No Justification for Keeping Bonds Out of Hall of Fame
Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame
No Justification for Keeping Bonds Out of Hall of Fame
We could all rest easy now knowing the Federal Government achieved a sentence of two years’ probation, 30-day home confinement, 250 hours of community service and a $4,000 fine in the Barry Bond’s “obstruction of justice” trial. Some reports indicate the U.S. Government has spent in excess of $70 million dollars to investigate Barry Bonds. Imagine if they were nearly as passionate about real issues we face as a nation.
Every year around this time we get what I like to call “fake outrage” over the game’s history with performance enhancing drugs. Writers like to talk about the game and all it virtues, citing how the Hall of Fame itself has a character clause as part of the voting guidelines. Amazing how the Hall puts a character guideline on a game that has shown so very little throughout its history. There might not be a more vindictive and petty sports entity than Major League Baseball.
A majority of the fans don’t care. It’s not their bodies that were forced to inject drugs that could potentially do long-term harm. They understand the flaws of the system and the tainted results of what we now call the steroid era. Unlike the writers, they are not about to ignore the accomplishments of the players, many whom are amongst the best in the history of the game. One of those players- juiced or not- was Barry Bonds.
Bonds was a jerk, we know that. There might not be a more unlikeable star in any sport than Barry Bonds. He is surly, racist, angry, and sometimes downright mean. I could only imagine how difficult he was to cover, but I also could imagine how silly the interaction must have been with the writers. I don’t condone athletes being rude to overworked/underpaid scribes, but the effort, knowledge, and execution of many writers on the job is so poor they often deserve what they get.
Regardless, Bonds certainly wasn’t right, and you could understand why John Harper of the Daily News wrote yesterday that “he won’t vote for Bonds for the Hall of Fame,” because he thinks the Hall should stand for “more than a museum that reflects the history of baseball, for better or for worse.” It’s the kind of sanctimony that gets an eye roll from me, but I respect his opinion, as I do all the other BBWAA writers that have the privilege of voting. On Saturday, Peter Botte of the same newspaper polled 21 writers, of which 12 said they will not vote for Bonds.
We are still a year away from Bonds’ eligibility, but if he collects 50% of the vote, I would be surprised. I do, however, want to give the writers something to think about if they are stuck on the morals of steroids with how it relates to performance. Bonds is the perfect subject to illustrate this.
According to the book ”Game of Shadows,” which discusses the complete inside story of the BALCO steroids scandal. Bonds started using steroids in 1998 because he was jealous of the attention paid to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and felt he needed to bulk up to compete. Breaking down the results, I am not sure that a bulked up Barry Bonds was a better all-around player than a natural Barry Bonds.
So let’s look at Barry Bonds’ career prior to 1998. Would he still be a Hall of Fame player?
A typical Bonds year was 31 HRs, 91 RBI, 35 stolen bases, 102 walks, and .288 batting average. His OPS .959 and his OPS+ was 162. After the ’97 season he had 374 HRs, 1,094 RBI, 417 stolen bases, and 1,244 runs scored in a career that spanned 12 years. All of those numbers were good enough to be among the best of any Hall of Famer at any position. At that point, the guy averaged a 30/30 season for his career. He also won three MVP awards and 7 Gold Gloves.
Post ’97 we know things got crazy. That version of Bonds had a typical year that included 39 HRs, 90 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 133 walks, and .314 batting average. His OPS was 1.193 and his OPS+ was 209. The totals for that 10 year portion of his career were 388 HRs, 902 RBI, 97 stolen bases, and 983 runs scored. He won 4 MVP awards and only 1 Gold Glove. Defense and speed were the key element of his game that disappeared.
Remember, the book claims he took steroids for about 5 years (98-2003), that is when he became a video game. A typical year included 47 HRs, 108 RBI, 14 stolen bases, 140 walks, and .318 batting average. His OPS was 1.205 and his OPS+ was 214, which is higher than Babe Ruth. During those five years he produced 284 HRs, 648 RBI, 83 stolen bases, and 697 runs scored. He was walked an insane amount (843 times) as well.
The purpose of this exercise is to show a couple of things. First, Bonds was a Hall of Fame before he “juiced” himself. Next, the impact of steroids certainly improved his performance, but his pre-1998 totals and post-1998 totals mainly produced more home runs, but other parts of his game suffered. Naturally, he walked more as he was fearsome at the plate, but two staples of a younger Bonds- speed and defense- were gone. The point being there were tradeoffs with everything. Steroids took such a toll on him that he inevitably broke down. Perhaps a natural Bonds doesn’t hit the insane amount of home runs, but has an overall consistent game from start to finish. Of course, we don’t know; but this idea that he was significantly better is just not accurate.
In the end, no matter how you slice up his career, Barry Bonds is a Hall of Fame player. He might be more of a Hall of Famer prior to 1998 because of the completeness of his game. Wouldn’t this be a great story on his Hall of Fame plaque? Show the world his career in parts; show them the impact of steroids and how it changed his game. We can’t erase history, as we know that Bonds and his numbers existed. We saw that for ourselves.
Maybe instead of taking a hard stance, one way or another, on steroids, start to use information available to sort through the candidacy. You can be true to your beliefs and vote for Barry Bonds, or any other player, for the Hall of Fame.
There has to be a middle ground. We can’t ignore 15 years of performance over drugs which we don’t have a full grasp on their impact.
Over at Sports Media Watchdog I discuss the child molestation regarding the Hall of Fame writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, Bill Conlin.
The same slippery slope the BBWAA has used to judge the character of players, like Barry Bonds, has come back to bite one of their own.
Of course, it appears they have taken the stance of separating the off-the-field behavior with the on-the-field.
Our friends over at NoMaas had interesting dialogue with Conlin earlier this year when he wrote the Phillies have the best infield in baseball.
Colin took a well thought out piece of feedback and attacked a reader. You can check out the exchange here, which is full of all types of irony.
NoMaas released their official statement last night.By Mike Silva
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