Barry Bonds is back in baseball today, coaching up the San Francisco Giants at spring training. Before attending to his duties — seven days of coaching with his former club before he heads back to his home in San Francisco — Bonds addressed the media for the first time as an official baseball man since his retirement.
Sports journalists being sports journalists, the questions were predictable. What about the PEDs? What about the Hall of Fame? What about Alex Rodriguez and PEDs? Are you still not going to talk about the PEDs? Et cetera.
Bonds declined to talk steroids. “I already went to court and that’s where I’ll leave it,” the greatest slugger of all time told the assembled media. The story of Bonds and steroids has been written over and over again in the years since he left the game, and nothing he could say here would change it.
But Bonds did come strong on the issue of his Hall of Fame candidacy. When asked if he should be enshrined in Cooperstown, Bonds responded, “Without a doubt.” To the voting block of the BBWAA, he added, “You guys are all adults. I have no advice for you.”
I hope this is an honest sentiment from Bonds. He is obviously correct regarding his candidacy. The career leader in home runs and walks, the owner of a .298/.444/.607, the seven-time MVP, the eight-time Gold Glover, the 12-time Silver Slugger defines excellence in baseball, and a Hall of Fame without him is a Hall of Fame deliberately expressing ignorance. These voters are, as Bonds says, all adults, and if these adults come to the consensus that Bonds does not belong in baseball’s Hall of Fame, then the voters’ consensus is simply not worth considering.
The Hall of Fame’s job — its mission statement — is to preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations. Any Hall without Barry Bonds obviously fails at all three. It puts presenting an artificially clean and pure baseball institution as a priority over telling the real story of the game, something the Hall of Fame has done since it opened its doors to the likes of Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Tom Yawkey.
But as Bonds says, the voters are adults. Like most adults, they are stubborn, and Bonds as such appears happy to let them do what they will. As much as it hurts to see players in public pain over being omitted from Hall consideration for ridiculous reasons, like Ron Santo or Bert Blyleven were for so long, it’s refreshing to see Bonds so at peace (outwardly, at least) with his career and his life, regardless of what self-appointed gatekeepers have to say.
The Hall of Fame matters only so far as it affects the people of the baseball world. If, like Bonds, those rejected by the BBWAA no longer care, the gatekeepers will lose their power. It will be a slow process, but a Hall of Fame that fails to uphold its mission will undoubtedly lose its influence. Whether or not the adults of the Hall of Fame and the BBWAA choose to accept that is up to them.