Aaron Judge is not baseball’s savior. Just let him play ball.

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Sixteen years ago, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract was published. It’s full of James’ legendary wisdom and insight, but one bit that I come back to, over and over again, is this:

When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent. Never pay any attention to those articles or those descriptions . . . Sportswriters, despite their cynicism or because of it, desperately want to believe in athletes as heroes, and will project their hopes onto anyone who offers a blank slate. The problem with this is that, when the player turns out to be human and fallible, people feel betrayed. It is a disservice to athletes to try to make them more than they really are.

The baseball establishment has gotten on board with most things James has said over the years, but it still constantly ignores this passage. The latest example of it can be seen in the coverage of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.

Yesterday Bill pointed out the silly hyperbole which is beginning to sneak in to Judge’s coverage. Today John Harper of the Daily News writes the column I’ve been anticipating for a few weeks now:

. . . it was Maris who hit those 61 home runs in 1961, famously breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60. And while Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds have since obliterated that number, their totals are so egregiously steroids-tainted that, in my mind and I believe millions of others, Maris’ 61 still stands as the unofficial record.

Wouldn’t it be something if Judge took a serious run at that?

It’s a paint-by-numbers piece if ever there was one. A healthy dose of criticism of the players of the 1990s and 2000s followed by a whole lot of “what a fine young man this Aaron Judge is,” all in service of a “baseball truly needs this!” and “it’d be a great story!” jazz.

It’s bad enough that we continue to see this kind of shade thrown on guys like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and their contemporaries. The PED era was what it was, but my memory of it, and the memory of almost everyone who isn’t a tut-tutting sports writer, is that it was a lot of fun. Those homers happened, they counted and they provided a lot of entertainment for a lot of people. Think whatever you want about the record book and the ethics of it, but don’t assume for a moment that the majority of people who enjoyed baseball of that era are demanding that their memories be saved from some dark shadow.

The worst part of it, though, is sportswriters seem to forget how often they have played this game. And how naive they look to have played it in hindsight. Remember this story about Alex Rodriguez from the New York Times in 2006?

The cause of Bonds’s physical changes has been endlessly scrutinized; he has repeatedly denied knowingly using steroids, and baseball only began testing for them in 2003. The worst accusation against Rodriguez is that he bragged too much about his workouts in an interview last spring. Whatever people think of him personally, the legitimacy of Rodriguez’s performance has never been questioned … If he continues to avoid injury, the home run record could be his. If Bonds is the man whom Rodriguez is chasing, it is safe to say baseball will be rooting for him.

Tyler Kepner wrote that. He’s one of baseball’s smartest and best writers and even he couldn’t resist the lure of the [relatively] blank slate and the promise of a Great Clean Hope presented by Alex Freakin’ Rodriguez of all people. It’s almost impossible for sportswriters to resist it whenever a new talent bursts onto the scene.

If we have learned anything in the past fifteen years or so we’ve learned that that talking up ballplayers as ideals of wholesome virtue is idiotic. We don’t know them, not really. They’re all human. They all have faults and foibles. Some — like Albert Pujols, who James referenced in that passage 16 years ago — defy the odds and manage to remain citizens in good standing. Some remain that way during their playing career and then are revealed later to be guys who are not so great. Some, like Alex Rodriguez, fall off that pedestal onto which they were placed while still in their prime. Since we don’t know them, we don’t have any way of predicting who will and who will not turn out to be good men. Hell, even the ones who seem to be good may simply be great at hiding dark secrets.

The point, however, is not that we should be cynical and suspicious of everyone. The point is that we should not put people we do not know on such pedestals in the first place. Placing them there is an exercise in baseless hero creation and knocking them off — with disingenuous claims of personal betrayal — is an exercise in self-righteousness. It’s unfair to them and it’s, at best, naive of us. More often it comes off like cynically contrived theater.

Aaron Judge is having a fantastic season. He may have a fantastic career. He is unquestionably the most enjoyable part of 2017 so far and I hope he continues to do what he does because it’s damn fun to watch. Yankees fans are lucky to see him every day and they should not, for one moment, be expected to stifle their excitement, let alone question Judge’s character. He’s a baseball player and they should be allowed to enjoy his baseball feats without worrying about it.

But nor should they, or anyone else, put anything more than that on Aaron Judge’s shoulders. Just because John Harper or some other sportswriter has unresolved issues about past heroes turning out to have feet of clay doesn’t make it Judge’s problem. And it certainly shouldn’t give him more responsibility to them or to the game of baseball than he already has.

Bruce Maxwell is the first MLB player to take a knee during the National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.