Columnists, Sports

Eastbound and Down: You can’t spell Baseball Hall of Fame without Bonds

Last week, the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were announced to the public, as Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman were all immortalized in Cooperstown.

However, baseball’s all-time home run leader and one of the sport’s best all-around athletes was left off the list for the sixth consecutive year. Once again, Barry Bonds was unable to garner more than 57 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s (BBWAA) vote.

Though Bonds saw a somewhat steady climb in Hall of Fame votes in his first five years of eligibility, a mere 2.6 percentage increase this past year indicates that Bonds is unlikely to receive a spot in Cooperstown.

With only four more eligible years in Hall of Fame voting, Bonds would need to accumulate over 20 percent more votes to be granted entrance into Cooperstown.

Baseball “purists” will argue that there is no place in the Hall of Fame for a cheater like Barry Bonds, whose numbers skyrocketed after his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs in the early 2000s. In the 2001 season, Bonds broke the single-season home run record with 73 after finishing the 2000 season with only 49.

Bonds’ numbers in 2001 were stunning. The left fielder made drastic improvements in almost every statistical category from the past season, warranting suspicion from skeptics and baseball fans alike. While his talent was undeniable, the sharp uptick in his numbers was not.

In the following years, more and more information rose to the surface about Bonds’ abnormal 2001 season, turning skepticism into reality that Bonds had violated Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Policy with the use of steroids.

However, Bonds’ statistics leading up to the 2001 season alone merit Hall of Fame consideration. By 1999, Bonds stood alone as the only player in history to hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases. Need I say more?

To be viewed as a Hall of Famer, maybe it’s possible that Bonds should not be viewed as the “Home Run King.” Maybe he shouldn’t even be remembered as the hitter who amassed nearly 700 intentional walks over the course of his career.

I know it seems counterintuitive, but maybe Bonds should not be judged on the best years of his career (2001 and 2002). Instead, Bonds should be remembered as one of the best five-tool players to ever play the game regardless of his drug use.

In addition, the number of players in Cooperstown with tainted resumés because of cheating is astounding. Legends like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle have all been linked to amphetamine use. World Series Champion Hank Greenberg hired scouts to sit in center field to steal signs and inform teammates of what was coming. Cooperstown is also certainly lined with pitchers who have utilized the spitball.

I’m not saying amphetamine use, stealing signs or using the spitball is equivalent to steroid use, nor am I saying that those who have partaken should be excluded from the Hall of Fame. I am saying, however, that cheating is not what Cooperstown is truly concerned with. It’s the efficacy of the cheater that is truly being evaluated.

Since Bonds’ performance improved so drastically after his alleged use of steroids, his place in Cooperstown does not and probably will not exist. Although, other players who may not have broken the rules with as much success as Bonds remain in the Hall of Fame, legacies unblemished.

Maybe it’s fitting that an asterisk be next to Bonds’ name in Cooperstown to acknowledge his offenses. I have no problem with Bonds’ title of “Home Run King” being revoked, but I do have a problem with Bonds’ name being left out of the Hall of Fame completely.

I urge the Baseball Hall of Fame and members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to consider the hypocrisy that lies within Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Policy, and leave a spot for the best hitter I’ve ever seen play the game.

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