Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why Barry Bonds Belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Jonah Keri:
1. Barry Bonds: On numbers alone, Bonds is one of the three or four best players of all time, and that's before factoring in the quality of competition in his era compared to what Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb faced. Of course, Bonds's candidacy isn't nearly that simple for many voters or fans. OK, let's assume that, despite there being no positive drug test, Bonds took PEDs. Since the two most common arguments pointing to Bonds's PED use are that (a) his numbers shot to the moon at an age when that very rarely happens, and (b) he went from being an athletic, all-around terror to a gigantic home run machine, let's also assume that Bonds started juicing after the 1999 season. That would square with the popular narrative that Bonds was jealous of the attention going to Mark McGwire and Sosa in '98, and that an injury-plagued '99 season would've pushed Bonds to seek chemical help while rehabbing. To further extend this exercise, let's assume that Bonds deserves absolutely zero credit for everything that happened from 2000 on. His remaining career numbers would be:
2,000 games played
445 home runs
1,299 RBIs
1,455 runs scored
460 stolen bases
3 MVPs
102.5 WAR3
Bonds's first 14 years work out to the sum of Jimmie Foxx's entire career. And of course, this exercise twistedly assumes that without PEDs, Bonds would've been eaten by wolves on Christmas Day 1999 and never played again.
Some will argue that players linked to steroids should automatically be disqualified for life from Hall consideration and that even suspicion of use absent a failed test or other concrete evidence should trigger that ban. Those aren't the standards I use to evaluate players' Hall cases, though, so Bonds is the easiest pick for me this year.
His footnote points out that Ken Griffey, Jr. was second in WAR from 1986-99, at 68.5.  To slightly correct that, Griffey only played from 1989 on, so I'd add the next three years of WAR to the total for Griffey.  Unfortunately for him, those were his first three years in Cincinnati, which only netted him an additional 6.8, for a total of 75.3 (although it is notable that he had 5.5 WAR in his first season in Cincinnati, which was better than his last season in Seattle).  Bonds first 14 years are still amazing.  And honestly, I don't care if he was juicing or not, Bonds' 2001-2004 were the most impressive four seasons I've ever watched.  Just like McGwire and Sosa were the most exciting things in 1998, I've got to say that doping or not, it was damn fun watching Bonds at his doping peak.  I've pummeled Lance Armstrong for being a doping motherfucker, but honestly, his performance was amazing.  It was just his sociopathic lying and ridiculously brutal attacks on others who were a little more honest about their and his doping that was so terrible.

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