The hardest thing to do in all of sports is hit a 95 mph fastball, when you don’t know what’s coming. To do that consistently, a person’s skill level must be better than 99% of the world’s population every single game.
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But then to have that consistency, and do it at a level that has never been seen before. That’s taking it to the next level. That’s some otherworldly stuff, that’s what Barry Bonds did.
Bonds was a surly character, for sure. I didn’t know him, and I was too young to understand his persona at first. I just liked the way he played.
His first season with the San Francisco Giants was like a perfect handshake. The team was on the rise, and Bonds wanted to come home. Although many will raise the question as to whether it became Barry’s team after the 1993 season, the inability to bring back Will Clark really hurt the balance of the lineup. As well as in the clubhouse.
There would have been that veteran outspoken guy who would have kept the clubhouse in check. But only with the ownership’s backing, and I think it was hard to have that at that time.
But Bonds was an absolute beast through 1998, and had a .290 average with 411 home runs, 1216 RBI’s and 445 stolen bases up to the end of that year. Take a look at these numbers: .297, 399 home runs, 1582 RBI’s and 137 stolen bases.
Those numbers are the career numbers of the great Al Kaline. Who is in the Hall of Fame. So if Bonds was comparable in numbers to that point, he is already in.
Some will say that the game was devastated by performance-enhancing drugs. I say that the game moves on when you allow it to. Once all of the steroid issues are put to bed, the talk will die down.
So as far as getting over this “horrible” era, it is time to recognize those that still provided joy on a nightly basis.
Were you cheated that moment in July when you were at a game and Bonds hit one out? No, you cheered too. It was because he was doing it for the Giants.
Believe me, I understand the feeling of disappointment towards a player who borrowed our baseball hearts for a few years. He was our Zeus. He was the man that everyone came out to see, he was Stephen Curry before we knew what a Stephen Curry was. But he did whatever he did.
And whatever that was, he will be the one to live with it not us. Why pile on a human being when all they were trying to do was be the best? Whether you steal signs, doctor the ball, or cork a bat, you are always trying to get an advantage.
What if in the near future there is a ban on wood bats because we no longer can cut down trees? Will we then say that the players in the new “graphite-bat” era are not equal to those in ye olde wood bat era?
The point here is that the competition is the competition. You still must do things on the field that make you better than everyone else. And I understand the effects of steroids, and what it can do to the body. But I have never once heard about a study that linked using performance enhancing drugs to perfectly guessing what a pitcher is going to throw, where it will be thrown, and how hard he is going to throw it.
Where is the science that says that? Because without that, there is no way in the world that Barry Bonds could have taken anything that should have given him the ability to Jedi-mind trick the pitcher into throwing what he wanted him to.
Bonds just had an innate ability to guess right, and adjust to the pitch better than anyone. His home runs went far, and that was a huge lure at the time. Just as people go to see Curry dribble and shoot form half court before games now, people went to watch a Barry Bonds batting practice. (Some people could even go home after it and have been satisfied some days.)
So Bonds becomes the poster boy for the era. Not necessarily because he wasn’t cordial with the media, but it didn’t help. But it was mainly because he maximized whatever it was that propelled him, and became the best player of his time.
I want to finalize this by saying I do not condone performance enhancing drugs, but will not cast stones at someone who I rooted for for 15 years. He didn’t betray me.
Bonds was our Incredible Hulk. If we had him on our team, we were safe. But if he was on the other side we would have hated his guts. He was a Giant through and through, from his Dad to his Godfather. He is the greatest home run hitter in the history of the game.
And he should be in the Hall of Fame.