There are only two kinds of people in this world. The first group are those that think Barry Bonds is a disgraced cheater that should never step foot near a baseball field again. The second group are those that, despite the cheating, consider Bond’s talent too immense to ignore. I fall in the latter category.
Don’t get me wrong, regardless of whether or not you want to argue if PED’s made baseball better, Bond’s cheated, and there’s really no way to acquit him of that. What he did was immoral, unfair, and villainous… but did it really make that much of a difference on Bond’s overall career?
Every now and then, I go down the rabbit hole of looking through Barry Bonds career numbers on baseball reference — and the numbers make me laugh every time. Bonds didn’t just dominate the league, he owned it. He owned Bud Selig, he owned the Pirates and the Giants, and most importantly he owned every single pitcher he ever went up against. The numbers he put up will never be duplicated, and in this article we’ll take a look at some of Bonds most absurd feats at the plate.
Bonds career can basically be split up into two subsections — the first being before 1999 when he was steroid free and the second being anytime after the 1999 season when he was a roided-out juice head. Although many of the asinine numbers come in the second half of his career, many people don’t understand that if Bonds would have theoretically retired following the 1998 season, he’d be a surefire hall-of-famer.
Over 13 seasons from age 21 to 33, Bonds slashed .290/.411/.556, good for an OPS of .966 — which would’ve put Bonds at 15th on the all-time career OPS leaderboard. He was worth 100 WAR by the time he was 33 — which would’ve already put him at 31st all-time in that category. His career OPS+ up to that point was 164. Generational talents like Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Altuve have never sniffed that in even a single season. Bryce Harper and Mookie Betts have done it only once. In that span, Bonds also averaged 35 HR’s, 104 RBI’s, and 38 stolen bases over 162 games and was a 3x MVP. I think you get the point; a clean Barry Bonds was basically Mike Trout before Mike Trout.
Things become truly laughable following the 1998 season. From 1999 until his retirement following the 2007 season, Bonds slashed .316/.505/.712 — good for a video game-esque OPS of 1.217 and an OPS+ of 214. In 2004, his OPS was 1.422, and his on-base-percentage was .609 — Barry Bonds literally got on base six out of every ten at bats in the best baseball league in the world. In 2002, Bonds OPS+ was 268; Wellington Castillo, Jose Rondon, Charlie Tilson, Yonder Alonso, and Yolmer Sanchez have combined for an OPS+ of 282 in 2019 for the Chicago Whitesox. Only nine players in MLB history have three MVP’s. Between 2001 and 2004, Bonds won four consecutive MVP awards — bringing his career total to 7. The only active players with multiple are Albert Pujols (3), Mike Trout (2), and Miguel Cabrera (2).
You see the numbers and shake your head. Then there are the irrelevant fun-facts that take it to the next level.
- In his career, Bonds went a combined 17-41 with 5 HR’s off of Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, and Roy Oswalt.
- Barry Bonds had 688 career intentional walks — since the inception of the Tampa Bay Rays in 1998, the organization has only 605.
- The next closest to Bonds in career intentional walks is Albert Pujols — with 292.
- In 2004, Bonds had only 373 official at-bats… but reached base 376 times.
- Bonds had an OPS+ of 150 during 18 consecutive seasons — Mike Trout is the next closest active player with 8 consecutive seasons.
The moral of the story here is that, although Bonds may have cheated his way to the top, his talent cannot be ignored. It is foolish for people to pretend like Bonds wouldn’t have been an all-time great if he hadn’t taken steroids. What happened with Bonds is the case of the best player in the league taking steroids. It would basically be modern day Mike Trout taking steroids. Regardless, steroids only make you stronger; they don’t teach you how to hit, and they don’t teach you how to work an at-bat.
Baseball is a business, and it’s about entertaining the people who watch it. Bonds did just that and more, and that’s proven by the fact we still talk about him and will continue to talk about him for the rest of baseball history. Should he make the Hall of Fame? Probably. Will he? Probably not. Regardless of whether he does or not, the fact that he is the greatest hitter of all time will probably never be taken from him — unless Mike Trout continues to do what he is doing now for the next 12 years.