Is Josh Hamilton losing weight a sign of … something?

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I’ll preface all of this by saying that the author of the piece I am about to link, Jeff Pearlman, is fully aware that he’s throwing something of a bomb here.  That said, unlike some others people, I do not believe Pearlman is throwing a bomb for the sake of throwing a bomb. He’s not being cute or coy here and he fully acknowledges the limits of his knowledge. These are simply questions which genuinely occur to him and, whether you agree with him or not, he isn’t afraid to ask them.

He also knows fully well that I and a lot of other people are going to have a problem with this. Indeed, I talked to him online after I read it late this morning and he knows fully well that I’m gonna take issue with it. Indeed, I’ve taken enough issue with Pearlman over the years that he and have come to talk on occasion about these sorts of things, and while they haven’t done much to bridge the pretty large gap we have when it comes to PEDs in baseball, it is enough to give me comfort that he’s not just trolling and that when Pearlman does throw bombs it’s because he believes in what he’s saying, not because he simply wants to create chaos. You can decide for yourself if you think that’s worth anything, but it means at least a little something to me.

With all of that said, let’s get down to brass tacks: Pearlman looks at Josh Hamilton’s 20 pound weight loss this offseason with suspicion:

First, to be clear: I don’t know if Josh Hamilton used PEDs. I’d long assumed he hadn’t, because the idea of an ex-drug addict taking, well, drugs didn’t make much sense to me … And yet …in the modern era of baseball, with all we know and all we’ve seen and all the recent news concerning Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Braun and numerous others, well … I’m just not so sure we can continue to take reports like this at face value … I don’t know if Hamilton’s using. I really don’t. But one must be skeptical.

Pearlman offers examples of curious weight gain and weight loss — Pudge Rodriguez’s weight loss maybe being the most memorable example for all of us — and my inference from this anyway is that there is suspicion to be had about Josh Hamilton it’s that he lost a lot of weight just as scrutiny and testing is being ratcheted up again.

His ultimate end: for someone to ask Hamilton and others “the hard questions” about such things. I’m not sure what the hard question is. I’m not sure why weight loss is a sufficient predicate for a question and/or accusation of PED use. As we note with silliness all spring, lots of players yo-yo in weight. Are we supposed to ask them all these “hard questions?”

Heck, it’s not even about giving someone the benefit of the doubt. It’s about what in the hell is supposed to create doubt in the first place. In the past people have looked at all sorts of things to create that doubt, and half the time it’s silly. Home run totals, without reference to park size or expansion. Head size, as if we are able to measure such a thing. Back acne as if it can only be caused by steroids. Failure to prove negatives, which is something only baseball writers seem to think is an acceptable expectation. Acting out in anger as if all anger = ‘roid rage. With Pearlman, it’s weight fluctuation. That’s not enough to say anything with certainty, he says. But it’s enough to prompt more questions. We are required he says — we must! — be skeptical.

I simply can’t buy that. At some point you have to assume that the game has a strong testing program and, barring something actually indicative of PED use, take its negative results at face value. Weight loss isn’t doing it for me. I’m not sure who else besides Pearlman it should actually do it for.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.