Why Barry Bonds Should Get in the Hall of Fame in First Year of Eligibility
Barry Bonds has never admitted to, nor has he been found guilty of, steroid use.
Sure, back on April 14, 2011 Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice, which in and of itself is an argument for another day. The issue at hand is not whether or not a man should face jail time for lying to Congress. (In my opinion, yes he should.) The issue at hand is whether or not Barry Bonds is worthy of being selected to the Hall of Fame in 2013, his first time appearing on the ballot based on his baseball credentials.
Let's take a look back at his career and see if Bonds is indeed Cooperstown material, shall we?
An All-Star Through and Through
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While his godfather, Willie Mays, is tied with Hank Aaron and Stan Musial as having appeared in the most All-Star games with 24 times, Bonds himself has been selected 14 times to play in the summer classic.
Bonds also added seven National League Most Valuable Player awards to his resume. On top of that feat, he was the runner-up for the award twice, finished in the top five three more times and was in the top 12 two more times. For the record, that equates to seven MVP awards with an additional seven times being considered highly for the award.
During his 22 year long career, Bonds racked up eight National League Gold Glove Awards, the last of which coming in 1998 for the Giants.
He also added 12 Silver Slugger Awards.
So...to recap thus far: 14-time All-Star, seven-time MVP, eight-time Gold Glove Winner and 12-time Silver Slugger Winner.
He Won Awards Other Than JUST MVP's
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On top of his seven MVP awards, Bonds won:
- 1990 Sporting News Player of the Year Award
- 2001 NL Hank Aaron Award
- 2001 Sporting News Player of the Year Award
- 2002 NL Hank Aaron Award
- 2004 Sporting News Player of the Year Award
- 2004 NL Hank Aaron Award
For those unaware, the Hank Aaron Award is given to the player selected as the top hitter in each league, as voted on by baseball fans and members of the media.
The Sporting News Player of the Year Award is given to one player in Major League Baseball that TSN views as the overall MVP of the league for a given season.
He Has Led the League...a Lot
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Barry Bonds has been a phenom in baseball. During the course of his 22-year career he has led the National League in a lot of categories...a lot of times. Let's take a closer look:
- WAR - led the league nine times. Only once during his career was his rating ever out of the top five. (sixth in 1988.)
- Runs - led the league with 109 in 1992.
- Home Runs - led the league in 1993 with 46 and once again in 2001 with a single season record 73 bombs.
- Base on Balls - 12 times he's led the league in this category, highlighted by his 2004 season where he was walked a staggering 232 times.
- Batting Average - twice he's led this category. In 2002 he hit an amazing .370 on the season, then followed up that performance in 2004 with a .362 average.
- On-Base Percentage - Bonds led the league 10 times in OBP, highlighted by the .609 OBP he posted during the 2004 season.
- Slugging Percentage - Seven times Bonds led this category. Most notably in 2001 when he slugged .863 and in 2004 when he almost did that again with an .812 SLG.
- On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS) - Nine times he topped the charts with three years worth highlighting: 1.422 in 2004, 1.381 in 2002 and 1.279 in 2001.
- OPS+ - Nine times as well, highlighted by his 268 in 2002.
- Total Bases - Just one time in 1993 with 365.
- Intentional Base on Balls - An astounding 12 times, highlighted by the 120 IBB's in 2004.
You Can't Touch This
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FACT: Barry Bonds is the only player in Major League Baseball history with over 500 home runs and 500 career steals.
762 long balls.
514 swiped bags.
The only person close to that feat... Barry's uncle. Willie Mays had 660 home runs and 338 stolen bases.
He Was Solid Defensively
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Listen, I realize that later in his career Bonds was far from being a stellar defensive outfielder. You can chalk that up to age and mileage on his legs if you'd like. What you can't deny is the fact that the man won eight Gold Glove Awards.
He posts a career .984 fielding percentage coupled with a career UZR of 3.3. Now, if you don't find that impressive, remember, the man played for 22 seasons. Looking a bit more closely, as recently as 2005 the man put up a UZR of 18.7, while posting a 16.1 in 2003.
However, his 2006 season (-9.5) and 2007 season (-16.8) helped to kill his career UZR.
Another fun fact, his career WAR is 168.2.
His Personal Statistics Are Impressive
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In 2986 career games played, Bonds recorded 2227 runs, 2935 hits, 601 doubles, 77 triples, 762 home runs, 1996 RBI and 2558 BB.
His career batting average is .298 with a .444 OBP, .607 SLG and 1.051 OPS with a 181 OPS+, 5976 total bases and 688 intentional walks.
He is the all-time home run leader (762), walk leader (2558) and intentional walk leader (688) in major league history.
But... He's a Cheater... Right?
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On April 14, 2011 Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated wrote a piece on Barry Bonds addressing this very issue of cheating. Heyman stated in his piece:
While I do believe Bonds took steroids (whether it was knowingly or not doesn't much matter to me, though if I had to guess, I think he knows everything that goes in his body), I don't believe all steroid users should be excluded from the Hall of Fame. I'm not here to sit in moral judgment of another human being.
Of course I don't condone any usage, but I will point out Bonds' steroid taking was never flagged by MLB. He never failed a test (he passed the 2003 survey test) and he was never proven to have used after testing went into effect. I also believe the anecdotal evidence that suggests he didn't start using until 2000.
I agree with Heyman that not all steroid users should be excluded from the Hall of Fame. He is 100 percent correct in reference to Bonds. He was the cleanest "guilty" player in baseball. For all the talk of him being a 'roid head, he never failed a test and was never once was flagged for suspected use by MLB.
If you concede that Bonds did use steroids, Heyman went on to make a better point regarding the issue.
It's fair to say that not all his numbers are legit. But enough of them are, in all great likelihood, to suggest he was Hall worthy before he became a steroid user. As I said, I believe he didn't start using until the 2000 season, by which point he had already:
• Won three NL MVP awards
• Won eight Gold Glove awards
• Hit 448 home runs
• Made eight All-Star appearances
• Had the highest WAR in baseball six times
In a piece I wrote previously, I made a similar argument for Roger Clemens. Barry Bonds, like Clemens, was on his way to Cooperstown before any allegations of steroid use.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
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In the court of public opinion, Barry Bonds is guilty without a piece of evidence that can be proven. The United States Congress couldn't find tangible evidence of his guilt. Bonds has maintained that he has never knowingly taken steroids.
Yet, the man is hated and widely considered to be a cheater.
How can we be so quick to label the man? In part, it could be the way he interacted with the media. He was similar to Ted Williams in that, he just didn't care to speak with the media and they in turn reciprocated the disdain.
Sure, Ted Williams is loved now in Boston, but during his playing days, the media could have cared less for the man.
Bonds may very well be a victim in all of this.
In December of 2006, Peter Gammons wrote an excellent piece for ESPN.com regarding the "Juiced" era of baseball.
An excerpt from that piece:
And Bonds has been charged with nothing. Yet. But while we do not know where the roads from BALCO will lead, what we have seen thus far is that all the roads from baseball to BALCO point toward Barry's neighborhood, and if last January's State of the Union address was the gauntlet thrown toward that neighborhood, all the wiretaps and leaks may not have resulted in any indictments, but the perjury charges may have just begun.
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To Recap, Barry Bonds is a
- 14 time All-Star
- Seven time MVP
- Eight time Gold Glove winner
- 12 time Silver Slugger recipient
- Won 1990 Sporting News Player of the Year Award
- Won 2001 NL Hank Aaron Award
- Won2001 Sporting News Player of the Year Award
- Won 2002 NL Hank Aaron Award
- Won 2004 Sporting News Player of the Year Award
- Won 2004 NL Hank Aaron Award
- Led the league nine times in WAR
- Led the league once in runs
- Led the league twice in home runs
- Led the league 12 times in walks
- Led the league twice in batting average
- Led the league 10 times in OBP
- Led the league seven times in SLG
- Led the league nine times in OPS
- Led the league nine times in OPS+
- Led the league once in total bases
- Led the league 12 times in intentional walks
- Is the career leader in walks
- Is the career leader in intentional walks
- Is the career leader in home runs
Barry Bonds has never admitted to, nor has he been found guilty of steroid use.
Having said all of that, until he is proven guilty or admits to having used any type of performance enhancing drugs, Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
When you look at the raw numbers, he was the greatest ballplayer of this generation.