One of baseball’s most infamous figures, Barry Bonds, has been on the ballot for quite some time now. But it’s time to let him into Cooperstown.
The ballot results for the 2021 Hall of Fame election will be released on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Pirates will see three former players on this year’s ballot. One of those three names is baseball’s infamous all-time home run leader Barry Bonds. After years of sitting on the ballot for years because of reasons that need to be overlooked, it’s time to let Bonds into Cooperstown.
Bonds needs no introduction into who he is on the field. Bonds holds the all-time home run record, blasting 762 long balls throughout his career. He topped the recently passed Hank Aaron by 7. Bonds was a massive speed threat for a good porition of his career, swiping 514 bases. He’s the only member of the 500/500 club (500 home runs, 500 stolen bases).
Bonds holds the all-time intentional walk record with 688. That’s more intentional free passes than Jim Rice, Roberto Clemente, Ichiro Suzuki and Andre Dawson had walks in general in their careers. No other player comes within even half of his intentional walk mark with Albert Pujols in second with 312.
His all time bWAR mark of 162.2 trails just Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and Cy Young. He has more MVPs to his name than anyone else with seven, two of which came with the Pittsburgh Pirates, more silver sluggers than anyone in history, more Gold Gloves than Tony Gwynn and Kenny Lofton and has went to 14 All-Star Games. Bonds’ all time wRC+, which is adjusted for such things as run environment, stadium and other league factors, is at 188, which makes him the 5th greatest hitter of all time behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby.
Bonds holds many single season records including highest wRC+ at 244 in 2002, on base percentage at an otherworldly .609 mark in 2004 and slugging percentage at .863 in 2001. Just to show how good his slugging percentage was in 2001, 91 batters in 2019 had at least 500 plate appearances and an OPS, which is on base percentage plus slugging percentage combined, lower than Bonds’ slugging percentage that season. A Pittsburgh Pirates record Bonds holds is the highest single season wRC+ at 198 in 1992. He’s most famously known for his 73 home runs in 2001, beating Mark McGwire’s record of 70 that was set four years prior.
Now, obviously, there has never been any question about Bonds’ ability to rake on the field, but what has kept him from immortalization in Cooperstown is his controversy. Bonds was infamously part of the steroid era and was the center of attention when he was investigated as part of the BALCO scandal.
He also had an abrasive personality off the field, famously getting into a profanity laden shouting match with manager Jim Leyland during his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and not having the best of relationship with the media or his teammates all the time. Bonds was also part of a domestic abuse case where his ex-wife, Sun Bonds, claimed he beat her often.
The argument that Bonds should be kept out of the Hall because of his use of steroids and that the Hall should be kept clean is well overblown, overused and false. The steroid era was called the steroid era for a reason. Almost every player was taking some form of illegal substances to improve their performance on the field, all while the MLB didn’t test for said banned substances.
While MLB did ban steroids in 1991, no testing was done until 2003. Cooperstown is littered with cheaters as well. Bonds would be far from the first ‘cheater’ in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamines are performance enhancing substances, yet many players took them to improve their performance. Mike Schmidt was one of them and claimed that they were “widely available in major-league clubhouses”.
Even more recently elected players like Ivan Rodriguez, who Jose Canseco claimed he injected personally, Jeff Bagwell, who admitted to using anabolic steroids and Mike Piazza, who took androstenedione which was banned by the MLB in 2004, are now in Cooperstown. If all of these players have easily been let in, why should they keep Bonds out in the name of keeping the Hall free of more cheaters?
The character clause is another major factor that’s kept Barry from reaching the Hall Of Fame, but another argument that needs to go by the wayside. Now sure, Bonds wasn’t the best person during his playing career, but this is an example where the art needs to be separated from the artist. Much worse people have been allowed into Cooperstown. Ty Cobb was a racist, Cap Anson and Rogers Hornsby were suspected of being part of hate groups and Tris Speaker even admitted to being part of one. In all likelihood, some of the media personnel Bonds ticked off in the past are voting for the Hall now. However, if Bonds should be kept out because of his bad personality, then borderline Hall of Famers that were well liked because of their good personality should get more Hall of Fame recognition.
Overall, Bonds was good for the sport of baseball. Bonds was an anti-hero of sorts. He wasn’t the most liked guy on the field but fans love to hate. Bonds is one of the most memorable players to ever step onto a baseball field and he should be put into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His link to steroids needs to be overlooked as he would be far from the first cheater to be enshrined in Cooperstown and the character clause is another factor that needs to stop preventing players from reaching the Hall.