Barry Bonds was really good at baseball. In the psyche of many baseball fans his success is somehow diminished by his use of performance enhancing drugs, and that’s fine, this isn’t a regurgitation of my feelings on the subject, which have been written about on several different occasions on this blog. However, no matter what your opinion is on the legitimacy of Bonds’ record breaking career, you can’t convincingly suggest that he wasn’t one of the most talented players to ever play the game.

I think we too easily dismiss Bonds’ accomplishments because in our minds we believe the supplements he was taking to be some sort of magic elixir that resulted in records being otherwise inexplicably obliterated. That’s simply not the case. We’ve seen other PED users fail to produce a fraction of Bonds’ value as a batter. If it was all just as simple as popping a pill and showing up to do extraordinary things on a baseball field, then every player would not only be using banned substances, but playing at a Bondsian level in the process.

I think that this odd collective resistance to accepting Bonds’ immense talent is due to a couple of factors, not the least of which is our own lack of understanding when it comes to steroids and other performance enhancers. Bonds did himself no favours in the public eye by being what is politely referred to as “difficult” with the media during his time as the dominator of baseball.

It’s been five years since Bonds played, and a lot has changed.

The former San Francisco Giants slugger was at AT&T Park yesterday with a group of children “in a charitable capacity,” prior to the Giants’ 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. While there, he spent some time with the media to talk about everything from his appeal of last year’s conviction for obstruction of justice to a potential role with his former club.

Bonds, constantly referring to himself as a convicted felon, told the assembled press that he’s spoken with Giants CEO Larry Baer about his future which could include a job with the team, most likely as a roving instructor.

My expertise is baseball. If you believe that I can contribute and help the organization, then fine. If you don’t, fine. I’m just saying it’s out there.

Bonds also spoke about the possibility of him being inducted into the Hall of Fame:

I have no idea. That’s up to the writers. I don’t worry about that stuff. I’ll be at home having a good time with my kids. Or hopefully here. Doing some stuff for other kids. That’ll take care of itself. I don’t need to worry about that stuff. You guys know me. I don’t try to predict the future or analyze how other people are thinking or how it’s going to turn out … it would be very sad if it didn’t happen. That’s why I don’t need to comment on it. There’s really no need.

In this blogger’s humble opinion, there will be no need to ever even consider the Hall of Fame again, if Bonds isn’t voted in.

And The Rest

Hot hitting Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy will be out for four to six weeks after breaking his hand in a bizarre fashion. [Disciples Of Uecker]

Hideki Matsui is set to join the Tampa Bay Rays today, but he won’t be using his regular number. [Rays Index]

Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez will not be joining the Oakland A’s when he’s scheduled to do so tomorrow. The veteran slugger will need a little bit more warming up in the Minors before making his debut. [Bay Area Sports]

Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale struck out 15 batters en route to a 2-1 victory over the almost as impressive Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay Rays. [South Side Sox]

Lonny Chisenhall will be playing in baseball games for the Cleveland Indians. Hold on to your butts. [Let's Go Tribe]

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver left a wild game against the New York Yankees in the first inning after aggravating his lower back. The Angels went on to win the game 9-8 thanks to a walk off home run from Mark Trumbo. [Monkey With A Halo]

This is what Bryce Harper learned from his first match up against Livan Hernandez. [Washington Post]

Miami Marlins reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo has been officially suspended by Major League Baseball. [MLB.com]

New York Mets third baseman David Wright filled in at shortstop yesterday. [The Star-Ledger]

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are a .500 baseball club once again. [TribLive Sports]

Jim Leyland doesn’t care much for incompetent umpires. [MLB.com]

Here’s the play that Leyland was complaining about. [Bless You Boys]

When will a New York Mets pitcher throw a no hitter? No, really, when? [Baseball Prospectus]

The latest DJF Podcast is ready and raring to go. [DJF]

As well, yesterday’s edition of The Getting Blanked Show is available for your viewing pleasure. We talk about the way teams are locking up their talent when they get the chance, dismiss the future of Ubaldo Jimenez and talk about how good Chris Sale is before yesterday’s masterpiece. [Getting Blanked]

Comments (35)

  1. He was very talented. Judging by his career, his talent peaked at 39.

    Seems legit.

  2. First ballot HOF, without a doubt. By far the best baseball player I have ever seen. I would likely still take him today as the BlueJays LF

    • And they could have had him in 2008, as could every other major league team that passed up a .429 wOBA hitter in one of the most obvious forms of blackballing I’ve ever seen.

      • This is the most frustrating thing ever. I have anger issues toward MLB for robbing us of two or three more years of watching Bonds.

        • 2008 was a frustrating baseball year. Watching my favourite team throw away great pitching by starting guys like Wilkerson/Mench/Stewart (starting in spots which could have conceivably been filled by Bonds), then watching probably my favourite player be unjustly thrown out of the sport for no reason.

          I do wish the MLBPA had made a bigger mess about the obvious blackballing at the time, but they obviously didn’t want to be associated with him either. It’s still amazing just how over the top the hatred was (and still is) for him compared to all of the other suspected/proven steroid users.

          • In fairness, he made his own bed with the MLBPA by removing himself from them, but I know that frustration and completely agree.

            Imagine if AA had been GM at the time, I wonder if he would’ve extended #JerkBall to go past MLB’s thumb. I guess we’d also have to imagine Beeston as president in that scenario. And he probably would’ve been on MLB’s side.

        • I seem to remember something about the Bonds camp mulling a collusion accusation, but I’m guessing it never happened… any knowledge of that?

  3. Barry Bonds is perhaps the greatest of all time. He is everything the HOF is supposed to be about.

  4. Bonds is ridiculously over-qualified to go into the HOF. I have serious doubts about it, though. Had he been a good-time Charlie his PED history wouldn’t be much of a problem. The writers would keep him out in his first year (to keep their integrity, or something) and then out him in. The problem is Bonds was not a very likable person. He had a bad history with nearly everyone – writers, team mates, everyone. Even his godfather, Ernie Banks, who may be one of the nicer guys to play, admitted that Bonds doesn’t do himself any favours and that he is difficult to like. For writers, they take this stuff personally and relish the idea of grinding this guy into dust out of pure vindictiveness.
    Remember George Bell? Even at his peak the writers hated him – probably with good reason. Certainly not for his MVP calibre play but for his lack of respect towards them. They took any opportunity to dump on him whether it had anything to do with the game or not.
    Too many writers are way too petty. The biggest problem with the HOF is that writers are the gatekeepers. There are other problems but that has to be number one. If the vast majority were unbiased professionals it wouldn’t be a problem. The fact is they are the exact opposite.
    I don’t see Bond going into the HOF anytime soon. Which is a joke.

  5. I used to be a big “He used steriods so he shouldn’t be in the HOF” guy but I’ve since changed my mind. Not because steriods didn’t grossly inflate his numbers, because they obviously did. We likely wouldn’t be using the the term “Bondsian” if it weren’t for his age 36-39 seasons.

    But even still, he had earned a spot in the hall by the time he was 30.

    • I think you could make an argument that the HGH use allowed him to keep healthy enough to put up those seasons. There’s a magic elixir perception that I hate that suggests he put up gawdy numbers because of steroids. I don’t think there’s a lot of proof for that because I don’t think any exists.

      • I have to agree with this. Greg Zaun was juicing and he wasn’t producing like Barry Bonds.

      • But he did put up those numbers because of steroids(at least in the ‘twilight’ of his career). Even if they’re not Preformance Replacing Drugs as the magic elixer perception would lead us to believe, they are still Performance Enhancing Drugs ====> Ok numbers become Gawdy, time on the disabled list becomes 3 for 4 with two homeruns.

      • I don’t know why you think it’s such a terrible thing to suggest the magic elixir. He hit a DOZEN more homeruns in a single season than any other non-steroid user. No one else came close, except for steroid users. Out of thousands and thousands of players. How’s that for sample size? McGwire and Bonds had perfectly healthy seasons during the primes of their careers in which they did NOT put up those numbers, yet when they were tied to steroids, they did.

        Of course, it may not be true – the evidence is not complete, nor is the study of the effects of steroids precisely – but to hate the suggestion goes a bit far. The circumstantial evidence is quite leading, so to discount the theory outright is doing yourself a disservice.

        This is not to say that I don’t think either should be in the Hall of Fame, nor that they weren’t superior to their contemporaries – those are different stories.

        PS Is there enough evidence to suggest that HGH kept them healthy? If not, what’s the difference to the magic elixir theory?

        • “I don’t know why you think it’s such a terrible thing to suggest the magic elixir. He hit a DOZEN more homeruns in a single season than any other non-steroid user. No one else came close, except for steroid users. Out of thousands and thousands of players. How’s that for sample size?”

          But it’s not a fair sample. The best hitters were under pressure to use steroids. Barry Bonds was still better than they were. (Hell, most major league hitters were under pressure to use steroids.)

          I mean, it was pretty clear that Bonds bulked up and started hitting more bombs at the same time, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have tremendous talent or had to make excellent mechanical decisions to be able to exploit his extra strength.

          • Hentgen said: “I mean, it was pretty clear that Bonds bulked up and started hitting more bombs at the same time, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have tremendous talent or had to make excellent mechanical decisions to be able to exploit his extra strength.”

            This brings up an interesting point – at which point do you then say Player X hit Y more homeruns because of PEDs?” For example, since Bonds was a very talented player, how do you measure the inflation of his numbers because of steroids, if you attribute any of his numbers to steroids at all? Would he have hit 60 homeruns instead of 73? Many of his peripheral stats likely wouldn’t have changed much – a guy who hits 73 homeruns would probably be intentionally walked just as much as a guy who hits 60, so I’d have to think that his numbers like OBP and OPS wouldn’t have been much different.

            So, do you then target his “just enough” homers, believing they’d have been fly-ball outs if he didn’t have added strength due to steroid use? If so, you’d have to target his actually fly-ball outs and believe that some of them would have dropped in for singles. You’d also have to account for some parks being larger than others, as Bonds not on steroids would have no issue hitting a 320-foot homerun but might not hit one at 420-feet in a larger park.

            It’s a Pandora’s Box. Since you can’t prove that PEDs do anything beneficial for a player above and beyond their innate abilities, we can’t start to pick apart their achievements and numbers.

            This all said, there’s still a moral argument about taking these substances. But even then… how is HGH different than protein supplements designed to give you more of a physical edge in terms of bulking up? Shit, even having a Red Bull before a game can perhaps perk you up enough that it gives you that one extra jump you need to steal a base, leg out an infield hit, or scoop a grounder. Pitchers use all kinds of aids to change the way their pitches move – rosin, spit, pine tar, shaving cream, Vasoline, etc. And let’s not forget – steroids weren’t illegal in baseball. Neither is scuffing a baseball and putting pine tar on it. So, until it IS illegal, pitchers won’t stop doing that stuff. I just think there’s enough ambiguity here that means you can’t punish players from that era for doing what they did, no matter how much you may dislike it.

          • “But it’s not a fair sample. The best hitters were under pressure to use steroids. Barry Bonds was still better than they were. (Hell, most major league hitters were under pressure to use steroids.)”

            What does that even mean? So, he was under pressure to use steroids? OK. So, even without steroids he was still a fantastic player? I agree. But I am saying that steroids likely pushed him from amazing player to super-human. He did something so bizarre that thousands upon thousands of other “clean” players could not do – an outrageous anomaly that could potentially be explained by a “magic elixir”.

            If by not “being fair” as you state that I am not comparing him to steroid users, that’s really precisely the point.

            In my comment I made no judgement as to his worthiness of being in the Hall.

      • Just looking at his fangraphs war graph, gaudy spike looks awfully out of place.

        Obviously, I couldn’t take steriods and magically hit home runs against big league pitching (or little league pitching, for that matter). I’m what the greeks used to call “bad at baseball.”

        The proof, or rather, the reason I’m led to believe that steriods helped him in his later years, is that players don’t put up the best 4 years of their careers post-35. The odd dead cat bounce cna happen, but even Babe Ruth’s 11.3 WAR age-36 season, for example, pales in comparison to his 14+ WAR younger years.

        Are sterioids magic potions that can make anybody good, obviously not. But you’re relying on a false dichotomy if you then infer that steriods can’t make good players better.

        • In a league full of drug users (both hitters and pitchers), Bonds was still that much better than all of them. Incredible, really.

          I also sometimes think about how many more HRs he would have hit if he wasn’t in an major pitcher’s park for those 2000-2004 seasons. Just how many of those doubles that he hit (particularly in the right-center gap) would have been HRs at another park?

  6. No doubt about it. If Bonds isn’t in – then the Hall is irrelevant. I’d say it already is because Pete Rose isn’t in.

  7. I envision Parkes slipping into a cafe latte induced rage, throwing his little red fireman’s helmet to the ground like a spoiled child and hollering at Pedro Gomez in a whiny manner when he refuses to allow his favourite player into the HoF :)

  8. I understand why many would be upset that not all of the best players are in the HoF. But I don’t understand why so many who would be upset are unable to contemplate that many people prefer the following entry criteria:

    1) Have a great career.

    2) Don’t damage the sporting integrity of the game.

  9. When I was playing rep baseball, I’d watch videos of Barry Bonds to try to improve my swing. The man was phenomenal, and players would be lucky to learn from him.

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