Baseball Hall of Fame debates 2013: Barry Bonds
While there might not be any managers to scream at through your television or umpires to "boo" from the stands, the offseason provides one of the most hotly debated topics of the entire baseball season: who gets into the Hall of Fame?
This is the first in a 10-part series that will look at some of the most prominent potential Hall of Famers for the Class of 2013 and the reasons to vote them in - or keep them out.
Barry Bonds is in his first year on the ballot. The former Pirates and Giants slugger is perhaps the most powerful and patient hitter in baseball history. And the most feared. But Bonds has reason to fear he may not make the Hall of Fame. Allegations of performance-enhancing drug use could forever bar him from baseball immortality.
THE CASE FOR THE HALL
Barry Bonds was not only the greatest slugger of his era, but he also might be the greatest of any era:
He holds the single-season home run record (73).
He owns the career home run record (762).
He has the fourth-most total bases in baseball history (5,976).
And those achievements helped him rake in a multitude of awards:
He won seven MVPs, including four straight from 2001-2004.
He was a 14-time All-Star.
He won 12 Silver Sluggers.
He won eight Gold Gloves.
But as powerful as Bonds was, he wasn't a free swinger. He has the most walks in baseball history (2,558) and the most intentional walks (688).
A great hitter, he ended his 22-season career with a .298 average and hit over .290 14 times. He led the majors in batting in 2002 (.370) and 2004 (.362).
Bonds is alleged to have begun taking PEDs after the 1998 season, disgusted that his achievements were being overlooked in favor of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run bonanza. But even before he ever allegedly injected a drug into his body he had a pretty good Hall of Fame case.
From 1986-1998, Bonds hit .290 with a .411 on-base percentage, 411 home runs and 445 stolen bases. Bonds is the only player in MLB history to hit at least 400 home runs and steal at least 400 bases. He won three MVPs and was in the top 12 of voting every season from 1990-1998, and in the top five in seven of those years. He had already won all eight of his Gold Gloves and seven of his Silver Sluggers. Using the Jim Rice argument that a player being "the dominant player of his era" is enough to get in the Hall, Bonds was already a slam dunk.
Aside from his ridiculous 2001 season and the 73 home runs he hit, his home run totals were never out of whack. From 1999-2007 he only hit over 49 home runs that lone record-breaking season.
Now Bonds has one power swing left. His case for induction is a home run.
THE CASE AGAINST THE HALL
From 1986-1998, Bonds averaged 32 home runs, a .290 average, .411 OBP and .556 slugging percentage per season. From 1999-2007, the years during which he is alleged to have taken PEDs, he averaged 39 home runs, a .316 average, .505 OBP and .712 slugging percentage.
How is it possible that a man can perform better from the age of 34-42 than he did in the 13 years before that, when he was in his physical prime?
In Bonds' case, we know the answer.
We know because reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams detailed Bonds' performance-enhancing drug use extensively in their book "Game of Shadows." By sorting through court documents, affidavits, grand jury testimony, interviews and other sources, the two were able to shed striking clarity on the extent and specifics of Bonds' regimen.
The house of cards began to fall when Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, was arrested for supplying steroids to athletes. Though he never named Bonds, it was assumed the powerful slugger was among the users. Bonds denied it. During grand jury testimony, Bonds claimed he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by his trainer that was identified to Bonds as flaxseed oil and rubbing balm for arthritis. The leftfielder would have Hall of Fame voters believe if he did artificially bulk up, it was without knowledge.
During the testimony, he skirted an answer about whether anything the trainer supplied him with required a syringe. Years later Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice (the other three charges in his federal perjury case were declared a mistrial) and sentenced to 30 days house arrest.
That's been his only punishment so far. But Hall of Fame voters can see to it he gets one lasting reprimand by not voting for him.