The biggest story in baseball right now is Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The massive slugger is on an absolute tear and slugged his 44th home run of the season yesterday. There are still about six weeks left in the regular season, so the following question is definitely worth asking: can he reach the 60 home run plateau?
The status of 60
As it stands, there are only five players to have ever hit 60 or more home runs in a season: Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, and each comes with their own unique story.
Ruth’s 60 home run season came in 1927 when he was part of the legendary New York Yankees lineup known as Murderer’s Row. Not to downplay his accomplishment, but this was an era of baseball where deadly home run hitters were only just becoming established. But there were also some years when Ruth hit more home runs than any other team did as a whole, so he truly was a pioneer for power-hitting.
The story of Maris is a little different. He shared the spotlight with another beloved Yankee in Mickey Mantle and, in 1961, took the baseball world by storm when he broke Ruth’s record and hit 61 home runs. Maris’ record, however, was met with controversy when he broke the record because 1961 was the first year Major League Baseball implemented a 162 game schedule, whereas Ruth set his record in a 154 game season.
1998 changed everything when McGwire and Sosa raced to break Maris’ record, finishing the season with 70 and 66 home runs respectively. McGwire would reach the 60-homer plateau once more while Sosa did so twice. Three years later, Barry Bonds would break that record with 73 home runs of his own.
There’s just one problem. It has since been discovered that McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds almost definitely benefitted from the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the debate about the asterisk next to these records continues to rage on.
Where would Stanton stand?
Assuming Giancarlo Stanton remains on his current tear and passes Maris by the end of the season who is baseball’s true single-season home run king? Numbers would suggest Bonds, but he admitted through his lawyer in 2011 that he used steroids and that it was his personal trainer’s fault for misleading him on what he was doing. McGwire confessed he used steroids in 2010 while it was reported the year before that Sosa had tested positive for PEDs in his career, though Sosa himself has never admitted it publically.
This paves the way for Stanton, should he break the record, to be viewed as the true record breaker. He has never been found to use steroids or any performance enhancer at any point in his career, with his eye-popping power linked to his natural size at 6’6″, 249lbs. The only real mark against him is that he can be injury prone and has been kept from reaching his full potential, but that has not been a problem this year.
What if Stanton becomes baseball’s all-time home run king? He’s only 27 years old and already has 252 career home runs and barring a massive decline, surpassing Hank Aaron’s mark of 755 and Bonds’ 762 isn’t out of the question.
But in the here and now, though doing so would be tough, Stanton surpassing 61 home runs needs to be discussed. He is easily the best power hitter of his generation and reaching that milestone in a non-steroid era would turn the baseball world on its head.
It would finally force MLB to right the wrongs of Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire, and only then can the sport truly heal.
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