Aaron Judge makes history but Barry Bonds should still be considered the home run king

With Aaron Judge surpassing Roger Maris, Bonds’ skills should be recognized and acknowledged despite his steroid use


Oracle Park in San Francisco, the stadium where Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record in 2001. (Photo by Jonathan Plazola)

Aaron Judge hit his 62 home run of the year on Oct. 4 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX. The home run broke an American League record that stood for 61 years when Roger Maris did it, which many consider as the legitimate record,   

As challenging and historic as it is to witness the season Judge had, Barry Bonds should be considered the single-season home run king—despite the controversy surrounding how he achieved it. 

The single-season home run record belongs to Bonds who broke the record back in 2001 with 73 home runs, breaking Mark McGwire’s record of 70 in 1998.

There is only one issue surrounding names like Bonds and McGwire and even Sammy Sosa who hit 66 home runs in 1998 and 63 in 1999. The issue is doping.

There has always been speculation about those three big names, specifically Bonds. It was confirmed when an independent investigation conducted by George Mitchell, former United States Senator, came out with a report of Major League Baseball players who have taken performance-enhancing drugs. One of those names is Bonds.

Despite pleading guilty in 2011 of steroid use, what Bonds did was hard to repeat and will most likely never be done again. Surely, using PEDs gave him an advantage but it certainly took his Hall of Fame skillset, his good eye, and his ability to know the strike zone and his solid contact with the baseball to another level. 

During his career many pitchers avoided pitching to Bonds. At the peak of Bonds’ career, pitchers would often avoid throwing him strikes or, alternately, would walk him. What separated him from the rest of the competition was that he would rarely see a pitch in the strike zone to hit during a game and when he would get it, he didn’t miss it. This often led to long majestic home runs.

As the steroid era ended, Judge became the first player to slug over 60 home runs since Bonds and Sosa back in 2001. The only player to come close is Giancarlo Stanton in 2017 with 59.

There have been many other players throughout the history of MLB who have tested positive for PEDs and have not achieved much success at the major league level. Outfielder Dee Strange-Gordon tested positive for PEDs and only had one home run through 79 games that season. Former shortstop 

Everth Cabrera is another name that was part of what was known as the Biogenesis scandal, Cabrera was a .246 career hitter with 12 career home runs. Catcher Yasmani Grandal tested positive following his rookie season in 2012 after hitting eight home runs.

The “Biogenesis” scandal is known as one of the biggest steroid scandals. In Jan. 2013, the Miami New Times reported that 13 players, including slugger Alex Rodriguez, had obtained PEDs from a health clinic outside of Miami. All of the players received suspensions during the middle of the season after an investigation by MLB was conducted.

Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in all sports. A batter does not know most of the time whether he will see a 100 plus mile per hour fastball or a 75-mph curveball and has less than a split second to react and swing. 

The Yankee slugger agrees that Bonds remains the single-season home run king.

“That’s the record. I watched him do it,” Judge said. “I stayed up late watching him do it. That’s the record. No one can take that from him.” 

The 1998 home run chase between McGwire and Sosa, was said by many in the media to have saved baseball by increasing attendance wherever they played during that season. 

Kevin Blackistone, a sports commentator for the Washington Post, brings up a good point of how players in the past who have cheated in different circumstances have either been forgiven or their cheating has been completely overlooked, whereas Bonds has been blackballed by MLB.

In a Oct. 5, 2022 article, “The sanctimonious baseball purists want to elevate Aaron Judge. Don’t let them,” Blackistone says Bonds should be recognized as the home run king. 

Somehow, some way, Maris and [Mickey] Mantle, [Bobby] Thomson and [Babe] Ruth, and all those who’ve excelled in between and around them — except for Bonds and a few of his peers — still pass baseball’s purity test,” Blackistone said.

In no way am I saying that Bonds is innocent, even though he has not confessed, I do think the evidence of his muscle mass and his dominating video game stats increased as he entered his forties is eye-raising. I think that even with steroid use no one could hit a baseball as well and no one had a better eye of the strike zone than Bonds.