In December, Pitcher List writers submitted their unofficial Hall of Fame ballots, selecting 6 players for induction. We have also been asked to write columns arguing for and against the players we elected. I chose to write an article on the clear HOF candidacy of Barry Bonds.
This is Bonds’ 7th year on the MLB BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot and he peaked at 56.4% support last year. Some would say he has momentum and, depending on this year’s results, his eventual induction is likely but I would argue his induction is long overdue. Bonds retired in 2007 and his career numbers are just staggering:
By just about any measure, Bonds should have cruised into the Hall on the first ballot but he was famously linked to PED-use which continues to hold Bonds out of the Hall as writers decide how to weigh the PED speculation against the career numbers Bonds accumulated. There is a pretty clear case to be made, however, that Bonds was a Hall of Famer before he ever heard of The Cream or The Clear. To make this argument, I looked at his numbers and the rough PED timeline laid out over the years before and after his retirement in 2007.
Based on all information available, Bonds was first linked to PEDs in a meaningful way in the 1998 season, making every season from then until his retirement null and void in the minds of most veteran baseball writers. Using that logic and removing all the statistics Bonds accumulated during that time, Bonds would have retired with these career totals: 374 HR, 417 SB, 91.8 WAR, three-time MVP, seven-time Gold Glove winner, and seven-time Silver Slugger winner.
Below is the complete list of all the Hall of Famers with more than 200 HR and 300 SB along with Bonds’ “PED-cleaned” career numbers (sorted by SB total):
Every other player in MLB history who possessed anything close to the same power and speed combination as Bonds has already been elected to the Hall of Fame. He also would have retired with virtually the same career WAR as Wade Boggs, who cruised into the Hall on his first ballot, collecting 91.9% of the vote.
But Bonds Cheated!
In the history of the game, players have always tried to gain an edge on the competition and improve their games and performance. There have been several articles written on the rampant use of “greenies” or amphetamines in baseball going back to at least the 1960s. Gaylord Parry has never denied throwing spitballs and cheating during his 22-year career, instead joking about it to this day. Even Babe Ruth tried something pretty dramatic in order to increase his performance.
Unless MLB and the Hall of Fame plan on going through the museum and removing the plaques of all the players who could be tied to greenies, spitballs, and any other form of cheating, keeping Bonds and other players accused of PED use out of the Hall now is hypocritical. The history of the game includes Bonds and other players tied to PEDs and the Hall should recognize that history.
(Graphic by Justin Paradis)