Barry Bonds’ Hall Of Fame Chances Improve In 2016


Shunned by voters since his eligibility began, Barry Bonds saw his chances to be inducted into the Hall of Fame improve in 2016.

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Essentially shunned by the baseball writers over the years despite being the all-time home run leader, San Francisco Giants‘ legend Barry Bonds Hall of Fame chances saw an encouraging shift in 2016.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were the only two voted into the Hall of Fame class of 2016. Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds finished eighth and outside the required number for induction, but his numbers went up a surprising 7.5%. More encouragingly, writers have been openly public on the notion of including Bonds and others after a quick reaction to players from the “Steroid Era”.

Born into a baseball family whose father played for the Giants, having a godfather by the name of Willie Mays, and being one of the game’s most feared hitters, Bonds has been spoiled by the game of baseball. But he put in the work to be the great player he was — even though PED’s may have been in play later in his career.

Bonds skill set was so unique, the hand-eye coordination was on a level of its own and rarely did he strike out. Pitchers feared him and being intentionally walked irritated him. He knew he was good, and the ego only seemed to grow as he donned a Giants uniform.

Jun 28, 2015; Sonoma, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants former player Barry Bonds looks on before the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 28, 2015; Sonoma, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants former player Barry Bonds looks on before the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /

As baseball looked like it was heading for a downturn in popularity, fellow National League sluggers — and suspected steroid users — Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, stole the show and put baseball back in the driver’s seat.

The famous home run chase of 1998 is one of the major moments in the last couple decades of baseball, and Bonds was not a part of that.

Already having what appeared to be a Hall of Fame career in the works, Bonds appeared to enlarge in size and his power numbers grew much later into his career. As Sosa was posting 60 plus plus home run seasons — and the then record of 70 set by McGwire — Bonds surpassed Roger Maris and him both, finishing with 73 in 2001.

The homers hit to right center electrified baseball in AT&T Park and fans around, as the questions of enhancement were not as important at the time. Baseball had something to root for again.

When the Mitchell Report and the BALCO scandal rolled around in the middle 2000s, it forever changed baseball and the view fans had of some of the greatest players of this generation. Roger Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Andy Pettitte, and others were the main culprits outside of Jose Canseco , who was the first to come out publicly about his steroid abuse.

As for Bonds who’s godfather was the great Mays and meant everything to the Giants’ franchise, it was an embarrassing time for Bonds. For the writers and rest of baseball, there were lots of questions about why someone as talented as Bonds needed to use performance enhancing drugs.

Jealousy of the attention Sosa and McGwire received for their exploits? The desire to be the highest paid and all-time leader in home runs? Whatever the reason, Bonds’ ego got the best of him and it led to losing the credibility accrued over historic career. With no failed test on record though, their is no physical evidence that he cheated, but there is enough circumstantial evidence and public statements to use the eye test and see that something was not adding up.

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In 2004, Bonds testified before a jury in the wake of the BALCO scandal in which his trainer was believed to be part of a steroid ring. Bonds went on to testify that he unknowingly used steroids as creams and colorless substances that were given to him by his trainer. Being named in the scandal and never publicly admitting a wrong doing, could be the two things that are keeping Bonds out of Cooperstown.

Sports today is very forgiving and generally speaking, apologies for any misdeeds are enough to get back on the good side of organizations and their fan bases. Bonds had a rough time with the media as his gruff demeanor and bad attitude often led to him clashing with reporters. Could that be hindering the voters thought process as well?

Whether Bonds used PED’s or not, he is still seen as one of the best hitters the game has ever seen but the writers have so far, expressed their desire to keep him and others out of the Hall of Fame. The baseball writers association is separate from Major League Baseball and they have their own rules are set in place.

Since Bonds is recognized as one of the greats, why is he not in the Hall of Fame? From a pure baseball standpoint, the numbers would seem to suggest an automatic induction. But the integrity of the game to gain a competitive advantage will forever cloud who he was and what he did.

The problem with barring suspected users from the Hall of Fame is that there could be users already in the Hall that were undetected or were not tested at the right time. Before steroids, there were performance enhancers called “greenies”. Greenies were an amphetamine that reportedly, helped enhance an athlete’s performance.

MLB Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, wrote a book in 2006 and went on to explain that greenies were around the game and most clubhouses. In 2006, MLB started cracking down on amphetamines and Schmidt went on to explain “If you were to put Commissioner Bud Selig under oath, he would have to admit that he has known about amphetamines for 36 years, ever since he took a baseball team to Milwaukee in 1970.”

Schmidt went on to explain that they were very much available in clubhouses and MLB commissioners prior to Selig failed to do anything about it. With steroids though, it seems everyone is comfortable with punishing athletes today when those in the past had an unfair advantage and have gotten off scot free. Some who could already be sporting a plaque in Cooperstown.

Once again, it is the writers who are in charge of voting, but they seemed to have changed their tune when steroids became a problem. They are now on the side of the opposition who think the players tarnished the game. Enhancement has been around the game of baseball for quite some time. However, steroids may have helped save baseball despite being frowned upon.

While it is hard to crack down on those who abused performance enhancers, it is hard to catch them all. So why target them at all? That is something the writers need to figure out. It would be a double standard to pass on those already in the Hall who might have had tainted numbers.

For Bonds and others, do they have a shot of getting into the Hall of Fame?

A good portion of writers around today were there years ago when the Mitchell Report was released and when these athletes were playing. It would most likely take a sudden change of heart or an influx new writers and voters to get Bonds and Clemens — who appear the most likely of the suspected users — to get into the Hall with six years of eligibility left and approaching 50% of votes.

If there is one thing that is risky and a positive for Bonds, it is his involvement in the game once again. Under a contract. The Miami Marlins hired Bonds to be their hitting coach after years of helping players on the side — most notably the Giants during spring training, Alex Rodriguez, and Dexter Fowler.

McGwire faced scrutiny in the first season that he was the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals — but since then has been welcomed back as a coach. McGwire had the home runs, but was nowhere near the type of player Bonds was. That same initial scrutiny could be in the works as the first game of 2016 approaches.

Bonds’ intelligence about the game can be credited to growing up in clubhouses with his father, Bobby Bonds, who played for eight teams in his career. Griffey Jr. had the same upbringing with his father. Whether Bonds can handle being a hitting coach for the team and not focused on a single player remains to be seen in 2016, but it will be an intriguing story to watch.

But getting back in baseball couldn’t have been a better thing for Bonds to regain his popularity and work on polishing his image.

Next: San Francisco Giants: Johnny Cueto Should Return to Form in 2016

It is a shame to not see the greatest hitter of our time since Babe Ruth inducted yet. Hopefully, one day it can be corrected by the writers who once covered him. 762 home runs, 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits, 2,227 runs scored, 1.051 OPS, and 2,558 walks are extraordinary and the numbers of a legend. Cheaters will be cheaters, but they still have to perform on a consistent basis. And Bonds brought that every season.

Based on the eye test and the statistics, there is no doubt that Bonds is a Hall of Famer. Becoming the hitting coach for the Marlins and the little uptick in his Hall of Fame voting have been two important moments already for Bonds in 2016, and it is encouraging that he may be enshrined at some point in the next six years of his remaining eligibility.