In defense of Barry Bonds

Dear Reader,

Before you dive into the article below, I want to reiterate that Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is by no means a perfect statistic, the only statistic, or the be-all-end-all statistic. It is merely a shorthand for a lot of important comments and observations about the on-the-field attributes of a player. I merely use it to illustrate a point, not to claim the point is definitive. WAR, and its derivative statistics, as utilized in this article, is calculated using Fangraph’s version of the metric.

Yesterday, something moderately historic-ish happened. No one was voted into National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum by the BBWA. This is the first time this has happened since 1996. It is also only the eighth time since the establishment of the Hall Of Fame in 1936 that this has happened (although two players were elected by the Veterans Committee that year).

In 1996, the top 10 vote-getters were (asterisks denote that the player was eventually inducted into The Hall, not that they used steroids):

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.

Name Postion(s) Career WAR # Seasons Career WAR
Vote Population
Phil Niekro* SP 84.6 24 3.5 68.3%
Tony Pérez* 1B/3B 67.8 23 2.9 65.7%
Don Sutton* SP 89.8 23 3.9 63.8%
Steve Garvey 1B 42.5 19 2.2 37.2%
Ron Santo* 3B 79.3 15 5.3 37.0%
Tony Oliva DH/OF 48.6 15 3.2 36.2%
Jim Rice* DH/OF 56.1 16 3.5 35.3%
Bruce Sutter* RP 22.3 12 1.9 29.1%
Tommy John SP 78.7 27 2.9 21.7%
Jim Kaat SP 71.2 25 2.8 19.4%

This ballot in 1996 was pretty shallow. The only other “notable” name (as a player) worthy of entering The Hall was Curt Flood, and he deserves recognition in the sport for entirely different reasons.

This year, only two players crossed the 60 percent vote threshold—first time eligible second basemen (slash catcher, slash outfield) Craig Biggio and Jack Morris. Neither really deserves entry, though Craig Biggio is borderline worthy in my book.

Despite this fact, however, I could easily pick out five Hall Of Fame caliber players in this year’s eligible mix, and 10 I would likely vote in. Even before considering the steroid issue, I would, without a doubt in my mind based on the evidence in front of me, vote for Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines (whose drug addiction in the 1980s and skin color may have more to do with his failure to receive enough votes than his on-the-field production), Edgar Martinez (Mr. DH), Alan Tammell and Larry Walker, whom I have previously defended. I am still on the fence with respect to Kenny Lofton (a world class lead off man) and Craig Biggio. That’s five to seven arguably deserving players before you even get to the steroid cloud that surrounds Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling (the world’s most opinionated pitcher (that was also pretty great)), Mike Piazza, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire (but not Sammy Sosa)… and Barry Bonds.

A lot can be said about Clemens, Schilling, Palmeiro and McGwire, but I want to focus on Barry Bonds. Bonds, along with Clemens, is one of the two scapegoats of the industry of a tainted era. Records were broken, amazing feats were accomplished, and asterisks with footnotes have been affixed.

But here is the thing I feel that a lot of people forget. Barry Bonds was great before he allegedly took steroids. By most accounts, this began sometime in the mid-1990s. Time Magazine posted an interesting article titled The Evolution of Barry Bonds a few years back that profiles his physical and baseball stats by season.

In the first 10 years of his career (1986-95), Bonds did something that very few players in the history of major league baseball have ever accomplished by WAR’s measure of value—he crossed the 10 wins plateau. He did this not only once, but twice in those 10 years of play. The way we measure the value a player contributes to his team in a single season with his glove is a fickle thing, so take this somewhat arbitrary threshold with a grain of salt, but, by way of perspective, both Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have each only done this once in their careers. In fact, only two of the 26 players elected to The Hall since Mike Schmidt in 1995 has posted a single 10 WAR (or higher) season in their career—Cal Ripken and Rickey Henderson. In 2010, no major league player even accumulated 9 WAR. Mike Trout, who unquestionably deserved the AL MVP, reached the 10 WAR plateau this past year at age 21, which is almost ineffably impressive, but the last player to post a 10+ WAR spot in a season prior to Trout this year was… Barry Bonds, in 2004.

Bonds was also a perennial all around player and 40/40 threat prior to his 40/40 1996 season. In his first 10 years of major league play, Bonds crossed the 30/30 mark three times, and missed it twice by just a single stolen base. Over the first 10 years of his career, Bonds batted .286/.398/.541 (.938 OPS), averaging 34 home runs, 39 stolen bases and 107 walks per 162 games played. By the close of the 1995 season, Bonds had accumulated 73.7 WAR. That’s more value than such great modern players as Kenny Lofton, Jim Edmonds or Larry Walker accrued in their entire careers.

Still not impressed? If you were to combine the single-season WAR values of the top 10 hitters in baseball last season, their collective WAR would total 76.7.

Without any doubt in my mind, Bonds was headed to The Hall before the specter of steroids and BALCO began to haunt his record. Had he retired before the 1996 season, he would have gone down as Kofauxian in how brightly he shined. But he did not retire before 1996; instead, he went on to accomplish something only a three other players have ever done—hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. I should probably note here, however, that two of those three other players, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez, admitted using steroids at some point in their careers.

What happened in and after 1996 in Bonds’ career is infamous, and hardly needs retelling. He shattered Mark McGwire’s home run record less than five years after it was set. He walked 232 times in 2004 with a .609 on base percentage (OBP) that was greater than all but five other baseball player’s slugging percentages (SLG). Bonds’ SLG between 2001 and 2004 was greater than the major league average OPS. Yada yada yada.

By the time Bonds hung up his glove after the 2007 season,demonized by the media, he accumulated 168 WAR. That averages out to more than 7.5 WAR per season. Only five players in all of baseball last season posted a single season WAR greater than what Bonds averaged over his entire career.

Only one other player produced more value, according to Fangraphs, in the history of baseball. And that man is Babe Ruth (177.9 career WAR). Bonds is exclusively part of a group of only five players in the history of baseball to accumulate 150 or more WAR over their career. The other three are Willie Mays (163.2 career WAR), Ty Cobb (163.2 career WAR) and Hank Aaron (150.4 career WAR). Ted Williams (139.8 career WAR) would also likely be in that mix but for being such a great American and fighting for his country during his peak physical years.

Assume for a moment, somewhat arbitrarily, that steroids double a player’s potential (note that I call it potential, because you cannot just take steroids, sit on the couch and each chips and instantly become great at sports). If we were to accordingly slash his career WAR in half, his 84 career WAR would still be greater than the career WAR of any single player on this year’s Hall Of Fame ballot. Such “half-slashing” of Bonds’ whole career would put his value on par with Jeff Bagwell in terms of career value added to his teams. Not a single one of the five baseball players inducted into the Hall Of Fame over the past three years has value equal to or greater than our mythical “Half Bonds.”

Still not convinced? There is a a statistic called Wins Above Excellence, or WAE. This statistic subtracts three wins off of any single season of a given player (if a season would then produce negative value, it is zeroed out) to measure how much better than “All Star caliber” a player was over the course of his career. This adjustment also removes value added by not being great, but from being healthy (which itself, quite honestly, is a valuable tool).

By WAE standards, Bonds produced 104.2 wins of value for his career in excess of All Star caliber production. Putting this figure into perspective, only 30 hitters (soon 31, with Albert Pujols on the horizon) in the history of baseball even accumulated 100 wins by WAR standards in their career. Cal Ripken (99.7 career WAR), Wade Boggs (91.9 career WAR) and Chipper Jones (90.3 career WAR) all fell short. Mike Schmidt (110.6) and Rickey Henderson (113.9) are the only modern era players to be elected to The Hall with even 100 wins by WAR standards over their entire careers. By WAE standards, Schmidt and Henderson only produced 64.4 and 56.0 wins-worth of career value above All Star production over the course of their careers, respectively. Barry Larkin (70.5 career WAR) and Ron Santo (79.3 career WAR), the two latest inductees to The Hall, likewise produced 25.7 and 42.7 career wins of value in excess of All Star caliber production, respectively.

What WAE roughly tells us is that Bonds’ level of “super star” production—that is, the amount of value he added in excess of being a mere All Star caliber player—was substantially higher than the career value provided by almost every player that ever played the game. And yet, despite all this data, Bonds’ career barely convinced one out of every three of the BBWA writers to vote for him. That’s just downright ridiculous. It might even be racist, considering that Clemens, equally vilified for steroids and substantially less valuable by WAR standards than Bonds (then again, almost all pitchers are inherently less valuable than their hitting counterparts), received more votes.

Bonds was not just really good. He was not even just great. He was downright amazing—steroids or not. He did things we’ll likely never see again. And many of his amazing accomplishments cannot be entirely explained by steroids. He was beyond great before steroids came into the conversation. And that is why I would vote for him.


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Jeffrey Gross is an attorney who periodically moonlights as a (fantasy) baseball analyst. He also responsibly enjoys tasty adult beverages. You can read about those adventures at his blog and/or follow him on Twitter @saBEERmetrics.
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Ram
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Ram

To the above comment, you think everybody in HOF are good, friendly, wholesome people? Give me a break. Your comment is an insult to the article and the work that went into. “Inflated” numbers? Did you even read the article? Hurr durr, roids, black guy who was mean. That’s your argument. It’s weak and you should be ashamed for posting it.

Bill Rubinstein
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Bill Rubinstein

Agreed that Bonds should have been elected yesterday- but all of his greatest achievements came when he was 35 or older. That is absolutely without parallel in baseball history. If Bonds hit 73 home runs when he was 36 or so, why didn’t he hit 83 when he was 26-28 and at his peak?

Pete Davis
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Pete Davis

hey he got the 400 400 before the age of 36!! He was the only player in that club!! Now he is the only player in the 500/ 500 club!! The best MLB player ever!!!

philosofool
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philosofool

It’s extremely offensive to accuse people of being racist on the basis of no evidence that race has played any role in their decision making or beliefs. It reduces a topic about which reasonable people can disagree to an unreasonable lot of name calling. Please don’t do this in the future.

philosofool
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philosofool

To be clear, comment above from me is at Ram, not this article.

Mike Ziller
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Mike Ziller

Do the people who post comments read the article? It clearly explains why even if you throw out his steroid tainted numbers he still is a HOF.

Also, where did Ram call anybody a racist? Also the vote was a bit racist. 8 people voted for Clemens but not Bonds, what exactly is their reasoning for that? Bonds didnt kiss their butt enough? Bonds had a problem with the media from the onset of his career because of the way they treated his father.

Ram
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Ram

@philosofool

Dude where did I call him a racist? Never said those words.

hopbitters
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hopbitters

I would hope that the difference between the voting for Clemens and Bonds was based on his relations with the media rather than the color of his skin, but since we don’t know for sure, it’s only fair to assume that all the voters were tainted by the era and dismiss any positive contributions they may or may not have had to journalism.

Jason S.
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Jason S.
For what it’s worth, I’m sure that Bonds will eventually get in.  Whether it takes 5, 10 or 15 years – who knows?  But given human nature I expect opposition to him to drop every year, eventually getting him in. I like Bill’s comment.  It reminds how when he played that nobody in the press was asking this and all I ever remember reading were the writers saying that nothing was fishy about him getting better over age 35.  He was simply the exception to the rule and how he’d never failed a drug test, unlike Sosa and others, blah… Read more »
Bill Rubinstein
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Bill Rubinstein
If Bonds had shown a normal aging pattern, he would have started to run downhill around 1999, and then been only a good player for the rest of his career. Had this been the case he would probably have been elected yesterday. Instead, from 35 or so on he put up numbers without parallel in baseball history, even for Ruth. He didn’t do anything like this ten years earlier. No one in baseball history ever did anything like this- certainly not Mays or Aaron, or Mantle or Schmidt. The closest parallel is probably with Ted Williams, who hit .388 when… Read more »
Kent
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Kent
For the life of me, I don’t understand why so many fail to see nuance with Bonds (or the “cheaters”) but see it everywhere else in baseball (one of the reasons we all probably love the sport so much) or in life.  Bonds took designer stuff that most of us could never afford.  Believe him or not that he was told it was flaxseed oil.  He took this designer stuff in addition to so many things we know baseball players have going for them and many more things we’re unable to ever quantify.  Just a few:  smaller strike zones; different… Read more »
Steve
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Steve

“Neither really deserves entry, though Craig Biggio is borderline worthy in my book.”

Stopped reading after this.  Biggio is a HOF both on peak and longevity.  Stud.

Mike
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Mike

Kent has ended this discussion. Damn man, don’t think anyone can put it better than that.

Steve, you are a moron.

philosofool
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philosofool

@Ram

You accused him of racism right at the part where you said that his argument included consideration of his race: “Hurr, durr, ‘roids, black guy who was mean.” Maybe you hadn’t intended that as an accusation that being black was part of his reasoning, but it sure sounded like it.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
I agree with philosofool and would broaden that to include the statement in the article suggesting that Tim Raines was not voted in because of his race.  It has become much too easy for people to demonstrate their enlightenment by ascribing racism to an amorphous group of others, especially when they have no evidence as to the thinking of that group.  This is not to say, obviously, that racism has not been present in baseball or society in general, but that doesn’t mean that everything can be reduced to that and I think it’s unfair to tar voters with “racist”… Read more »
David Brown
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David Brown
Lets start with the reality of the matter, which is Bonds & Clemens (And probably Arod as well), will be like Sosa, McGwire and the rest, not get 75% of the vote to be elected to Cooperstown. These guys are tainted like Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson. I would have no problem if MLB said their numbers are null and void (Like Armstrong, Johnson & Joe Paterno). Then there would be no debate a year from now about if they belong in the Hall of Fame or not? (I do not hear a lot of cries for Paterno supporters to… Read more »
bucdaddy
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bucdaddy
As a lifelong Pirates fan, I’m glad to see someone pay attention to what Bonds did before the mid 1990s. He won two MVP awards as a Pirate and another the first year he joined the Giants. He put up back-to-back seasons of 200+ OPS+ (204 and 206). It’s absolutely true that he was a terrific player before the steroids debate began, and I think “halving” his career is an extremely generous nod to the possible power of steroids (I understand that number was chosen to make a good point). I would think 10 percent (if they do anything at… Read more »
Rob
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Rob

Further to what Kent said above,  PED’s were invented and used long before Barry Bonds was even born.  It is widely known about “greenie ” use in the 60’s and 70’s.  We’d all be very naive to believe that is all they used. Look up Lyle Alzado, highly doubt he was the only pro athlete of his time doing roids.  Not saying Bonds does belong, just saying he was not the first “cheater”.

NYJ
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NYJ

Joe Jackson was great too, and Bonds et. al have done more damage to the integrity of the game and its 100 years of history than Jackson or Pete Rose EVER did. Those who took PEDs, those who looked the other way, those who refused testing for years in favor of inflated paychecks don’t deserve anything more from the game. All the stats in the world don’t change what Bonds did- other than to render his earlier accomplishments moot, and I would rather every player from the steroid era snubbed than see one juicer in the hall.

Mike Erickson
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Mike Erickson
Why there are so many apologists out there trying to defend Bonds and to get him in the HOF? The biggest word in the English language is IF.  IF Bonds didn’t do steroids he would have made the Hall of Fame. But he DID do steroids!!! IF OJ Simpson wasn’t a murderer he’d be beloved and wouldn’t be in prizon. IF Junior Seau hadn’t committed suicide he’d still be alive today – IF IF IF. You can’t toss it under the rug. Bonds and others like him contributed to scarring the sport forever – the biggest black mark on the… Read more »
Jfree
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Jfree

You are better at stats than I am. But I am really quite disgusted that the saber community is spending more time/effort trying to defend a generic statistical judgement re Bonds/etc than it is trying to uncover the possible impact of PEDs abuse on those very statistics. Statistical analysis can be very powerful. When used merely to glorify/excuse cheating and engage in flawed hero worship, it becomes repugnant.

It is IMO no surprise that non-stats oriented baseball writers can just dismiss Bonds/Clemens/etc. Because the stats-oriented part of that community is positively poisonous when it comes to assessing them.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

Thanks for all the feedback everyone! I will go through everyone’ comments later.

I think my friend Mathieu LaFontaine said it best:

“At the end of the day, it is a museum for baseball. To exclude parts of it’s history is simply being revisionist. The dialogue should occur when fathers take theirs sons, and daughters to visit it. I would equate it to being a American History museum but excluding slavery. Just because it was an ugly side of the game, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

I will go through the above comments

Chris
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Chris

@Ryan Hall – Right.  Because the Hall of Fame doesn’t already have people in there who used drugs, doctored baseballs, cheated on (or beat) their wives, dodged alimony payments, were horrible fathers, or grade-A grumpy SOBs.  Can’t have that.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
“Joe Jackson was great too, and Bonds et. al have done more damage to the integrity of the game and its 100 years of history than Jackson or Pete Rose EVER did.” That’s one of the more ridiculous comments I have read.  Ignoring whether Jackson actually threw the Series or not, the central tenet of the game’s “integrity” is that the games are between two teams that are trying to win.  That’s why people pay to go see games.  If you have one team or a player that is not trying to win or, who in fact, is trying to… Read more »
Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon

In an article in the NY Times Sunday magazine,
Baseball Without Metaphor By David Grann,Published: September 01, 2002,(https://www.nytimes.com/ 2002/ 09/ 01/ magazine/ baseball-without-metaphor.html?pagewanted=all &src=pm)it is written that Barry Bonds said,’‘My grandmother wants me to get her some wheelchair that drives like a car. Why do I need to get her some wheelchair when she’s gonna die anyway?’‘
So much for the “character” part. Defend that, Jeffery!

Jfree
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Jfree
>>At the end of the day, it is a museum for baseball. To exclude parts of it’s history is simply being revisionist. The dialogue should occur when fathers take theirs sons, and daughters to visit it. I actually agree with this. And to that end, I hope that once A-Rod becomes HoF eligible (whenever), that the BWAA will vomit out all the HoF caliber PEDheads in one year. Bonds/Clemens/ARod/McGwire/Sosa/etc all deserve to be inducted together. They all deserve to share the same spotlight and the same headlines (whether that is—“Drug dealers converge on Cooperstown” or “Best Class Ever”) on induction… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Michael Bacon, Why not just read the very next sentence in that article instead of quoting things out of context? The article is about bonds’ relationship with the media and one reporters attempt to get to explain/explore this relationship. Read the WHOLE article: In contrast to Kent, there were unofficial rules, I was told by reporters, to get to Bonds. Don’t talk to him when he is getting dressed. Don’t talk to him just before or after batting practice. Don’t talk to him when he is sitting in his chair. Don’t talk to him when he is talking to the… Read more »
Jim
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Jim

If only he had his dad’s personality, he’d been America’s hero and not heel.  Too bad.

hopbitters
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hopbitters

I’ve said more or less what Mathieu LaFontaine said when I was commenting on another article here at THT, but not nearly as eloquently. Maybe you could persuade him to expand that into a separate article.

Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano
Bringing out Bonds’ pre-juicing credentials is besides the point. It all comes down to what you’re going to do with the cheaters. This was MLB’s and MLBPA’s mess and they’re dumping it on the writers to square it with the fans, not fair. I understand the writers not wanting to do anything with the juicers and suspected users until a little more time passes and we understand more…I think that’s fair. nobody’s entitled to a 1st ballot pass unless they have an unblemished stud career, and PEDs is a clear blemish no matter what anyone thinks. We may get more… Read more »
Jimbo
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Jimbo
I like the notion the HOF is a “museum of baseball.” To exclude Bonds/Clemens (and Rose) is to blindly ignore part of the game’s history. Why not let everyone in on baseball merit but dedicate a section/display/whatever to the stain that is PEDs? It DID happen, the games DID occur, and these guys STILL were better than all the other guys juicing. At least if there was an area that evenhandedly addressed the period, those caught, etcetera, and that display stood next to Bonds’ bust forevermore…then it would let visitors view the REAL history of baseball and come to their… Read more »
Ryan Hall
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Ryan Hall

Sorry, no. Barry Bonds was a clubhouse fungus who cheated with steroids and ran off kids who wanted his autograph with a bat (I’ve personally seen this happen more than once.) There’s more to being in the Hall of Fame than simply inflated numbers on the field.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
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obsessivegiantscompulsive
Bonds should be in, not even close. I’ve seen no claims yet that steroids helps a hitter see the ball better and to hit it hard. All they talk about is body bulk, and there are 250 pound behemoths that hit lollipops while a lanky 180 pound stick with good wrist action can become the career leader in homeruns (Aaron; of course, he got legal cheating as the Braves brought in their fences, coincidentally enough, right when he was getting close and they brought them back out when he left the team and set the new record; why there was… Read more »
Jimbo
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Jimbo
We do like having ‘a’ person, or entity to blame, but it isn’t the media OR the commish that did these things. Go look at the start of drastic salary increases. Know who the first two big contracts went to? Canseco and Clemens. If PEDs helped them recover, stay on the field, provide better return on investment…who here thinks the majority of owners weren’t all for it? The OWNERS are the ones who cashed in collectively more than any other party involved. Perhaps they ‘bought’ Selig’s loyalty, but nothing new there when power is involved. Tuna companies didn’t go dolphin-safe… Read more »
kew
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kew

is there anyone typing on this site, who understands baseball?
serious question.
bonds was one of the four greatest hitters in mlb.
why care about the how, or why?

PJ Thompson
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PJ Thompson
Dave Graziano-  I completely agree with your assessment.  What you outlined is, however, in my opinion, all the more reason that steroid users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame.  Major League baseball showed gross neglect in regulating its players – this is not the writers’ fault.  However, it is also not the writers’ job to draw conclusions in the absence of evidence.  Their job is to induct the players whose exploits on the playing field made them the most significant baseball players in the history of the game.  It is on Major League Baseball to police the game. … Read more »
Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano
PJ, I cant’ argue with any of that, I just want to hear MLB make a pronouncement, this is what went on and why, if they want to give a pass on PEDs because they were too busy counting the money, that’s OK. I’m not trying to be a moralist, they’re the ones who make the rules for the game. They should probably say that PEDs shouldn’t be a barrier to the HOF but they should have a PED era exhibit so people can mindful of the skewed stats. And I agree about Biggio, who knows? As for some of… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
The reality is that in a competitive game-and competitive society-people will do anything to succeed, up to and including ingesting drugs harmful to their health.  College students take ADD medication to stay up and study harder. If there is any blame to attach, it’s for having a hyper-competitive society that encourages people to do whatever it takes-whether in business or sports or whatever-to succeed. I mean, you have CEO and people like Madoff that are willing to destroy the lives of millions of people to make a buck.  Compared to that, it’s hard for me to get outraged over guys… Read more »
Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano
I’m afraid we’re still turning a blind eye to the evidence that’s out there on a lot of these guys. Besides some of the obvious signs look at some of the injuries that are telltale signs…Piazza has a groin muscle rip away from the bone…user. Plantar fasciitis is a well-known ‘roid sign…McGwire had it. know who else? Schilling, that’s what the heroic bloody sock was all about…I fully believe blowhard, juice-baiter Schill was a juicer. Albert Pujols also had plantar fasciitis early on, same for him. If we’re really fair about these things and we care to know about who… Read more »
Trevor
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Trevor

Dumb question – What MLB rules did Bonds, Clemons, Sosa, and all steroid users break exactly? Is it true that steroids were not officially banned by MLB until AFTER the BALCO scandal?

Look, I get it – they took PEDs. But if they’re not specifically banned, you would be stupid not to.

Finally, as much as I think he took them, Roger Clemens was acquitted of lying to Congress regarding his use of PEDs, Mitchell Report be damned.

Oh, and Bonds was a shoe-in before he started taking PEDs. It was asinine not to vote him in first-ballot.

frugalscott
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frugalscott
Everyone seems to agree that Bonds used PEDs at some point. We keep hearing, though, that he was a Hall of Famer before he began using. He’s never admitted to using so we can’t know when it began. As such, it’s all noise. He could just as easily have started using in the late 80s, after seeing all the love heaped on Canseco for 40-40 as he could have begun in the mid 90s after seeing all of the love heaped on McGwire/Sosa for their power binge. Bonds was desperate to be loved by the fans (odd, since he spent… Read more »
hopbitters
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hopbitters
Not a dumb question at all Trevor. Even after the ban, there are specific penalties for violating the policy and those are meted out according to the stated rules (and then the people charged with upholding them are fired if mlb doesn’t like the interpretation). If the penalty were a lifetime ban from the sport and exclusion from the HoF, then that would be a reasonable expectation from those that used. Otherwise, it’s the voters acting of their own accord and imposing their own penalties for transgressions (proven or not) that already have explicit penalties within the framework of mlb.… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
“I’m afraid we’re still turning a blind eye to the evidence that’s out there on a lot of these guys.” Just what evidence is there other than anecdotes and untrained observation?  All the injuries you mention have non-steroid causes as well. This is really no more than rumor and anecdote. As for A-Rod, he is what 38?  Wouldn’t you expect him to be having injuries at this point in his career.  To attribute everything that happens to steroid use without any real foundation is extremely unfair.  Look at Lyle Alzado, the football player, for example.  When he was dying of… Read more »
Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano
Marc, as we can see with the comments the attitudes and the approaches to this subject are all over the lot depending on your own point of view…and I suspect the writers come with similarly varied approaches. what I’m telling you is that I’m using facts and my judgment, and aside from aging and injuries we’re seeing things we’d never seen before…as far as I’m concerned I believe a lot of these instances are steroid-related. I’m convinced enough that I believe these guys are users. that opinion isn’t any more valid than any other. I offer them to open eyes… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.
@PJ Thompson: Actually, someone did insinuate that Biggio was unclean in the comment threads of a different THT article.  Furthermore, some people (not necessarily that commenter) are very much of the opinion that everyone of the generation is guilty until proven innocent.  Personally I think Biggio is clean. As to my opinion on the matter, I would not have voted for any of the known chemically-enhanced ballplayers on the first ballot.  Whether I would vote for them on a later ballot… maybe.  It is kinda like a judge giving a prison term and deciding whether the guilty deserve the possibility… Read more »
Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
Jeffery,       I did read the WHOLE article. As a matter of fact, I’ve read it several times. Has it occured to you that maybe Mr.Bonds may have discussed what he said about his grandmother with someone who told him how awful it sounded and that maybe he should “correct” it? Or that maybe he reflected upon how honesty may have sounded and hoped to correct it? My mother told me to “Listen to what a man says but watch what he does.” Did his grandmother ever get that needed wheelchair? You are so busy with your statistics… Read more »
Gabriel
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Gabriel
The Hall is an honour as well as a recognition of outstanding ability. Use of steroids systematically robbed some clean players of the chance to get to the majors, of substantial amounts of money, of opportunities to be everyday players or to win awards. Such cheats not only debased the game and harmed the league, they also effectively were thieves. It is appropriate to draw the “character, sportsmanship and integrity” line somewhere. Yes, there have been other cheats who have been inducted into the Hall, but there are many problems with this argument: for one, its structure is the same… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
Dave, I understand your point but the fact is what you are citing is nothing but rumor and innuendo.  Unless you have some credentials to pronounce that certain injuries are specifically steroid-related, you are doing nothing but spouting uninformed opinion.  Michael Bacon, I’m so tired of the “Barry Bonds is an asshole so don’t let him in the HOF.”  I’m certainly willing to grant he is an asshole. He is not a nice guy.  But look at others in the HOF.  That Ty Cobb was a great guy for sure.  Mickey Mantle was an alcoholic and screwed everything in a… Read more »
bucdaddy
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bucdaddy
Oh, stop it. Not to stray too far off topic, but that throw didn’t sail to the backstop or go 20 feet up the first base line. That Bonds didn’t hit Lavalliere square in the chest but instead threw three or four feet to his right, on the run and under pressure? Jeebus, you have high standards. Bream was slow, but with two outs he’s running at the crack of the bat, no hesitation to see if the shortstop catches it or anything. And he just barely beat the throw anyway. No, it wasn’t a TERRIFIC throw, but cheeze, over… Read more »
grizzly
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grizzly

it doesnt matter how good his number were….he cheated.  period.  end of story.

Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano

Marc,
although I am acknowledging there are different viewpoints on such a topic, of course you’re welcome to insult my post as “uninformed opinion”, that’s the nature of such an online discussion. and of course too I say that’s your opinion, that’s where you’re coming from.

walt kovacs
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walt kovacs
wow…ryan hall is such a liar not only did bonds sign my broken bat…he set me up with some free passes to a downtown happy time massage parlor….i was 15….bonds made me a man he is god did bonds rob clean players of their rightful places in history? only if you are a noob and actually believe that the game has ever been clean…or fair for if i were to have switched aaron and mays and have aaron play the majority of his career at the stick…think he wouldve come close to 700? lets not forget the years mays lost… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
Dave, I don’t mean to insult you and I apologize.  I’m trying to understand the basis of your analysis of these injuries.  You say you are using “facts and my judgement.”  That’s fine-everyone is entitled to analyze something-but the problem is saying that certain injuries are related to steroids when you really don’t know.  It’s not like saying lung cancer is related to smoking-and even there, non-smokers get lung cancer.  I’m not saying you are wrong but it seems to me that people generally are making judgements as to whether players juiced based on factors that may not be relevant. … Read more »
obsessivegiantscompulsive
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obsessivegiantscompulsive
Dave, the blame for the steroids era clearly rests on the writers’ shoulders. If they really are mad about the cheating, then why didn’t they do more investigative work in the 1960’s and 70’s when amphetamine usage was highlighted by Ball Four and legal trials?  Speed was not illegal until the steroids hit the fan.  And this probably has been going on since WW II, when the government handed out greenies to troops like candy to keep them alert. Among the stakeholders, I would say blame goes mostly to the writers, who sat by for all these years, whether speed… Read more »
Dale Gribble
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Dale Gribble

I blame the media-blamers!

Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano
Oh puh-lease, the writers were supposed to clean this up? They were supposed to be the cops? They’re bit players in all this. It’s the Commissioner who is supposed to looking out for the ‘best interests of the game’. at one time the Commish was supposed to looking out for all stakeholders in the game, with Selig it’s morphed into being the owners’ rep only. You’re not being realistic. The writers need access, they lose access if they start outing everyone. They probably know a lot more than they can write, which then influences their voting. They didn’t report the… Read more »
Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano

I agree with Dale above, I blame the media-blamers. Nobody’s taken any responsibility for this mess (the only one I’ve heard stand up is Mark McGwire who said he’s ashamed, he wouldn’t vote for himself for HOF and he’s confessed to his young sons). here’s a good blog post which lays out that case…

http://bigdogsportsblog.com/baseball-hof-dont-look-to-the-writers-to-fix-it/

John Northey
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John Northey
Wow some people are nuts about Bonds.  Gambling is better than PED’s? Pretty dumb statement showing a total lack of understanding of history and evidence.  Gambling inside a sport can kill it – if you cannot trust that the score is due to people trying to win but instead due to what gamblers want then MLB is just pro-wrestling.  PED’s have been used from day one of baseball by anyone who could find them, be it monkey testicles (365 game winner Pud Galvin) or ‘greenies’ (anyone who played in the 60’s up to testing for it in 2005), or whatever… Read more »
Dave Graziano
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Dave Graziano
Hi Marc, Thanks for that. I’m not making claims from any professional standpoint, I gather facts from years of observation and these are strictly my opinions. We’re kept in the dark by and large and I guess I’ve learned that when you hear enough buzz there may be something to it… e.g. I know nothing about cycling but when I hear about Lance Armstrong gets testicular cancer at 25, wins his 1st Tour de France 3 yrs later, there’s all kinds of stories out there about failed tests…to use those cliches..where there’s smoke there’s fire, if it waddles and quacks… Read more »
Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
Mr. Schneider, I highly resent the fact that you, by implication, attribute to me “Barry Bonds is an asshole so don’t let him in the HOF.” I did not write that, sir. You did. You went on to write, “I’m certainly willing to grant he is an asshole.” I wrote only what I read in the NY Times magazine article that purports to be what Mr. Bonds said to the writer. It has been in print for over a decade. I have yet to read any rebuttal. What was in the man’s mind when he said it I can only… Read more »
Phil W.
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Phil W.
Maybe part of the reason so many fans, and BBWAA voters, have turned against Bonds is our dislike of hubris.  As Gross has so thoroughly recounted, Bonds was an exceptional player before his PED usage.  He could have let his career wind down for a few years, and coasted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, a wealthy and respected (if not universally beloved) man.  But the need to overtake lesser players like McGwire and Sosa—to convincingly prove that, by their enhanced yardsticks, he was greater than they were—proved too much. There may not be much rationality in… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
Mr. Bacon, I should acknowledge what you said about Cobb.  I recently read a biography and it suggests that while Cobb was a racist, he was not any more so than most southerners at the time.  So I will grant you that. But, my general point is that there are plenty of people in the HOF that were pretty lousy people.  You were the one that brought up the point about what Bonds supposedly said about his grandmother; I acknowledge Bonds is not much of a human being(I have some personal knowledge about that), but I don’t think it is… Read more »
Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
Mr. Schneider, Although I do not necessarily think a player has to be a “Five tool player” to be in the HOF, I do believe the only players who should be in are the ones about whom there is “No question” that he should be included. I have read, and listened, as a great many arguments have been promulgated as to whether or not different players should be included. It would seem that because many lesser players have been included many more lesser type players should now be included. That is like saying that because one has always beaten his… Read more »
Philip
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Philip
Jeffrey Gross wrote: “But here is the thing I feel that a lot of people forget. Barry Bonds was great before he allegedly took steroids.” Barry Bonds’ father Bobby was great before he tore up his knees, too. Joe Jackson was great before he allegedly agreed to help throw the 1919 World Series. Now before another argument starts about Jackson trying to lose and Bonds trying to win, I want to first point out the reason Joe Jackson is not in the Hall of Fame (or Pete Rose) is not because of the BBWAA (although for a time they could… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

hopbitters,

Thank you for that.  You learn something new every day.  I never realized Cobb had come out for letting African-Americans play.  I am really surprised that this is not better known considering Cobb’s reputation.  I don’t even recall it being mentioned in the Charles Alexander biography that I read recently-it certainly seems significant enough.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
I had always heard that Cobb was violently, patholgically racist.  However, I recently read a biography of Cobb that suggests that, while he was a racist, he was no more racist than most southerners or most Americans of his time.  This account seems to suggest that his run-in with African-Americans was not simply a matter of racism run amuck.  Having said that, I have never heard that he endorsed black players in MLB and I would find that rather startling.  It seems to me that almost certainly would have been noted in accounts of the integration of MLB. The biography… Read more »
hopbitters
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hopbitters

http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/7551754a

Later in life, but nonetheless.

Michael Bacon
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Michael Bacon
Mr. Schneider, You wrote, “And Detroit in the 1900s was, I suspect, not some liberal enclave as it appears Mr. Bacon thinks.” Never in my wildest dreams would I ever consider Detroit to be a “liberal enclave.” I have read everything in print on Ty Cobb. Although it has been a long time ago, it is in my memory that Ty was tormented when he first went to Detroit. I cannot give you chapter and verse, but it has been written that it contributed greatly to why he was like he was. I am not defending his behavior, which was… Read more »
hopbitters
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hopbitters

Not to get too off topic here, but has there ever been definitive research done on Cobb’s racism and violent proclivities? There are certainly numerous tales of both, but many of them seem rather apocraphyl. Also, I’m pretty sure he endorsed black players in MLB.

BK
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BK
lets just state a few facts. 1. Bonds was a Hall of Famer before steroids ever came in to question. 2. Whether he did or did not take them does everyone realize that athletes tend to gain weight as the get older and also with vitamins, things like whey powder and other normal workout things not to mention state of the art weight and training equipment its highly conceivable for a professional athlete, especially with their natural physique which is unlike your average moron reading this article or the people that vote on the hall of fame. That an athlete… Read more »
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