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.

Year Player Team Home Runs
2001 Barry Bonds San Francisco Giants 73
1998 Mark McGwire St. Louis Cardinals 70
1998 Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs 66
1999 Mark McGwire St. Louis Cardinals 65
2001 Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs 64
1999 Sammy Sosa Chicago Cubs 63
1961 Roger Maris New York Yankees 61
2022 Aaron Judge New York Yankees 60
1927 Babe Ruth New York Yankees 60

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

Year Player Team Home Runs
1961 Roger Maris New York Yankees 61
2022 Aaron Judge New York Yankees 60
1927 Babe Ruth New York Yankees 60
1938 Hank Greenberg Detroit Tigers 58
1932 Jimmie Foxx Kansas City Royals 58
2002 Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers 57
1998 Ken Griffey Jr. Seattle Mariners 56
1997 Ken Griffey Jr. Seattle Mariners 56
2010 Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays 54
2007 Alex Rodriguez New York Yankees 54
2006 David Ortiz Boston Red Sox 54
1961 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees 54
1928 Babe Ruth New York Yankees 54
1920 Babe Ruth New York Yankees 54
Aaron Judge

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

Player Team Total
Aaron Judge New York Yankees 60
Yordan Alvarez Houston Astros 37
Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels 36
Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Angels 34
Anthony Rizzo New York Yankees 31

AL RBI leaders

Player Team Total
Aaron Judge New York Yankees 128
Jose Ramirez Cleveland Guardians 115
Kyle Tucker Houston Astros 100
Yordan Alvarez Houston Astros 94
Adolis Garcia Texas Rangers 92

AL batting average leaders

Player Team AVG
Aaron Judge New York Yankees .316
Xander Bogaerts Boston Red Sox .315
Luis Arraez Minnesota Twins .314
Jose Abreu Chicago White Sox .308
Nathaniel Lowe Texas Rangers .306

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.

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