Barry Bonds, Take the Armor Off

Kaleb HeffnerContributor IMarch 10, 2008

I personally hate Barry Bonds. 

No, it is not because he possibly used performance enhancing drugs.  My hate runs much deeper.  As a pitcher and believer of playing ball the old school way, I know the only way to pitch well is to own the inside part of the plate. 

Owning the inside part of the plate allows a pitcher to pitch to the outside part of the plate without hitters standing on or diving out over the plate.

Pitching inside is only effective if the hitter has some fear.  Today's hitters have no reason to fear the inside pitch.  Pitching inside inevitably leads to a few hitters being hit by pitches and hitting batters is not tolerated at all anymore.  This is a separate topic and one I will probably address soon.  This article is really just about body armor.

Case in point is Barry Bonds. 

Bonds is one of the best hitters of all time and has some of the quickest hands and best vision ever.  However, I argue that his numbers, specifically his homers, would be significantly less if he was not allowed to wear a shield on his right elbow. 

Look at any picture of Bonds standing in the box and you will see this mammoth of a guard literally hanging out over the plate.  A pitcher simply cannot throw inside.  Even an inside strike will most likely result in hitting Bonds. 

Bonds has no reason to move because it doesn't hurt to get hit when your whole arm is encased in cement.  By standing on the inside part of the plate, Bonds takes away the inside strike and the outside strike as well by increasing his plate coverage.  Throwing the ball on the outer half of the plate to Bonds is like throwing the ball straight down the middle to a hitter standing where they should be. 

Let me make this clear, I have no issue with where Bonds is standing.  If you want to hang your elbow out over the plate or dive out over the plate, be my guest.  However, if you are going to do that you should have to pay a price.  This price should be the pain of getting a fastball to your elbow.  Be a man or get off of the plate.

There are other players, not just Bonds, that are guilty of this, but Bonds is by far the biggest violator.  I believe that guards and protection are fine as long as they are not used for a hitter to gain an advantage. 

If a player has a history of injuries to a certain area, it would be stupid not to cover that area up.  If a player hits with their throwing arm as their front arm then yes they should wear a guard.  The guard should not be a bullet proof shield, however.  Craig Biggio, the all time leader in hit by pitches, wore a substantial elbow guard and I am okay with it.  Biggio's guard was not anywhere close to size or thickness of Bonds' nor did Biggio hang out over the plate.  He set the record by refusing to leave the box when a ball came into it. 

The batter's box is just as it is said, it belongs to the batter.  If a ball is thrown into the batter's box then they have the right to get out of the way or get hit.  If they want to wear protection so that they can be hit by pitches that is fine as long as the balls they are being hit by are in the batter's box and not over the plate.