NEW YORK — Of all the players, coaches and personnel in the Yankees organization, manager Aaron Boone has one of the most unique and informed perspectives on Aaron Judge’s historic home run barrage this year.
Not only is Boone a baseball lifer, growing up in a family full of big leaguers, but he was a pro during the steroid era, watching the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa break records at the plate.
Now, he’s watching from the dugout as one of the players on his team puts up similar historic numbers two-plus decades later.
Boone was asked earlier this week where he ranks Judge’s season in comparison to those aforementioned sluggers, all-time names forever linked to controversy.
“Yeah, I think it puts it a notch above without question,” Boone explained on Tuesday, when Judge still had 59 homers on the year. “I go back to the context of his season when you look at number two in Major League Baseball, [Kyle Schwarber] and 39 homers. What he’s doing from a run production standpoint, leading the league in hitting, all these things. I gotta believe it’s right there with some of the best, very short list of all-time seasons in the context of 2022 baseball, what he’s doing, and then you factor in that he’s not just the slugging DH. This is a guy that’s played center field for us the bulk of the season, that may steal 20 bases for us, that’s the leader and face of our team and I think in context, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better season.”
A few days later, with Judge now knocking on the door of 61, Boone was asked point-blank if No. 99 is putting together the best season in baseball history.
His answer was once again rooted in the context of this season, but he didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “Again, in context. When you consider where he is and where all the runner-ups are. We go to the homer [leaderboard]. 60 to 40. I guess I haven’t really dove into the [Babe] Ruth seasons or the difference between that top guy and the next one. It seems like it’s a pretty huge gap in an era and a time where it’s a tough climate to hit in and he’s hitting a ton in it. That’s why I’ve invoked some names in other sports too.”
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Boone is referring to a comment he made on Wednesday—yup, he’s peppered with questions about Judge’s historic season multiple times per day at this point—comparing this campaign to the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jim Brown and Wilt Chamberlain, some of the greatest of all time outside the confines of baseball.
The skipper wasn’t sure if the league has ever seen a bigger gap atop the home run leaderboard and still referred to this as the best season by a slugger in the sport’s history. The facts support his take even further.
According to Elias, before this season, a player had not finished a calendar day with a 20 home runs lead since the final day of the 1928 season when Ruth led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson by 23 homers.
Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and more were never that far ahead of the rest of the league. Judge is this year, almost 100 years after Ruth. Think of how much baseball has evolved, and how much harder it is to hit in today’s modern game, than it was throughout the last century.
Judge’s ability to distance himself from the rest of the sport in so many categories, while playing elite defense in the outfield, serving as a leader and a face of the franchise and so much more is what resonates the most with Boone. That’s why this season ranks at the top of his list.
“We talk about the 60 and the Triple Crown and all that, but another next level that makes him so special is how complete a player he is,” Boone added Thursday night after Judge’s highlight play in right field. “That was a little peek at that.”
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