Barry Bonds never met Aaron Judge. Like everyone else, he’s watching from afar as the New York Yankees star makes a potential run at his single-season home run record of 73 set in 2001.
“Go for it,” Bonds said this week in an exclusive telephone interview from his home north of San Francisco. “The way he swings he might hit one a day and go over my head. I do not care. Why not?”
More from Sportico.com
But Bonds wants to be in the seats at Oracle Park next season watching Judge play for the San Francisco Giants. He’s the talk of the San Francisco Bay area right now and Judge can absolutely be considered a free agent after completing this historic season.
“I hope he signs here,” Bonds said. “Can it happen? I do not know. It depends on what the Yankee payroll is. But we’d love to have it, I’ll tell you that.”
Bonds is an independent contractor with the Giants in an honorary role and specifically said he has no input into signing or trading for players. But as the team’s biggest fan base and the all-time leader with 762 homers, he can certainly root, root, root for the home team.
At the same time Judge has chased Roger Maris and the 61-homer mark in New York, Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals at 698 homers and can become the first player to reach 700 since Bonds did it on September 16, 2004.
Bonds loves Pujols for what he’s done. It was around when Bonds last played in 2007.
“One of my boys,” Bonds said. “He is a master of that art.”
But Bonds loves the 30-year-old Judge for what he still has to do.
The Yankees set all this up this spring when they offered him a seven-year, $213.5 million extension. The Judge rejected it. After a season in which he could have won the Triple Crown in the American League, he is approaching Mike Trout’s money potential: 12 years, $426.5 million with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Yanks now say they will try to re-sign Judge in the offseason. Surely both they and the Giants could afford him.
“We’re in the Bay Area—he’s a Bay Area boy—we hope they don’t sign him, and we can get him,” Bonds said. “I would. That’s good.”
The Judge and the Bailiffs are from the Bay Area. Bonds, son of the late Giants outfielder Bobby Bonds, grew up down the Peninsula from old Candle Park. Judge is 90 minutes east of San Francisco in the Stockton area, and was 9 years old when Bonds broke Mark McGwire’s three-year-old single-season record, 70 years old.
Judge was a big Bonds and Giants fan, telling the Game San Francisco Chronicle in a recent interview that Bonds was the greatest winner of all time, “in my opinion.”
Bonds’ home run records will forever be disputed because he played during Major League Baseball’s so-called steroid era. Bonds never failed a drug test, but his alleged involvement with performance-enhancing drugs was well-documented in the Mitchell Report on baseball.
To this day, there are some who believe that Bonds’ number is tainted, and that it cost him a shot at induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bonds said he did not want to comment extensively on playing in that era.
“Because I have all the records, I don’t want to headline,” Bonds said. “Every era is different. I played baseball hard. One day I’ll be gone, and I won’t have to listen to him anymore. I have three grandchildren. I am 58 years old. Seriously?”
The Judge is not one of the suspects. For him, Bonds numbers are legitimate.
“That’s the record,” Judge said specifically of the single-season mark. “I saw it done. I stayed up late watching him do it. That’s the record. No one can take that away from him.”
In fact, Bonds is listed in the MLB record books as the all-time leader in both categories. No asterisk, no ambiguity.
“It doesn’t matter what people say,” Bonds said. “In MLB it says Barry Bonds. That’s all that matters, right? Anyone can have their own opinion, and I respect their opinion, but MLB says 762 is the record, 73 is the record. Unless MLB changed something they are still there.
“So [Judge] right That man has a chance to break many of those records. Absolutely.”
Bonds could have very easily landed with the Yankees when he left the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent after the 1992 season. to make a decision.
Bonds recalled being upset about that deadline and walking out of his agent’s Beverly Hills office. The deadline passed, and by then the Giants had made their offer.
“I had the craziest feeling in my gut,” he said. “I didn’t mind the offer. I was going home.”
Bonds hopes the Judge will eventually have the same feeling.
Bonds signed for chump change compared to the money on the table now: six years, $43.75 million ($91.83 million in today’s dollars). According to records maintained by Baseball ReferenceBonds earned $188.3 million in his 22-year career, less than what the Yanks offered Judge, who is already 30 years old.
“He has a long way to go. He’s still at the beginning of his career,” Bonds said. “I pray Aaron never gets hurt and has a long career. At the moment, he is still young. But does his ability look great? Woo. Is it going to make a lot of money? Woo.
“Would I bet on it? Hell, yes. It will be a very interesting negotiation. I hope we win.”
Click here to read the full article.