(I wrote this a few year's back during the dog days of Barry Bond's final season.)
As Barry Bonds finishes his final Major League season, dutifully playing left field for one of the worse teams in baseball, I'd like to pay tribute to the greatest player in the history of the game.
That's right, the greatest player to ever lace em up.
Barry Bonds never won a World Series, did'nt break any significant records like Mark Mcguire's 70 home runs, nor come close to 700 like the babe and hammerin' Hank.
Bonds never challenged Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak. Came about 1500 games shy of breaking Ripken's consecutive games streak. He just passed 3000 hits last season and he will pass 600 home runs this season.
Certainly Hall of Fame achievements and a testament to his consistency, but worthy of being anointed as the greatest player of all time?
The surly, arrogant jerk who could not get along with teammates, constantly mouthed off to the media, and barely gave any notice to the fans.
The same Barry Bonds who cheated on his wife with strippers from Montreal, who would'nt sign an autograph unless it was for cash. We’re talking about a nasty man here, who never won the big one and did not break any significant records. That Barry Bonds?
For starters, Barry Bonds is the only major league player in history to hit 600 home runs and steal 600 bases. 600 and 600! If a player has a 40/40 season he is idolized for the rest of his career. Bonds had 600/600! People like to talk about unbeatable records, how long will it be before anyone reaches that milestone again?
Bonds won 11 gold gloves. He was intentionally walked more than any other player in history. Bonds won 4 MVPs. The craziest thing about that statistic, is that it should be 6.
In 1992, the MVP was stolen from Bonds by Terry Pendleton of the Braves. Terry Pendleton!? Bonds had 25 HR, 116 RBI, 43 stolen bases, a slugging percentage of .500, and an OBP of .400. But the aloof and cantankerous Bonds was already a villain to the media. Instead, they voted for the likeable Pendleton, who was credited with leading a young Braves team to the playoffs while leading the league in batting average.
In 2000 Bonds lost the MVP race to teammate Jeff Kent. Kent had the best statistical year of his career, hitting in front of Bonds and feeding off belt high fastballs delivered by pitchers who were well aware that Bonds was waiting on deck.
How afraid were managers of Bonds? In 1998 Bonds became only the third player in MLB history to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded. That year Bonds hit 37 HR, 122 RBI, 44 doubles, and stole 28 bases. Yet, he finished a preposterous 8th in MVP voting.
You remember 1998. That was the year we all stood up and cheered for Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy. These boys chased Maris - and each other - for the single season home run record. Mcguire prevailed with 70, while Sammy had to settle for 66.
Of course now we realize that both players were juiced on steroids at the time and the whole event was essentially a farce. But back then this was all America could talk about.
How tempting do you think it would have been for Bonds to start using steroids. He was getting older, he was becoming overlooked and unappreciated as these muscle bound lumber jacks jogged around the bases to the roar of thousands. The appreciation for the five tool player was at an end. It was now all about the long ball.
How many nights do you think Bonds lied awake and thought, "If I did the roids, I would be able to completely dominate this game for years." And he would have. Barry Bonds on steroids? Are you kidding me? He would have eclipsed 70 home runs, he would make a serious charge at Ruth and Aaron. He would be intentionally walked about twice a game. He would probably put up the greatest statistical seasons of all time.
Pitchers would not just be scared, they'd be chicken. Picture it: Giants fans hanging rubber chickens every time Bonds would be walked to a chorus of boos. Bonds already has a famous off-season workout regiment, imagine if he added steroids.
However, fortunately, Bonds never gave in. He stayed the course, putting up an average of 25 home runs and 90 RBIs year after year. His power numbers decreasing ever so slightly with each passing year. Sure the stolen bases have slipped dramatically, and his range in left field is not what it once was. The guy is 43 years old! He's batting .280 with 10 HR and 55 RBI and we’re only in July.
How will Bonds be remembered? Not as favourably as nice guy professionals, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, both entering the Hall of Fame this year. Still, not as unfavorably as juice monkeys like Mcguire and Sosa. We'll remember Bonds being an ass. We will remember that he could not throw out one legged Sid Bream from deep short stop in 1992.
Hopefully, we'll also appreciate him for being an incredibly blessed and talented ball player. One who never gave in during a time in baseball that will always be remembered as the steroids era.
My only hope is that a contending team will pick him up for the home stretch this season and maybe he'll get a chance at a world series.
If successful, he can walk off into the sunset and we'll all say, "There goes the best greatest player of all time. What a jerk!"