The media is here to report news, creating narratives and stories to describe what we can’t see. They should not judge, on our behalf, who is worthy to be enshrined into Cooperstown. The statistics alone, the accomplishments alone, the feats alone, and the abilities alone, are the items that we should be using to judge the success of an individual baseball player. Heart and emotions of writers have little to do with an individual’s accomplishments. Barry Bonds was one of the greatest all-around baseball players of all time. The Baseball Writers Association of America will vote between November and January as to whether Bonds should be inducted into the Hall.
Before all of the steroids and before all of the holier-than-thou statements from the media, Barry Bonds was an amazing baseball player. After being drafted out of Arizona State with the 6th pick in the 1985 MLB Draft, Bonds needed just 402 at-bats in the minors, where he posted a .943 OPS with 20 home runs and 31 stolen bases, before being summoned to Pittsburgh at the tender age of 21 in 1986.
As a rookie, Bonds only hit .223/.330/.416, but he had 26 doubles, 16 home runs, and 36 stolen bases in 413 at-bats. He showed the power and speed talent that would make him a force for the Pirates for several years. From 1990 to 1992, Pittsburgh went 289-197 (.595) and the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since he left for San Francisco in 1993 via free agency, save for this season (which they still need to win 19 games to, officially, have a winning record). Talk about an impact on a franchise, right?
Bonds finished his Pittsburgh career with three straight losses in the NLCS, so while the Pirates had some success, he never made it to the top. He posted a .275/.380/.503 slash over seven seasons with the Pirates, mashing 220 doubles, 36 triples, 176 home runs, and stealing 251 bases. He was well on his way to becoming a Hall of Fame player at the age of 27.
If you project his statistics averaged over 512 at-bats per season from his seven seasons in Pittsburgh through the year 2000, so that his magical 73 home run season never would have happened and his career would have been over at the age of 35, Bonds would have finished with 2,108 hits, 1,440 runs scored, 471 doubles, 77 triples, 377 home runs, 1,191 RBI, and 537 stolen bases.
However, that isn’t taking into account the fact that Bonds struggled in his rookie season with a .223 batting average and that he was a completely different player from 1990 through 1992. So, if you give him five seasons, 1993-1997, as his prime seasons, where he would have posted the same numbers that he did in 1992 for Pittsburgh, then have him on a career decline from 1998 to 2000, those numbers would still go up to: 2,145 hits, 1505 runs scored, 490 doubles, 95 triples, 420 home runs, 1,305 RBI, and 545 stolen bases.
However, it did not happen that way. Bonds did not retire at the age of 35. In fact, he did not retire until he was 42 years old, and he did not retire because he did not want to play, more so because he was blackballed into retirement. We all know the BALCO story at this point, and we know that Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001 and broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record by finishing with 762 bombs in his career. However, 762 is not a number that we all know…755 is. That’s how many Aaron hit in his career. Hell, some of us still remember 714, the total home runs that Babe Ruth hit in his career, but we can’t remember how many Bonds finished with.
Barry Bonds was a cheater because, while steroids weren’t “illegal” in baseball, steroids were and still are illegal in the real world…without a prescription. “The clear” and “the cream” were not tested for in baseball, but how many players in the 1960’s and 1970’s were on speed or other amphetamines? How many spit balls did Gaylord Perry throw to help him win 314 games and join the Hall of Fame in 1991? How many games did Mickey Mantle play with a hangover before joining the Hall of Fame in 1974? How many times did Ty Cobb cleat someone sliding into a base, or say something full of hate to a player or fan? Babe Ruth had a daughter with his mistress after splitting with his wife in 1925 but never divorcing…
When did character overcome statistics in baseball? Barry Bonds still had to hit 762 baseballs into the stands, which was hard when he was walked 2,558 times in his career. While he may have cheated and he may have treated the media like scum of the earth, he was one of the greatest baseball players who has ever stepped foot onto a diamond. He is a Hall of Famer, just like he says.