The debate on Barry Bonds getting into the Hall of Fame has been one of the most controversial topics in recent baseball history. While there is a strong case for his election due to his tremendous offensive performance, his PED use has gotten him a lot of haters and hurts his case for election. Should the all-time home run king be in Cooperstown, or should he be left off the ballot?
The case for his election:
Barry Bonds owns three Major League Baseball career records: Most home runs (762), most walks (2558), and most intentional walks (688). He also owns countless single season records, most notably hitting 73 home runs during the 2001 season. Of his 2,935 hits, 1,440 went for extra bases. He had 1,000 more walks than strikeouts, and a career .444 OBP. He won seven MVP’s, including four consecutive from 2001-2004, 8 Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers, and was named an All Star 14 times. While all of these stats and awards would almost guarantee anyone else automatic entry to the Hall, Bonds only received 36.8% of the votes on his third ballot in 2015, it was the highest total of votes he’s seen. During the 2001-3 seasons, which he was the NL MVP all three years, Bonds saw over 9,000 pitches while at the plate, and swung and missed at a little over 200. He is second in career WAR amongst position players. Bonds was one of the best hitters of all time, and his contributions at the plate are something that no player can match, or will match for a while. His power, as well as discipline at the plate, led him to being on base nearly 50% of the time he came up to bat. It was a rare combination that no one else possesses, and a unique player like Bonds most likely won’t be seen again.
The case against him:
It’s pretty obvious why the Baseball Writers Association of America have so far refused to elect Bonds, and that’s his involvement in PEDs. Bonds was indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice in relation to his involvement with BALCO and lying under a federal oath about steroids. Bonds was convicted in 2011 of obstruction of justice for lying under oath, but the conviction was overturned in April of this year. While Bonds never admitted publicly to taking steroids or tested positive for banned substances, many other players, fans, and media members believe that he did. One of the signs that many fans often point to as evidence of Bonds’s steroid use is his rapid increase in size and muscle mass.
Most players put on weight with age, but Bonds’s gain was drastic. These photos were taken when Bonds was with the Pirates, early in his career, and the Giants, during the latter half. Bonds started off his career as a scrawny player with natural power, and the ability to steal bases. As he aged, his power numbers went up and his base stealing went down. Players developing power with age isn’t too uncommon, but his change in size, as well as the increased power numbers drew a red flag in many people’s minds. Hank Aaron, second in home runs and MLB’s all-time leader in RBIs and total bases, was elected on his first ballot, receiving 97.8% of the vote. This just goes to show how much Bonds’s involvement with BALCO and steroids hurts his case to make the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds is one of the best hitters (and all-around players) of all time, no doubt about that. But his involvement in PEDs is keeping him from being enshrined in Cooperstown. A terror at the plate, no pitcher wanted to face him for fear of a ball being sent into orbit. The case is strong both for and against Bonds, and the Baseball Writers Association of America are justified either way in their vote. If I had a vote for the 2016 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class, I would leave Bonds off of my ballot solely based on the strong candidates that are more deserving, and were never accused of steroids. Bonds is a great player, and if there is a weaker class in the future, I can see him landing votes, but not enough to make it into Cooperstown.