runs and leads Jose Ramirez by a handful of RBIs.
AL home run leaders
AL RBI leaders
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||Blue Jays||96|
AL batting average leaders
|Xander Bogaerts||Red Sox||.305|
|Jose Abreu||White Sox||.304|
Why is Aaron Judge a free agent after this season?
One thing hanging over the Yankees' heads throughout this historic season is the fact Judge's contract is up after it.
Before the season began, contract negotiations became very public and slightly contentious, with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman divulging the team's offer to Judge ahead of Opening Day.
According to Cashman, the Yankees offered Judge a seven-year, $213.5 million extension ($30.5 million per year).
"We're all disappointed right now that we can't be talking about a contract extension today. Not now, but hopefully later," Cashman said in a press conference.
Both sides would like to be here. I think Aaron Judge doesn't want to be anywhere but here, and we'd love to make that happen as well.
Judge was headed toward a salary arbitration hearing — the first for the Yankees since Dellin Betances — before the sides settled at $19 million for 2022, the midpoint between the $21 million Judge filed for and the $17 million the Yankees filed for. Judge can also earn $250,000 for winning AL MVP and World Series MVP.
Judge made it abundantly clear he wouldn't talk contract during the season, and he has been coy about what the future holds. A viral clip emerged at the All-Star Game, with Judge telling ESPN's Marly Rivera he hoped a boy named Jacob would be a "Judge fan for life" if he wasn't on the Yankees next season.
“Are you telling me that Aaron Judge may not be a Yankee after this year?”pic.twitter.com/uYDL2ATDYu— Starting 9 (@Starting9) July 19, 2022
Judge also didn't dismiss the idea of joining the Red Sox, and he even praised Boston fans.
"It's the best, they're some of the best in baseball. They're going to boo you, they're going to say some things, they’re going to make you laugh," Judge said in September.
It’s all part of it. A lot of great history here, and this is one of the best places to play, so it’s always fun going out there and trying to put on a show for them.
"Ooh," he told reporters when asked about playing in Boston, per Sports Illustrated. "We'll talk about that at the end of the year."
While a lot of this is just posturing and Judge not wanting to close any doors, he knows how special this contract season has been. He knows he holds the cards. Now, the 30-year-old superstar is just having fun with it.
Judge has joined Yankees royalty this year, so the ball is in the team's court. If he passes Maris, wins a Triple Crown or does both, this will be the most incredible contract year in MLB — and possibly sports — history. Mantle is the only player in MLB history to win a Triple Crown with 50-plus home runs (52 in 1956). The records within Judge's grasp this season continue to pile up.