The time has finally come for Hall of Fame voters to decide the fate of Barry Bonds, one of the greatest baseball players in history. Obviously there has been a disgusting amount of debate regarding the former Pittsburgh and San Francisco left fielder, as many believe he should be shunned forever due to steroid use while others feel his overall resume still renders him worthy of inclusion among the game’s all-time greats. I’m firmly in the latter camp, and I don’t even see a valid reason not to be.
I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but there is absolutely no guarantee that taking steroids will do much of anything in terms of on-the-field ability. Plenty of players have been found out as steroid users, and the majority have been far from elite performers. We have no scientific evidence suggesting that steroids even do anything for a baseball player; maybe the added strength means the ball will travel a bit farther, but it isn’t like the hitter doesn’t still have to get the head of the bat on the ball and judge the strike zone. The only point I’m truly willing to concede is that steroids can help with healing from injuries and perhaps avoiding them in the first place. Big deal.
Even if you’re into the whole steroid crusade thing, hear me out on Bonds. You’ve surely read all the arguments before, but with the man’s Hall of Fame induction hinging on the bloodthirsty baseball writers of yore, it seems prudent to discuss Bonds’ resume once again. First off, we have the cold hard facts. Bonds may have played in an era rampant with steroid use and/or a juiced ball. I don’t care. Eras throughout history have included plenty of advantageous moves by players, and some of the heralded superstars of our past had the advantage of only playing against other white players in a segregated game.
Bonds excelled in the era he played; that’s all he could do. But he didn’t just merely excel, he broke Hank Aaron‘s all-time home run record with 762 long balls and put together a string of seasons that simply defy reason. Bonds broke the single season home run record in 2001 with a robust 73; in that season he hit .328/.515/.863. Little did we know at the time, he had two better seasons still waiting in the wings, at least when it comes to OPS. Bonds posted a 1.381 OPS the following season and then a 1.422 OPS two years after that when he just so happened to get on base at a .609 clip. I can’t imagine seeing that again. No matter what you think of him, that run can’t at all be entirely attributed to steroids, and the deity-like approach at the plate he showed is just about unprecedented.
But I have to convince the steroid preachers, so let’s look back a bit. Wouldn’t everyone in their right mind have given Bonds their approval for the Hall back before his insane run and physical bulk up? Before the 2001 season ever got underway, Bonds was a career .289/.412/.567 hitter with 494 career home runs under his belt. He also happened to have stolen 471 career bases and have a career OPS+ of 165 despite what the rest of the league was doing. All inner-circle years aside, Barry Bonds was already a no doubt Hall of Fame player before there was anything to argue about.
I know the argument has been made before, but hear me out one last time. If you want to remain rigid about steroids and condemn every player caught using them or even rumored to have used them, then I know your mind can’t be changed about the last few magnificent seasons of Bonds’ career. But look at those first 15 seasons, remember what a dynamic and incredible Barry Bonds was, and then realize he was one of the very best players you have ever seen even before there was cause to doubt him. Barry Bonds was that good whether or not he gets the enshrinement he deserves.