Without question, Aaron Judge is one of the greatest home run hitters of all time.
Even though he plays for the Antichrist Yankees, he seems like a really good guy, too. He did grow up a Red Sox fan, so, like Vader, there is some good deep down.
Judge is a physical specimen who hit 62 home runs at the best possible time. In a contract year.
With his 62nd home run, Judge became the king of the American League, passing former Yankee greats Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.
Maybe you heard of them. (Click here to listen to the podcast edition of this column.)
That dinger also brought out the moral police on social media.
Judge, they say, is the real single-season home run record holder. Those three men who hit more home runs in a single season, they say, are cheaters.
We cannot let cheaters hold records.
Since we cannot put Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to death, we need to put giant asterisks next to their names.
Oh, sure, it doesn’t matter that Bonds, McGwire and Sosa never failed a drug test because their biggest moments came before Major League Baseball tested for performance-enhancing drugs.
The media, politicians, prosecutors and a lot of fans, however, said they are cheaters. So, case closed. They are treated as if they stole something from the soul of the game, even if the best government prosecutors could not gain a conviction.
The thing is, they are probably right. We can almost say for sure that we know Bonds, McGwire and Sosa used steroids.
In the case of Bonds, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to see something was up. All you had to do is look at a guy. A baseball player on the back nine of his career suddenly does not have his head grow three sizes.
Physically, McGwire and Sosa are highly suspect, too. In addition to their change in appearance, their testimony to grandstanding congressmen was also incredibly pathetic. Sosa even forgot how to speak English when asked if he ever took PEDs.
Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez somehow became the face of the “Steroid Era” of baseball. They are the bad guys. They are the cheaters. Shun them while we celebrate the players who are clean.
Those five men, and maybe a few more, have had to shoulder the entire burden of the “Steroid Era,” which many highly-gullible people think is over.
On the flip side, we praise players like Ken Griffey Jr., and Aaron Judge because they do it the “right way.”
No way Griffey ever cheated. He has a nice smile.
We also know there has never been such a thing as a crooked judge in the history of America.
So, Aaron Judge is the real home run king, the self-righteous tell us.
Bonds’ 73 home runs in 2001 do not count. He will never make the Hall of Fame.
McGwire’s 70 home runs of 1998 are also null and void, just like the great seasons put up by Sosa.
It does not matter that the magical summer of 1998 — when McGwire and Sosa were chasing the most prized record in all of sports — just might have saved the game, which was in trouble after a strike canceled the 1994 World Series.
The television deals and the high salaries of today’s players might not exist if it was not for those two. It does not matter. No Hall of Fame for you.
If only we treated the sexual assaulters, domestic abusers and obstructors of justice in murder cases with the same vitriol.
If Ray Lewis would have flunked a drug test while hitting home runs instead of pleading guilty to his involvement in a double murder, maybe then we could keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
The really dangerous thing we do when it comes to judging the pureness in baseball players is to assume that only a few cheated.
As painful as it is to admit, the most credible voice about the “Steroid Era” is Jose Canseco. In his book, Canseco claimed that up to 85 percent of Major League Baseball players took steroids.
Even if he doubled the figure to sell books, he is way more credible than the thousands of baseball writers and media members who collectively buried their heads in the sands as player BMIs shot up and baseballs shot out of ballparks.
Was Griffey one of the 15 percent of clean players? We sure hope so. I will always believe that he was. He is a nice guy, and I once shook his hand.
But will we ever know for sure? Not a chance.
The same goes with Judge. We can hope like crazy that he is clean and we can definitely give him the benefit of the doubt.
But we will never know for sure.
For one thing, Judge has been suspect since his rookie year. In three seasons playing in the minor leagues, Judge hit a total of 56 home runs while facing minor league pitching.
Then, in 2017, he belted 52 home runs in his first full season in the big leagues, where he was facing the best pitchers in the world.
Maybe it is the Red Sox fan in me, but that reeks to high heaven.
Granted, Judge was probably aided by playing in a Little League park in the Bronx, but that is a drastic, and highly-suspect jump.
In 1998, I hoped with all my heart that McGwire and Sosa were clean, but common sense told me they were not.
In 2022, I hope with all my heart that Judge is clean, but my gut tells me it is dangerous to proclaim that he is pure as rain while we cast stones at home run heroes of the past.
As much as I dislike Bonds, McGwire and A-Rod, they were hitting home runs against pitchers who were using steroids and other illegal substances. There is virtually no doubt about that.
Clemens was striking out guys who were taking steroids. We also know this to be true.
And since we are not going to shun quarterbacks who are accused of abusing 22 women, why are we so worried about baseball players taking a shot in the butt?
Would you take that shot if it meant making $20 million-plus in a season?
The problem with being the moral police, is you almost always set yourself up to be a hypocrite.
Like them or not, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa hit more home runs in a single season than Aaron Judge.
Bonds is the record holder. He is the all-time home run king.
Standing on your holier-than-thou soapbox will never change that.
— Bill Foley, who has a vast collection of soapboxes, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.