Commentary: Barry Bonds is running out of time to reach Cooperstown
The biggest question concerning Hall of Fame voters is whether the inclusion of Bonds tarnishes the Hall, or since it’s a history museum, he needs to belong.
Barry Bonds, simply, is one of the greatest players who ever lived.
You can’t talk to anyone who played during Bonds’ generation who doesn’t believe he was the greatest player they’ve seen.
He could hit. He could run. He could play defense.
Why, apart from Babe Ruth — who also pitched at the start of his career — Bonds could be the best player in baseball history.
The trouble, of course, is that along came 1998 with the great home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They dominated the sports world. Stole the spotlight. And hit home runs like never before.
Bonds, jealous of their feats — according to the book Game of Shadows — turned to steroids.
Soon, he was the greatest player in the game and nobody else was even close.
He became the single-season home run king with 73 homers in 2001. He broke Hank Aaron’s all-time homer record of 755 in 2007 and retired with 762 homers.
And now, one of the greatest players in baseball history, still is on the outside looking in at the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The case for Barry Bonds
Just take a look at his mind-boggling stats.
762 home runs. 1,996 RBI .444 on-base percentage .607 slugging percentage.
He won seven National League MVP awards, twice was runner-up, and 12 times finished in the top 10.
He was a 14-time All-Star, 12-time Silver Slugger, eight-time Gold Glove winner and two-time batting champion.
Simply, he dominated the sport like no man since Ruth.
The case against Bonds
Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids, beginning in 2008 when he was a man among boys, according to government evidence obtained during the BALCO drug scandal.
He was the most famous client of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder and president Victor Conte, one of six major-league players and 21 other athletes connected to BALCO, showing just how powerful the designer drugs can make the human body.
Yet, Bonds never failed a drug test.
He testified in front of a federal grand jury that he had received two such steroids, “the Clear” and “the Cream,” from his trainer during the 2003 season, but was told they were flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis. The government believed he was lying. He was convicted of one charge of obstruction of justice in 2011, but it was overturned in 2015.
Still, he was convicted in the court of public opinion.
Why, he probably could have played another three years, but no team would touch him, believing he was a pariah.
And although there certainly are steroid users in the Hall of Fame who were never caught, the dark cloud over Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens has been too ominous for voters since they debuted on the ballot in 2013.
The biggest question concerning Hall of Fame voters is whether the inclusion of Bonds and Clemens tarnish the Hall, or since it’s a history museum, they need to belong.
Let’s face it, there were more steroid suspicions with Mike Piazza, Pudge Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell throughout their careers than Bonds and Clemens — and they eventually earned berths in the Hall of Fame.
So why keep the best of the steroid class out of the Hall?
Should they be punished for being the elite of the PED era and breaking sacred records?
Besides, never once were they suspended for performance-enhancing drug use, nor ever failed a test.
Bonds began receiving 36.2% of the vote in his first year of eligibility in 2013, and since 2015, has joined risen from 36.8% to 44.3% to 53.8% to 56.4% to 59.1% last year.
If Bonds is going to be elected by 2022, it would greatly enhance his chances to receive at least 65% of the vote this year. (It takes 75% to win election to the Hall.)
He has two more years of eligibility, but he’s running out of time.
It may be in the final year that the voters who never checked Bonds’ or Clemens’ name believe they’ve been punished long enough.
Until then, Bonds and Clemens suffer the indignity of being kept out of the place they belong — while players in the Houston Astros cheating scandal go unpunished.
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