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Aaron Judge’s Balls are just Fine, Thank You!

Oh, get your minds out of the gutter.

Back in 2022, New York Yankee slugger Aaron Judge broke the American League single-season home run record, in a chase that enthralled and pleased every baseball fan who understood the history and appreciated the feat.

Well, almost all of them.

Ryan Spaeder, an MLB Analyst, Author, Host, Researcher, Statistician, and Writer who is prominent on X (formerly Twitter), postulated with an over-the-top certainty that has become a trademark of his, that the Yankees, and particularly Aaron Judge, were getting “different balls” than other teams. This, of course, serves in many ways to delegitimize Judge’s accomplishment; the MLB wants Judge to break the record, reasons Spaeder, and thus were doing what they can to help him along. On May 9, 2022, Spaeder tweeted:

Now, what’s unfortunate about this tweet is that he was already setting up as nefarious something which is quite normal; I’ve been a baseball fan for almost 30 years, and it has always been true that the warmer the weather, the better the balls fly. Why would it then be hilarious when the ball starts doing what it always does when the summer comes? It’s akin to saying, “It’s going to be so hilarious when April comes around, and it starts to rain more than usual, and the weather channel attributes it to “that time of the year.”

A little over a month later, in late June, as Judge’s numbers started to look more and more impressive, Spaeder tweeted out this gem:

That asterisk is particularly interesting, but understandable, Ryan – who I want to be clear, does otherwise great work and I enjoy his X account a lot – once made an incendiary claim about MLB without naming his source, sparking a legal threat, a seemingly coerced apology, and now this *wink and nod* at the end of tweets like these to avoid further potential legal strife.

Later on, a report came out that had Spaeder claiming vindication and running victory laps around anyone who called out his opinion as lacking at best, and idiotic at worst. We will be getting to that piece of evidence in a bit, but the reason we’re even talking about it now is once again Aaron Judge is hitting home runs (and doing everything else) at an amazing pace, and seemingly better rate; and once again, Ryan Spaeder is calling foul. In response to a tweet about what Judge would be doing if he were on steroids, Spaeder tweeted:

Imagine what Barry Bonds would do if MLB juiced the baseballs in the games that he was playing and only those games. Wild.

And as recently as two hours before the publishing of this piece, he has gone so far as to drag another player into it:

 

So, because the two biggest stars in the game, and perhaps among the all-time greats when their careers are over, are doing all-time great things, their home runs are apparently fake? You know, it’s funny, but Gunnar Henderson of the Orioles has been hitting more homers recently (he now has 26 to Judge’s 30 and Shohei Ohtani‘s 25), but I guess he’s just that good.

But what’s really so wrong with Spaeder believing this? Honestly, it’s because it is so illogical and beyond belief that it only hurts the game and player’s legacies to keep making these claims. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying MLB is not capable of skulduggery, but this is a bridge too far; let’s look at this logically.

 

One of the most, um, interesting things about the “Yankees are getting different balls” argument in 2022 was that Aaron Judge was almost literally the only player on that team hitting, at all. The other eight spots in the order might as well have been pre-T-Ball, meaning if they were all getting better balls, it wasn’t helping. But in addressing this claim for the 2024 season, we also cover the 2022 season, as they are the same arguments, so I will focus on this year. If it is true that the Yankees are getting different balls that are giving them (and Judge) an advantage, that means at least one of the following has to be true as well:

Either both teams are getting juiced balls, but all the Yankee starters and relievers until recently have been just so dang good that they rendered the juice useless against them, while the other team’s pitchers apparently couldn’t (I write this in the middle of a stretch of games where Yankee pitching has been getting hit HARD, including with the long ball; did the magic run out)?

Or, only the Yankees hitters have been getting them, meaning the balls are being switched out between innings, and every Umpire and perhaps Ball Boy is in on it; yet no one has spilled the beans, even anonymously, over the last 3 years which seems unlikely based on the world we live in.

But then there is the potentiality that ONLY Aaron Judge is getting these special balls, meaning the “nebulous they” are switching balls in between at-bats, and the Umps/Ball Boys point I just mentioned above still stands, but is even more secretive and conspiratorial. Do you mean to tell me that they are all keeping this such a tight secret, and not one person has even drunkenly gone to Reddit with a burner account to tell the world? It’s laughable if we are being honest.

Not to mention that if the balls are being switched out for Judge’s at-bats alone, one would think some pitchers would be able to notice there is a difference with the balls. Pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Chris Bassitt have mentioned previously how they could tell whenever they were handling a different ball, you’d think the same would apply here.

Finally, there’s the Occam’s razor of it all; that the New York Yankees – and Aaron Judge in particular – are very good, even all-time good at hitting homers, and so they (and he) do with great regularity. Again, all these same arguments apply to the 2022 season and the Yankee team as well, the only difference is the rest of the Yankee’s lineup has up until recently been much better than what we saw two years ago. Additionally, regarding Judge, one can see the work he has put in to be an even better hitter than he was in 2022, and it has played a huge role in helping him overcome an ice-cold start (he has also been crushing breaking pitches).

Embed from Getty Images

Lastly, I mentioned earlier how there was this supposed proof that Spaeder keeps touting as vindication, and that is a study done by Dr. Meredith Wills in which she examined 204 game-used balls from the 2022 season, finding three types of balls; “dead balls,” “juiced balls.” and so-called “Goldilocks balls” which would be seemingly, well, just right. Why does this matter? As Gary Phillips writes in Sports Illustrated:

The only “Goldilocks” balls Insider obtained from the regular season that did not have commemorative stamps came from Yankees games. Eleven such balls were obtained.

MLB predictably denies Dr. Wills’ findings and points out a chain of custody issue, but to me, that is neither here nor there; what is more important and makes Spaeder’s vindication short-lived, is a little tidbit found in an article from the Orange County Register, written seven days after the SI article (and unfortunately behind a paywall):

Yikes. In light of all this, it seems that instead of going on a crusade for the last few years, Ryan should have made sure his pet issue was, shall we say, Spaedered and Neutered before going all in.

 

 

 

Aaron is a Writer and communicator who has notably served on the communications team of the Westchester County Executive. Nicknamed "Mr. Baseball" in his youth, Aaron is a lifelong Yankee fan, Tino Martinez and Aaron Judge enthusiast, and a fierce defender of Craig Biggio's Hall of Fame worthiness. When he is not writing, or doing baseball related activities, Aaron is an avid foodie and culinarian. His non-baseball writing can be found at the Realety Check substack.

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