MLB Rumors: Is Barry Bonds Correct When He Says He is a Hall of Famer?
“Oh, without a doubt. There’s not a doubt in my mind,” Bonds told MLB.com in an interview at AT&T Park.
The voting for the Hall of Fame will be announced in January. Bonds will be one of the more popular first-year nominees in recent memory.
But Bonds added that he really didn’t care that much if he was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I respect the Hall of Fame, don’t get me wrong. I really, really, really respect the Hall of Fame. And I think we all do,” Bonds told MLB.com. “I love the city of San Francisco and to me that’s my Hall of Fame. I don’t worry about it because I don’t want to be negative about the way other people think it should be run. That’s their opinion, and I’m not going to be negative.
“I know I’m going to be gone one day. If you want to keep me out, that’s your business. My things are here in San Francisco. These are the people who love me. This is where I feel I belong. This is where I want to belong. If [the voters] want to put me in there, so be it, fine. If they don’t, so be it, fine.”
So either Bonds really doesn’t care, or he is pretending he doesn’t care because he knows that he has a good chance of not making it.
Well does he deserve it?
Let me examine his career.
In 22 seasons, Barry Bonds collected 762 home runs, the most in major league baseball history. He drove in 1996 runs, the fourth most ever. He scored 2227 runs, the third most ever, and walked 2558 times, the most ever.
His combination of power and speed remains equalled by only one player in baseball history, and that was his godfather, Willie Mays. But not even Mays did what Bonds did, and that’s becoming the only player in the game’s history with more than 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. Bonds is a five-time member of the 30-30 club, and he is one of four players to top both 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season.
Seven times, he was selected as the National League Most Valuable Player, and he finished second twice. If you use War (wins above replacement as the key statistic to judging the most valuable player in the league), Bonds actually deserved 11 Most Valuable Player trophies.
His stretch from 2001 to 2004 ranks as arguably the most dominant four-year stretch, not just by a hitter, but by any athlete in any sport ever. In that period, Bonds bashed 209 home runs, including a record 73 in 2001. He batted .349, including a league-leading .370 in 2002 when he was 38 years old, and he reached base at a staggering .559 clip. In 2004, he became the first baseball player ever to have more times on base (376) than official at bats (373).
He was master of the intentional walk, collecting 284 in four seasons, including 120 in 2004. By comparison, the record until Bonds came along had been 45 by slugger Willie McCovey in 1969.
I haven’t even touched on Bonds’ defense in left field. He won eight Gold Glove awards in the 1990s, regularly ranking among league leaders in range factor and outfield assists.
Oh, and he completely shed his reputation as a failure in the postseason when he led the Giants to the World Series in 2002. He batted .356 with eight home runs and 27 walks in 17 postseason games, and he was unstoppable in the World Series, batting .471 with four home runs and 13 walks.
I highly doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t think that Bonds is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. In fact, I’d rank him behind only Babe Ruth, the greatest player ever, and Ted Williams on the list of best hitters ever.
For five-tool players, Bonds trails just Willie Mays, and he might actually be closer to Mays than most have realized.
Now let’s get to the elephant in the room.
Barry Bonds took steroids, which enabled him to break both Hank Aaron’s career home run record and Mark McGwire’s single season record.
And that is absolutely correct.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Bonds would not be the career or single season home run leader if he had not used steroids. It’s difficult to predict just how many home runs steroids added to his career total, but we do know, or we think we know, that Bonds started using steroids following the record-breaking seasons by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998.
It’s a rough estimate but I would give Bonds about 190 home runs from 1999 to 2007, instead of the 351 that he actually hit. As he got older, his home run totals would continue to decrease, not increase. I also don’t think he would have been able to play until age 43 without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.
Those totals give Bonds a career estimate of about 601 home runs, which would have put him at fourth place on the all-time home run list at the time of his retirement, behind Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Mays. Perhaps those estimates are high. It’s impossible to predict.
The point I am trying to make is fairly obvious. Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer even without the use of steroids.
He was still a terrible teammate before he used ‘roids, as everyone knows, but that shouldn’t impact his Hall of Fame credentials. Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby are two of the worst teammates in history and they’re both in Cooperstown.
Regardless, I don’t think people realize just how great Bonds was during the first two-thirds of his career before he used steroids. He won three Most Valuable Player awards before he was 30 years old. He was the best combination of power and speed in the game. He could read pitchers like no hitter since Ted Williams and he was an absolute force in the field.
In fact, let’s say Bonds retired before after the 1998 season, meaning he never had a chance to use steroids. Let’s look at his career totals:
13 seasons, 411 home runs, 1216 RBIs, .290/.411/.556, 445 stolen bases, 3 MVPs, 8 Gold Glove awards, seven-time leader in WAR for NL position players
That absolutely makes him a Hall of Famer. No doubt about it.
You could divide Barry Bonds’ career into two parts and you would have two distinct Hall of Famers. He’s that good.
I choose not to penalize him for steroids because a significant portion (we don’t know exactly how many, unfortunately, but I would estimate around 30 to 40 percent) of the players in the league were using ‘roids. Bonds just happened to benefit from them more than anybody else.
He’s not the first baseball player to look for an unfair advantage. Ty Cobb sharpened his spikes to intimidate players when he slid into bases. Gaylord Perry admittedly threw a spitball. Norm Cash corked his bat for the entire 1961 season, which was easily his best season ever.
Cobb wasn’t kept out of the Hall of Fame. Neither was Perry. Cash was eligible; he just wasn’t good enough.
Besides, not only hitters used steroids. Pitchers did too. Roger Clemens earned seven Cy Young awards, including four past the age of 35. I’d say steroids definitely had something to do with that.
If a pitcher using steroids faces a hitter using steroids, does either have an advantage? Not really.
Bonds is the best player the game has seen in the steroids era. If you keep him out, no other steroid users should make it. As I stated, I wouldn’t punish for steroids, but if I did, it would be for a player like Sammy Sosa, who likely would not have had a Hall of Fame career without steroids.
Bonds would have. Put him in the Hall of Fame.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.