Barry Bonds very well may be the most controversial player in all of baseball, and arguably all of sports. His dominance in his “steroid-use” prime is the greatest span in sports history. Since his steroid use began in 1998, Bonds has 4 of the top 8 OPS seasons in the history of the game, including the top 2. His mixture of power and plate control is something that even surpassed the likes of Ruth. If Bonds was clean, he would be the greatest player in the history of baseball without question. It would be unanimous and there aren’t many close. However, Bonds is not clean as has now been confirmed. This tarnishes his remarkable legacy and many, many records. Yet, Barry Bonds should be in the Hall-of-Fame. His pre-steroid career alone makes the Barry Bonds hall-of-fame case viable, and it’s time to vote him in.
Overall Hall-of-Fame Case
Looking at his numbers alone, the Barry Bonds Hall-of-Fame decision is an easy one. He holds many different MLB records, some that might be unbreakable. Barry leads the MLB in career homers (762), walks (2558), and intentional walks (688). He also broke the single-season records in homers (73), OPS+ (268), oWAR (12.4), OBP (.609, probably unbreakable), walks (232, probably unbreakable), and intentional walks (120, unbreakable), In fact, all of those were in the same season, making his 2004 season the greatest of all time. He holds a record 7 MVPs, while also winning 12 silver sluggers, 2 batting titles, and 8 golden gloves. However, the Barry Bonds Hall-of-Fame case is way more than numbers.
Barry Bonds is someone who has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his time with the San Francisco Giants. The accepted timeline is that Bonds began to use the illegal stuff around 1998, so his record-breaking prime and especially his 2004 season is notably asterisked. He is being kept out of the hall-of-fame solely because of his illegal usage. However, I do not think that is the right way to look at his career. Mike Schmidt admitted to using enhancing drugs, yet he is still in the Hall. Barry Bonds also put together one of the most impressive careers in the modern era before his steroid usage, but it is not talked about often. Before becoming the greatest power guy ever, his blend of speed and power was unlike many. Even if you remove his steroid time, Bonds’ career is good enough to get him into the Hall-of-Fame.
Put Him in Cooperstown
To make a fair argument for the 14x all-star, we need to remove his possible cheating years. Some evidence suggests it started in 2001, but to be safe, we will remove the first linked documentation of possible usage, which is 1998. In the 13 years he played before 1998, Bonds was a 3-time MVP winner. Every single player that has won 3 MVPs is in the Hall-of-Fame or will be, apart from maybe Alex Rodriguez, who has a similar case to Bonds. In that time period, he was much more of a power-speed guy than he was in his record-breaking year. In fact, he became just the second member of the 40 homer-40 steals club (now up to 4 members) in 1996. Bonds also started the 400-home run- 400 steals club, which no other member has joined. Even before his asterisked time period, he was breaking records.
Compared to other legends, Bonds 13-year stretch stacks up very well. Bonds has a higher OPS and OPS+ than Hall-of-Famers Willie Mays and Ricky Hendersons did in their primes. He is also extremely close to Henderson and Alex Rodriguez in WAR in almost 600 fewer games. During his pre-power-heavy era, Barry was the most complete player in baseball by a large margin. Not only was he doing unique things with the bat and on the bases, but he was also a great defender in left field. The first-round pick had an OPS above 1.000 from 1992-1998, leading the national league three times. His first 13 pre-steroid years may have not made him the best player in the history of the game, but his power-speed combination was the best the league had ever seen, and that alone makes the Barry Bonds Hall-of-Fame case a reasonable one.
Keeping Him Out
There are still a few question marks on his eligibility though. We do not know the official start date of his steroid use, and there definitely is the chance that he began using illegal substances before 1998, which would make him completely ineligible. Voters may keep him out because they cannot prove the official start date of his usage. If they go based on the evidence given, however, he should get in with ease. Another negative piece of evidence is Bonds’ lack of team success. He never was able to get his hands on a World Series trophy, despite coming close. His playoff performance was not poor, as in his one and only World Series he hit almost .500 and his OPS was almost 2.000. Yet, his individual performance never got his team to win the last game of the season.
The accolades, records and numbers are some of the most impressive we have ever seen. The Pirates and Giants’ superstar should be in the Hall-of-Fame. There is not really a question about it. He may never get in, but the record-breaker should.
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