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Say it aint so, Barry. Tell me that ballplayers are athletes and not entertainers. Tell me that while almost everybody lies sometimes, that doesn't make it right. Ah, forget it.

Bonds' raw numbers from 2004 are as familiar as a neighbour- .362/.609/.812, 232 walks, 45 homers and only 41 strikeouts. It was a line for the ages, and the fact that he turned 40 in July made it all the more remarkable. The revelation of his BALCO grand jury testimony after the season ended was, however, the major event of Bonds' year. Is it possible that Bonds like Joe Jackson and Pete Rose before him will be excluded from the Hall of Fame?

Barry Bonds was the 6th overall pick (hey, there's hope yet for Jays' fans) of the 1985 draft. For the remainder of that season, he went .299/.383/.457 in the Pittsburgh's single A affiliate in Prince William at age 21, with 15 stolen bases. As a fine defensive centerfielder, he was a great prospect. The following season, he played 44 games at triple A, went .311/.435/.527 and stole 16 bases, and got the call to the majors. In his first season, he hit .223/.330/.416 with 16 homers, 65 walks and 36 stolen bases, but he struck out 102 times in 113 games. The Pirates moved him from centerfield to leftfield after 1986. By his 3rd season in 1988, he had gained control of the strike zone, and by his fifth (1990), his power arrived, and he won the first of his MVP awards.

Before trying to put our minds to the last few seasons, let's cast our minds back to 1998. Barry Bonds turned 34 in July, and had hit .303/.438/.609 and stolen 28 bases. He won another Gold Glove. Here is where he stood against the closest great outfielders of the game:

Player    G      AB     H     HR    W     BA     OBP    SLUG    OPS+     
Bonds-33  1898   6621   1917  411   1357  .290   .411   .556    163      
Robby-33  2064   7542   2283  450   1017  .303   .394   .555    157
Mays-33   1848   7036   2204  453   873   .313   .388   .589    162

Bonds had, at that point, stolen 445 bases. It's easy to place him- he was ahead of Frank Robinson both as a hitter and as a defensive player, and he was behind Mays, Mays' defensive superiority probably offsetting Bonds' slight offensive advantage.

So, what do we make of the last 5 years? Is it all one chemically-supported tease that should be consigned to the dustbin of history, or do we give Bonds some credit for his extraordinary late 30s performance? Bonds' discipline and attention to physical fitness is well known. In my view, absent any chemical enhancements, he stood a good chance, like Musial and Wagner before him, of maintaining his standards into his late 30s. The unexplained explosion, however, can now be taken to have an explanation.

Should Barry Bonds go into the Hall of Fame? Will he? Like Joe Jackson, Bonds' accomplishments, prior to 1998, clearly tag him as one of the greatest players in the game. Does taking steroids bring the game into disrepute in the same way that throwing a game or betting on a game does? It all depends on what is expected from the game. If it is a show (like the home run derby before the All-Star game), steroids, like breast implants for actresses, are just part of it. If it's supposed to be an athletic competition like the Olympics, then yes, steroids are like throwing a game or betting on a game. I'm from the latter camp, and would be content if Bonds and McGwire face the same penalty for their actions that Joe Jackson and Pete Rose did. I do not expect that they will. The leadership of MLB continues to rationalize past use of steroids on the basis that it was not contrary to MLB rules. I expect that Bonds will (appropriately) walk into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Next up: Jim Edmonds

Hall Watch 2004- The Outfielders-Barry Bonds | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Gerry - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 10:57 AM EST (#105099) #
I assume Bonds will go into the hall, and as you point out, Bonds was on HOF track before steroids came into play for him. I don't put the steroids in the same category as the gambling. The more interesting question for me is how many writers will not vote for him becuase they don't like him or becuase of the steroids. Will he be a first ballot HOF'er. I think he will but it might be close.
groove - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:24 AM EST (#105105) #
I don't want to make this a steroids thread, but I guess it is inevitable. Comparing gambling and steroids is unfair: Baseball has always had a strict policy on gambling and Pete Rose was aware of this and chose to ignore it. Baseball did not have such a policy on steroids, and Barry Bonds is not at fault for that. I think taking steroids compares more to throwing spitballs.

I will predict that barring any future commisioner action that he will not make it in on the first ballot, but will likely make it on round #2.
Mike Green - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 11:50 AM EST (#105113) #
Groove, baseball has not always had a strict "policy" on gambling. The policy arose out of the scandals of the teens. At the time, the Commissioner exercised real power, and sanctions were levied without the express policies that you speak of.

For myself, I find betting on one's own team by a manager less damaging to the integrity of the game than a player taking steroids. The absence of rules to address the situation has only a little to do with Hall of Fame consideration. Hall consideration is not a right, but an honour, and in deciding who to honour, it does not seem to me unreasonable to take into account damage caused to the integrity of the game.

John Northey - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:30 PM EST (#105126) #
Actually, gambling was a major problem in the 1800's and can be viewed as part of what killed the National Association (1871-1875) and lead to the National League shrinking after the 1899 season. In all sports gambling has been a major issue virtually from day one. Why watch a game if the results are pre-determined (which is why I don't watch wrestling)?
Pepper Moffatt - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:34 PM EST (#105127) #
Is taking cocaine worse than taking steroids? If so, there's going to be a bunch of guys we're going to have to kick out of the Hall of Fame.
John Northey - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 12:36 PM EST (#105130) #
To me the steroid argument should be at the spitball level. In fact, one can argue it is better to use steroids than to use a spitball. With steroids the only player at risk (health wise) is the one using them. With spitballs you could easily injure or kill a batter as the ball moves in ways the batter cannot anticipate at high speeds (unlike the knuckle ball which moves in weird ways but at much lower speeds).

Is it viewed as cheating, and has it been viewed as such for awhile? Yes. Regardless of what the real rules were, steroids have been viewed for a long time as being cheating. However, to me it ranks with the various other drugs know to be used and, while I'd rather it didn't exist, it is there and will continue to be. Should it stop Bonds and McGwire from getting to the hall? Only if we see Gaylord Perry removed.
Gitz - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:02 PM EST (#105135) #
Mike, please provide a list of the cocaine users in the Hall. Not a reputed list, but a proven list.
Four Seamer - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:03 PM EST (#105136) #
While it may be true that MLB has not had strict policies regarding steroids until quite recently, the fact remains that the use or distribution of steroids without a prescription is illegal. I think it's a matter of debate what the consequences for their use in the period prior to MLB regulation should be, but I think it only appropriate that there should be some consequences.

It's true also that there a host of other illegal activities that Hall of Famers have engaged in, many of them famously. I think there's a qualitative difference between illegal steroid use and cocaine ingestion, since only the former is done to create competitive imbalance (although clearly rampant drug and alcohol abuse, and other forms of off-field activity cheats fans management and teammates as well by depressing performance). That's a consideration for Hall voters in assessing the damage certain players have done to the game's integrity and credibility, and each voter will have to weigh them accordingly.

I personally think Bonds has done an enormous disservice to the game, first by taking steroids and now by issuing these non-denial denials, including his latest where he appears to equate MLB with professional wrestling, declaring himself an "entertainer". I don't think, however, it offsets his contributions to the game to the point that he shouldn't be in the Hall. That said, if he doesn't get in on the first ballot, I wouldn't view it as an injustice.

Gitz - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:07 PM EST (#105144) #
I think I've made my distate for Bonds pretty clear -- out of the Rosterites, I think I'm his biggest detractor. On the other hand, I've always separated the player from the man. In that spirit, if he's not a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, it's time to junk the system.
Pepper Moffatt - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:09 PM EST (#105146) #
What constitutes "proof"? It's not something you can deduce from first principles.

Name one player who has been "proven" to use steroids. A positive test isn't a "proof" - tests can be wrong. Neither is a jury conviction. Juries can be wrong too. Etc.
Pepper Moffatt - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:23 PM EST (#105152) #
Well, here's just a few players linked to the cocaine/amphetamines scandals of the late 70s - early 80s. A few of these guys are already in the HOF and I'm sure others will make it:

Paul Molitor
Willie Stargell
Fergie Jenkins
Denny McLain
Vida Blue
Dave Parker
Darryl Strawberry
Dwight Gooden
Keith Hernandez
Jeffrey Leonard
Pedro Guerrero
Tim Raines
Willie Wilson
Lonnie Smith
Tony Phillips
Gitz - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:34 PM EST (#105158) #
Forget drug use, Leonard should be banned for his one-flap down home run trot. Colourful, but obnoxious. But he was sure fun to watch in those 1987 playoffs. And he's a good example of why when I hear "injured wrist" that I panic. He completely lost his power when he hurt his wrist some time later.
Mike Green - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 01:53 PM EST (#105165) #
Cocaine use (or alchohol abuse) by a player does not affect the integrity of the game the way steroid use does.

The analogy with spitballs is interesting. I don't know that I would have voted for Gaylord Perry's admission. That doesn't mean that he should be turfed from the Hall. Robin Ventura is a better player than Freddie Lindstrom, who was admitted in a fit of insanity. That doesn't mean that Ventura should now be admitted or that Lindstrom should be turfed.
Cristian - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 02:15 PM EST (#105178) #
Why is proof so important? Here me out for a second. I don't mean to suggest that we should incriminate without proof but rather that cheating, even when proven, has been ignored. A great example of this is Sammy corked bat incident. We all saw the cork flying out of Sammy's bat (PROOF!) and we all heard his ridiculous denials.

What's the difference between:
'I didn't know the bat I was using in the game was corked. I know I have a corked bat but I only use it to put on a show in batting practice.'


'I didn't know the the cream and the clear were steroids.'

To me, Sammy's confession is much worse because he at least made it clear that he knew he owned a corked bat.

Now, it is highly debateable whether either steroids or corked bats help you hit better. The main difference is that one has always been against the rules while one has only recently been against the rules. Oh yeah, one was proven in front of everyone and one was 'proven' in a leaked document that was meant to be confidential.

I'm sorry but I'll always back Bonds and I won't care how badly he deals with the self-righteous media that has blown the steroids issue way out of proportion.
BallGuy - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 03:22 PM EST (#105207) #
I am back and forth on Bonds. I don't care that he is a jerk (many athletes are) or that the media may give him a rough time. If he has done steroids (and I have stated here before that I believe that he has) then he should not be in the HOF. It doesn't matter that it was technically legal in Baseball...everybody knew that it was wrong...that is why it was such a dirty little secret. In the court room of public opinion any athlete who does steroids would be found guilty. That is why no-one will admit to it.
Now, where the shadow of doubt about Bonds starts to creep in is the fact that he knows the strike zone so well. I don't think steroids could help you achieve 21 strikeouts or over 100 walks. The very fact that he is so dialed in to the strike zone not only means he gets more favourable calls from the umpires, it also means he intimidates the heck out of opposing pitchers and can wait for his pitch. If you can do all that each and every at bat (and he does), you are bound to put up some big numbers, steroids or not. Lots of good hitters say they go to the plate and look for a pitch they can hit; Bonds does it better than anyone.
That ability will go a long way to getting Bonds into the HOF on the first ballot.
Dave Till - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 04:23 PM EST (#105226) #
Before I start, I should point out that I am opposed to the use of steroids in baseball until they have been proven to not cause harm. People shouldn't have to put their health at risk in order to become major-league athletes.

Having said that: I find Barry Bonds fascinating because he represents a human extreme, in both the best and worst sense of the word. What can one man accomplish, given extraordinary ability, a monomanical focus on excellence, and unlimited time and resources to pursue all means available to improve? Bonds appears to be the answer to that question.

As for What Should Be Done? Unless it can be proven that Bonds violated the rules of the game - i.e., took steroids after they had been made illegal - baseball shouldn't do anything. He should be admitted to the Hall, as he deserves to be. If there are questions as to which of his accomplishments were artificially enhanced: well, I guess he has only himself to blame for that. All I know is that I am glad that I got a chance to see him play.
Nigel - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 05:22 PM EST (#105232) #
My overwhelming feeling on this debate is sadness. One of the best things about watching what you think is one of the greatest players ever to play a sport is that spine-tingling feeling that makes you say - I can't believe I just saw that. That's how I've felt about Bonds for a while now. But the growing reality of his steroid use has taken a lot of the joy out of that for me. Mike's analysis above takes us to his 33rd birthday, but the reality is that none of know whether his steroid use started before then or not (I'm not suggesting it did - but who knows?). We also have no idea of the extent that steroid use helps performance. The long and the short of it is that none of us really know to what extent we really are watching one of the all-time greats or not. We can guess but we don't know and that makes me sad.

For what it's worth, on the basis that steroids were not illegal in baseball, I think he should go in - but that doesn't really deal with my above point.
Craig B - Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 06:18 PM EST (#105240) #
Mike, please provide a list of the cocaine users in the Hall. Not a reputed list, but a proven list.

We do have uncontroverted testimony, under oath, in open court (U.S. v. Strong) that HOFers Willie Mays and Willie Stargell knowingly supplied illegal drugs (amphetamines, not cocaine) to teammates. Not quite what you were looking for, but bad enough.

No one cares. No one ever cared. Willie Mays got far, far more grief for getting paid for saying "Welcome to Bally's" than for anything to do with illegal drugs.

HOFer Paul Molitor has publicly admitted to using cocaine extensively during the early 1980s. As far as I know, that's it on the "proven" list of HOF members (at least during their playing days, which is the only fair comparison). Of course, if they'd start to vote in a few more recent players, we'd see more. And as we all know, baseball and coke grew up together anyway.

Since cocaine was a common ingredient in patent medicines until the 1920s, presumably every HOFer active before then was a cocaine consumer. Of course, I don't think that's what you're talking about. :)

Hall Watch 2004- The Outfielders-Barry Bonds | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.