Hall of Fame Case: Barry Bonds

Hall of Fame Case: Barry Bonds

by December 27, 2021 0 comments

Barry Bonds is on the ballot for the 10th and final time this year. After getting 61.8 percent of the vote last year, he needs a huge jump at the end of his candidacy. The numbers obviously aren’t the question as they are historic. The question comes with character in the minds of the voters. Whether it is PEDs, domestic violence allegations, or even just Bonds being aloof and generally regarded as unlikable, it is enough to have kept him from getting elected. Will he finally make it this year?

Make sure to check out all of our other Hall of Fame Cases.

Career Summary

Barry Lamar Bonds was selected sixth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985 out of Arizona State University. He would make his debut the following year. While his first four seasons were very good, Bonds truly broke out in 1990. That year he received the first of his 14 All-Star selections. He also won his first Gold Glove and there would be seven more coming. Bonds was the NL MVP that season as well blasting 33 home runs along with swiping 52 bags and leading the league with a .970 OPS.

In 1991, Barry’s production slipped just a little and he wound up second in MVP voting, losing to Terry Pendleton. Bonds bounced back and won the award again in 1992 in his final season with the Pirates. Even then his plate discipline was impressive leading the NL in walks with 127 while striking out just 69 times. The San Francisco Giants wanted Bonds so they gave him the largest contract in sports history at the time, which seems laughable now as it was for six years and $43.75 million.

The Giant Years

His first year in San Francisco was more of the same from Bonds. He led the NL in HRs (46), RBIs (123), and OPS (1.136). Of course, he won his third MVP award and continued playing Gold Glove defense. Always blessed with an elite power-speed combo, Barry would eclipse 40-40 in 1996. Fast forward to 2001 and Bonds has his historic season blasting a record 73 homers. That season also kicked off a four-year stretch that is unlikely to be matched and is probably the best four-year span in history.

Bonds retired after the 2007 season but not before breaking Hank Aaron‘s all-time home run record. He hit number 756 off of Mike Bacsik on August 7 of that year. He finished with 762 for his career and also holds the all-time record in walks at 2,558 (688 intentional, also a record).

Pros

Where do we begin? The previously mentioned four-year span from 2001-2004 saw Bonds have a 1.368 OPS. Babe Ruth is the only other player to have a 1.300+ OPS in a season (min. 400 PAs) and Bonds did it over four seasons. Did Bonds walk at a ridiculous rate? Yes, but let’s also not forget he led the NL twice in batting average. For his career he had plenty of accomplishments and hardware:

7X MVP
14X All-Star
8X Gold Glove
Led the league in OPS nine times

Of players with at least 5,000 PAs, Bonds is fourth all-time in OPS at 1.051 behind Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig.

He is also tied with Ruth for the most rWAR ever at 162.7

Cons

Steroid use will always be what clouds Bonds’ candidacy primarily. There are also domestic violence incidents detailed during his divorce proceedings with his first wife. The fact that Barry was generally unlikable and standoffish with much of the media certainly doesn’t help either. He also never won a World Series just as a cherry on top of the negatives.

Verdict

Gaining 13.2 percent in his last year will be difficult but not insurmountable. We recently saw Larry Walker make the jump from 54.6 percent to 76.6 percent to get inducted on his final ballot. However, Bonds, as great as he was, has many issues the writers will not look past. Many fans believe Bonds lost his Hall of Fame credibility, so to speak, when he used steroids on top of the off-the-field negatives. Others believe he is the greatest player of all time and the stats speak for themselves. They may both be right. Either way, Bonds will likely have to wait for induction from a committee of his peers down the road.


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