Aaron Judge in pursuit of Roger Maris: Everything to know about Yankees slugger's historic 2022 home run chase

Aaron Judge made MLB history Sep. 20, hitting his 60th home run against the Pirates that sparked a furious comeback by the Yankees. It's the ninth 60-home run season in MLB history, and Judge became the fifth 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 after the game.

60, however, has a lot of other implications for Judge. It means he's just one home run off Roger Maris for the AL record, set in 1961, and he's technically on pace for 66, which would tie Sosa for third all time.

MORE: Race for final two NL wild-card spots has been more slog than sprint

What is MLB's single-season home run record?

The MLB single-season home run record was set in 2001, when Bonds hit an absurd 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 books even if they were held out of the Hall of Fame, so their numbers still count.

With Judge sitting at 60 with 15 games left in the season, it would have to be a beyond historic tear for him to hit the all-time record; however, some other records are within his grasp.

YearPlayerTeamHome Runs
2001Barry BondsSan Francisco Giants73
1998Mark McGwireSt. Louis Cardinals70
1998Sammy SosaChicago Cubs66
1999Mark McGwireSt. Louis Cardinals65
2001Sammy SosaChicago Cubs64
1999Sammy SosaChicago Cubs63
1961Roger MarisNew York Yankees61
2022Aaron JudgeNew York Yankees60
1927Babe RuthNew York Yankees60

MORE: MLB home run records: Most HRs in a game, season and career in baseball history

What is the American League single-season home run record?

Judge is currently in the company of two other generations of Yankee legends at the 60 mark. He sits in a tie with Ruth for second all-time in the American League at 60 home runs, and he's one behind Maris for the Yankees -- and thus American League -- record of 61.

The top of the home run list in the AL begins and ends with the Yankees, and it's full of baseball royalty. Judge has already passed names like Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio. Maris is simply last on the list.

American League home run leaders

YearPlayerTeamHome Runs
1961Roger MarisNew York Yankees61
2022Aaron JudgeNew York Yankees60
1927Babe RuthNew York Yankees60
1938Hank GreenbergDetroit Tigers58
1932Jimmie FoxxKansas City Royals58
2002Alex RodriguezTexas Rangers57
1998Ken Griffey Jr.Seattle Mariners56
1997Ken Griffey Jr.Seattle Mariners56
2010Jose BautistaToronto Blue Jays54
2007Alex RodriguezNew York Yankees54
2006David OrtizBoston Red Sox54
1961Mickey MantleNew York Yankees54
1928Babe RuthNew York Yankees54
1920Babe RuthNew York Yankees54
(Getty Images)

Can Aaron Judge win the Triple Crown?

Just to reiterate how outrageously special this year is for Judge, Tuesday's win over the Pirates did more than push him over the 60 home run mark. It also put him in position to win the Triple Crown, as he now leads the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBIs.

With Judge now batting .316 on the season, he's above Xander Bogaerts and Luis Arraez in batting average, making this potentially one of the best hitting seasons in MLB history.

There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012, and before that there hadn't been one since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski achieved the feat.

Judge is currently ahead of MLB's second-best home run hitter (Kyle Schwarber) by 20 homers, so that's well in hand. He leads Jose Ramirez in RBI by 13, which means that's in good shape. It's only in batting average he's threatened, where he leads Bogaerts (.315) and Arraez (.314).

MORE: Where Albert Pujols ranks on baseball's all-time home run list

AL home run leaders

PlayerTeamTotal
Aaron JudgeNew York Yankees60
Yordan AlvarezHouston Astros37
Mike TroutLos Angeles Angels36
Shohei OhtaniLos Angeles Angels34
Corey SeagerTexas Rangers32

AL RBI leaders

PlayerTeamTotal
Aaron JudgeNew York Yankees128
Jose RamirezCleveland Guardians117
Kyle TuckerHouston Astros102
Adolis GarciaTexas Rangers95
Yordan AlvarezHouston Astros94

AL batting average leaders

PlayerTeamAVG
Aaron JudgeNew York Yankees.316
Xander BogaertsBoston Red Sox.314
Luis ArraezMinnesota Twins.313
Jose AbreuChicago White Sox.308
Nathaniel LoweTexas Rangers.307

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 this year.

Before the season began, his contract negotiations became very public and slightly contentious, with Brian Cashman divulging the Yankees' offer to Judge ahead of Opening Day.

According to Cashman, the Yankees offered Judge a seven-year, $213.5 million extension this year ($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.

MORE: How Aaron Judge's home run pace compares to Roger Maris, Barry Bonds & more

It looked like Judge was going to hit arbitration -- the first Yankee to do so since Dellin Betances, which was a disaster --  but they avoided it and settled on a $19 million deal, in 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 (almost surefire at this point) and World Series MVP.

Judge made it abundantly clear he wouldn't talk contract during the season, but he's been coy about what the future holds. At the All-Star Game, a viral clip emerged of him telling ESPN's Marly Rivera he hoped a young boy named Jacob would be a "Judge fan for life" if he wasn't on the Yankees next season.

Judge also didn't dismiss the idea of joining the Red Sox out of hand, praising their 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 this month.

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.

He continued:

“Ooh,” he told reporters when he was 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 surely 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 already joined Yankees royalty this year, so the ball is entirely in Yankees' court. If he passes Maris, wins a Triple Crown, or somehow does both it solidifies this as 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). So the records in Judge's grasp this season just continue to pile up.

Author(s)
Kevin Skiver is a content producer at The Sporting News
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