UPDATE: Even though last year the 10th and final attempt at getting voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY came up short for both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, with each falling about 9 percentage points short, all hope may not be lost yet. I know that there is still one more executive meeting of HOF Board or panel members, which could bring about exceptions that could potentially get one or both of these legends voted into the Hall, where they most certainly belong. I still believe that without the all-time leader in HR's, and a bona fide 300-game winner, both of whom graced the diamond for over two decades each, exemplifying most of the attributes that any parent would want their own children to emulate in terms of the way they played the game, would be a tremendous shame, and a loss for the game, and its history, something people tend to cherish most about baseball. Even though Bonds and Clemens were caught up in an era in which everyone was cheating for the most part, it is important to note that each had proven themselves to be hall-of-famers long before they were accused of taking steroids. Only time will tell, but for the sake of future generations, I certainly hope these two great legends of the game will not be forgotten, and their great accomplishments can finally be celebrated as they deserve to be.
***For most of us, it's hard to even contemplate, let alone believe or fathom that the all-time leader in any statistical category in any sport, wouldn't be a shoe-in for a first-ballot induction. Of course, when it comes to Major League Baseball, the steroids era has put an asterisk (*) next to many players' names and careers. But Bonds, really? His name alone is synonymous with the game of baseball, taking after his father Bobby, and his legendary uncle, Willie Mays. One could make the argument that there simply is NO GAME of baseball without Barry Bonds and his family. How can we continue to leave both he, and another legend of the game in Roger Clemens (who I won't talk about very much, but I believe is similar to Bonds in that he is an icon of the game), out of this most prestigious honor in Cooperstown. Again, Bonds IS baseball itself. Seven hundred sixty-two (762) home runs, the most in the history of the game. That speaks for itself, as does the 73 home runs he hit during the 2002 season, captivating everyone’s heart from coast-to-coast and in every city in between, while actually outdoing the chase between two baseball legends, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire from a few years earlier, in the process. Bottom line is, whether you liked his personality or not, Bonds DELIVERED.
But Barry Bonds was so much more than this when he showed up at the ballpark, and stood in the batter’s box, or took to the outfield. He was perfection personified, in everything he did. Perhaps more impressive than the home runs Bonds hit, was his slugging percentage, and of course his on-base percentage. Nobody in the history of the game had the eye at the plate, and the ability to make pitchers work the way #25 could. A constant base-stealing threat, and a perennial Golden-Glover on defense, Bonds was the ultimate adversary and competitor. The fact that he hit as many home runs as he did throughout his memorable career, almost pales in comparison with the fact that he was WALKED as many times as he was, usually intentionally, by managers who absolutely feared him so much at the plate, that they wouldn't even pitch to him. I remember going to an inter-league game against the Yankees at (the old) Yankee Stadium. My father and I watched the Yankees walk Bonds 5 times that day (4 intentionally)!! Do I have to say any more? This man had the BEST eye at the plate of anyone who has ever played the game. Steroids or not, there's a little thing in baseball called "hand-eye coordination." It isn't just strength. And no matter how Bonds' body may have changed over the years, especially when people talk about him being skinny when he was young, and much bigger towards the end of his career - who has that not happened to in life? I don't look like the skinny kid I was when I was 18 years-old either, do you? Of course not. Bonds' towering home runs often cleared the wall by a good 75 feet or more. These were not cheap home runs that just crept over the wall. My point is, that no steroid or amount of strength-inducer (or PED) would have caused this. These shots would have been home runs NO MATTER WHAT!
As I'm sure you can tell, I could go on and on about Bonds' credentials and phenomenal, record-breaking statistics all day, or until the cows come home. But I'll make this point with you, or perhaps it is a question if you will. Every Sunday night, we are forced to watch an admitted cheater like Alex Rodriguez, come into our homes as a commentator on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Rodriguez also challenged Bonds' mark, but fell well short with 696 home runs. He admitted to cheating, but he's allowed to be a household name? Roger Clemens, as we spoke of before, also admitted to having cheated. Bonds never did. But even if he did, the list of cheaters is so long that it included some of the great names in baseball history, including both McGuire and Sosa, Jose Canseco, (both Clemens and Rodriguez, and too many more to mention here), and even a guy like Rafael Palmeiro, which may have shocked me the most when I heard his name among the cheaters, because he wasn't even really a true power-hitter in his career, but he was "an average guy," often hitting around the .330 mark in his illustrious career. Do we really need to shame ALL of these players, for basically just following a trend that was prevalent not just for a year or two, but more like a decade or two in baseball history?
I say NO, especially when, like so often is the case in today's sports world, we selectively still glorify and pardon certain players like Alex Rodriguez (and probably McGuire and Conseco) over and over again, but we leave players like Bonds (and Sosa and Clemens) to lurk and loom in the shadows. This cannot be right. And especially with Bonds, who in my opinion, and I think would be the consensus choice of most baseball writers or anyone who knows anything about the game, was the greatest baseball player to ever put on the uniform. This is also all being said, despite the fact that probably more than half of Bonds' career was played before he was ever even accused of taking steroids (or PED's), something he has continued to deny he ever actually did, and so many of those HR's, RBI's, Stolen Bases, walks, and put-outs in the field, were definitively not recorded under any outside influence. Probably only the last four to five years of his 21-year career are even in question in the first place. Even his uncle, Willie Mays, a true baseball "old-timer", and one of the all-time greats of the game, knows that Bonds was his superior. Jackie Robinson, if he were alive today, would probably concur as well, just as the previous home run king in Henry Aaron did, as Bonds was eclipsing his mark in 2007.
In conclusion, this is a NO BRAINER! Put Barry Bonds, the game's all-time home run leader, all-time single season HR leader, walks leader, the only player to record 40 HR's and 40 stolen bases in a single season, 7-time NL MVP, 14-time all-star, 8-time Gold Glove and 12-time Silver Slugger award winner (www.baseball-almanac.com), and one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game, in the Hall ASAP!! Come on now, really? Just as we would never dream of leaving Drew Brees or Dan Marino out of the football Hall of Fame in Canton, despite having only 1 championship between them - something Bonds never managed to accomplish - we cannot leave Bonds out of Cooperstown, steroid era or not! To further bolster this argument, Bonds even broke his long-time critics' curse of not hitting well in the post-season, to lead the Giants to within inches of winning it all in a memorable playoff run in which he fell just short to the Angels in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. A post-season in which, in 74 plate appearances that postseason, he reached base 43 times, had eight homers, scored 18 runs, and had 16 RBI's. He hit .356, and his OBP was .581, while slugging a whopping .978! (www.mccoveychronicles.com) I'd say that was something to behold, and be remembered, and shut the mouths of all of these critics. The man is a LEGEND, he IS baseball, he thrilled all of us for over two decades in the game, and he is a GOOD man and father, despite all the differences he may have had with the press. These differences, in my opinion, only added to his greatness because of all the constant pressure and scrutiny he was under, and by persevering through it all with dignity and class (if not always grace), so he undoubtedly deserves his place among the game's all-time greats! Let's give him that vote before it is too late! He is not just a San Francisco legend, his an ALL-TIME baseball legend!!