10 Years After No. 756, Can Any MLB Slugger Take Down Bonds' Tainted HR Record?

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2017

San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds prepares for an at bat against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Monday, July 23, 2007.(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

On August 7, 2007, Barry Bonds took a characteristically compact swing and sent a baseball soaring into the foggy San Francisco night, as he had done so many times before.

This baseball carried history with it over AT&T Park's right center field wall along with 108 crimson double stitches. Here, let's relive the moment:

When Giants play-by-play man Duane Kuiper said, "Bonds stands alone," it resonated in more ways than one.

In a literal sense, that blast—No. 756 of Bonds' career—moved him past Hank Aaron and into sole possession of MLB's all-time home run record. 

In another way, Bonds already stood alone. He was the poster boy for baseball's steroid era, putting up cartoonish, unbelievable stats while marooned on an island of controversy.

Thanks to the performance-enhancing drug expose Game of Shadows and the BALCO investigation, Bonds' misdeeds became part of public record, even though he was never suspended or, ultimately, punished for any crime.

"This record is not tainted at all. At all," Bonds told reporters at the time. "Period. You guys can say whatever you want."

Ten years after Bonds recalibrated one of sports' most hallowed milestoneshe finished with 762, if you forgotit's worth asking: Will anyone ever take his (tainted) home run crown?

Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels is the active home run leader with 608. The 37-year-old three-time MVP hit 31 last season and has 17 so far this year, but he would need to sustain a 30-homer average through 2020 just to sniff 700.

Albert Pujols, the active MLB home run leader, doesn't have a realistic shot at Bonds' record.
Albert Pujols, the active MLB home run leader, doesn't have a realistic shot at Bonds' record.Tom Gannam/Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera is second among active players with 459 and is only 34 years old. Injuries have hampered him of late, however, and he hasn't tallied 40 home runs since 2013.

The only other current big leaguers in the 400-homer club are 38-year-old Adrian Beltre (454) and 40-year-old Carlos Beltran (434).

To find a legitimate challenger for Bonds, we must cast our gaze on the game's younger generation.

It begins with the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, who's sitting on 149 home runs at age 24. 

If Harper averaged 40 homers for the next 10 years, he'd be at or past 550 entering his age-35 season. For perspective, Bonds had 445 homers entering his age-35 campaign.

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have the talent and time to challenge the record.
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have the talent and time to challenge the record.Nick Wass/Associated Press

Bonds also went on a (cough, allegedly) chemically aided fence-clearing binge in his MLB twilight, but at least Harper has a shot.

So does the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout, who turned 26 on August 7, the anniversary of Bonds' Aaron-surpassing bomb.

With 190 long balls to date, Trout would have to sustain 40-homer pop into his early 40s. That's a tall order, but it's also a distinct possibility considering his generational skill set.

If health weren't a factor, the leader in the clubhouse would be Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, who has smacked 244 home runs at age 27. However, Stanton has missed 133 games since the start of the 2015 season due to a litany of injuries. He has largely dodged the injury bug this year and has an MLB-leading 36 dingers entering play Monday.

Bonds briefly coached the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, one of the players with the potential to surpass his home run total.
Bonds briefly coached the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, one of the players with the potential to surpass his home run total.Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The home run is back in a major way across both leagues, despite the advent of PED testing. Maybe it's revised hitting strategies and beefier players; maybe it's a juiced ball.

"We are in a period where we have bigger, stronger, faster athletes—like all sports," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred recently told reporters.

Either way, someone feasibly could claim the mantle from Bonds eventually. 

Possibly he's a hitter yet unborn, or one taking his first hacks in tee-ball. Perhaps it'll be a just-christened slugger such as the New York Yankees' Aaron Judge or Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger.

If we're putting money on an established big leaguer, it's Stanton. If his disabled-list luck turns around, he has the raw power to fuel a surge up the all-time leaderboard.

It won't happen this season, the one after that or the one after that. At some point, though, someone could send a 763rd baseball and its 108 stitches soaring into the night.

Hopefully, the word "tainted" will have nothing to do with it.

         

All statistics current through Sunday and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.