Walks stall New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge’s home run chase

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Josh Donaldson calls it a front-row seat to history.

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His view from up close of Aaron Judge.

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He was 12 years old when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa took their home run chase down to the final weekend of the 1998 season and remembers how exciting that was to him. He was 15 when Barry Bonds did the unspeakable and hit 73 home runs. “I was captivated,” the former Blue Jays great said. “Kind of got me hooked.”

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And now there is this season for the ages and Aaron Judge. In the real home run race, the one without a syringe or other enhancements. And with a season about to end, an unofficial record about to be beaten, Donaldson is asked what has impressed him the most about Judge.

“All of it,” he said.

What does all of it mean?

“The whole package,” the former MVP said. “Great guy. Great player. Great leader. It’s all of that. I knew how good he was before I got here. He hit 50 homers in a season before. When a guy does that you know what he’s capable of doing. And then he goes out and does this.”

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This is what no one has done for 61 seasons if you don’t want to cheat history with your interpretation. And those at the Rogers Centre found a way to boo the man when they should have been saying thank you. This isn’t just Donaldson’s peek at history. It’s our peek too. It’s once-in-a-lifetime stuff. The New York Yankees are going to the playoffs. The Blue Jays are going to the playoffs. We know all that.

What we don’t know still — how many home runs will Judge hit over the final week and whether he will hang on to win the batting title and award him the most powerful Triple Crown in history.

Two races, really, although all the talk is just about one of them and there were all kinds of gloves out in the outfielder bleachers Tuesday night hoping to get a shot at a home run ball of that much value.

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Aaron Boone stands in the Yankees dugout, his place every baseball night, where he hasn’t just managed this miraculous season by Boone but has become its biggest fan in some ways. He first noticed Boone at spring training in 2017, before he became the Yankees manager and was working for ESPN. He immediately paid attention to the size of Judge.

How could you not pay attention to a statuesque 6-foot-7 and 280 lbs in pinstripes? “I watched how he interacted with people,” said Boone. “I watched how he treated people.” He watched how people treated him. And he’s been watching every since.

“I’ve got to live this every day,” said Boone. “That’s the way he is with people. When you see him with fans or kids. He’s like that every day. It’s very consistent with who he is.”

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No one said that of Bonds when he hit 73. Watch how he treats people. Watch how he is with kids. Watch how the admiration around his team, from other teams, is something to admire. Never mind the difference in the numbers or the eras. The difference with the people matter as well.

“I’ve grown in respect for appreciation for who he is,” said Boone. “I haven’t studied this much but I have a decent knowledge of the history of the game and I think this has got to be up there with the all-time great seasons. It’s been that great. I played against McGwire and Sosa when that was doing on. I played a lot of games against them down the stretch as they went from 60 and on. I played against Barry and I saw his greatness.

“I think what Aaron is doing in this season, in the context of how difficult it is to hit nowadays, and you start stacking his numbers against other guys having great seasons (now) and the distances between him and them, that’s why I think this is an all-time great season.

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“And I think we’ll look back at this for the rest of our lives.”

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We just need to see another home run or two or five — or as many as he can muster in the final days of a season with so much of the attention of the baseball world on his four or five at-bats a night — and how much of this miracle season you’ve chosen to take in.

“It’s been fun to be around,” said Jays’ general manager Ross Atkins, watching from the other side of the field.

“You can’t ignore what he’s done,” said John Schneider, as part manager and part baseball fan through the final days of this campaign. “It’s pretty special. You respect the way he plays, the way he goes about it. He’s a tough guy not to like.”

Except when he beats you. Judge didn’t hit a home Tuesday night. He didn’t have to. He remains at 60. But he did walk four times, scoring two of the Yankees five runs, and was central to the New York victory.

History must wait for another night.

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