SF Giants: How should history judge Barry Bonds in the future?

Former SF Giants player Barry Bonds - (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Pool via Getty Images)
Former SF Giants player Barry Bonds - (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Pool via Getty Images) /

How will former SF Giants outfielder Barry Bonds be judged by history?

Barry Bonds was one of the most dominant hitters in the history of the game in his years with the SF Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Despite his greatness, Bonds has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame due to suspicions of performance-enhancing drug usage late in his career.

Whether Bonds ever finds his way to Cooperstown or if he is destined for eternal exile with Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, and others, few should doubt just how good of a hitter he indeed was.

Imagine 80 years into the future, when the Steriods Era of baseball is a long-distant memory, a mere footnote in time. Some statistical hungry baseball fan will be looking through historical numbers and stumble upon Bonds’ stat page and notice the 2001-2004 seasons and will immediately be blown away.

Barry Bonds should be judged as an all-time great, no matter his indiscretions.

Take a gander at the stat page for Sandy Koufax. Everyone knows how great of a career Koufax had but how many people realize that he was barely average his first six years and otherworldly his last six? When you see the last six seasons, though, the numbers just grab you with their greatness!

Unlike Koufax’s rise to baseball god status, Bonds was a Hall of Fame candidate before the 2001 season. In his 15 seasons, he had accumulated  2,157 hits, 494 home runs, 1,584 runs scored, 1,405 RBI, 1,547 walks, 451 doubles, and 471 stolen bases. His career slash at that point was .289/.412/.567/.979.

He was a three-time MVP, with two more runner-up finishes. He already had shelved eight Gold Glove awards and eight Silver Sluggers. He had played in nine all-star games. His career to that point was basically that of Andre Dawson’s whole career, only better.

Then came one of the most remarkable stretches of hitting in baseball history. Even if it is conceded these numbers are inflated by PED use, the stats are still incredible when compared to his Steroid Era peers.

In those four years with the SF Giants, Bonds AVERAGED(!!!):

  • 143 hits
  • 122 runs scored
  • 110 RBI
  • 52 home runs
  • 28 doubles
  • 189 walks
  • 71 intentional walks
  • 9 stolen bases

His slash line over those four campaigns — .349/.559/.809/1.368 — is simply stunning. In 2004, he walked 232 times, and more than half (120) were intentional. In that season, he broke his mark in on-base percentage of .582 set two years earlier by reaching base at a clip of .609. His .812 slugging percentage was fourth all-time behind his unbreakable record of .863, set in 2001 and two monster Babe Ruth seasons.

His OPS of 1.422 was the highest ever, again breaking his previous two highs set in 2001 and 2002.  Unsurprisingly, he added four more MVP awards to the mantle, and let’s not forget setting the single-season home run record at 73 in 2001.

Barry Bonds had an earlier four-year stretch that was pretty incredible.

Dismiss those four seasons if you like. There are plenty of reasons to do so. Consider this, however. A decade earlier, Bonds produced another four-year stretch that was phenomenal.

Here are his averages for the seasons 1990-1993, the last with the Giants:

  • 158 hits
  • 109 runs scored
  • 114 RBI
  • 35 home runs
  • 34 doubles
  • 113 walks
  • 29 intentional walks
  • 41 stolen bases

His slash was .310/.433/.595/1.028. He won his other three MVP awards in those seasons and finished second the other year. He earned a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger all of those seasons as well.

If you looked at the second set of stats first, you would be floored at how good they are. In fact, he averaged more hits, doubles, RBI, and stolen bases in the early nineties than he did during his later tear through the league.

More Barry Bonds greatness

For all the talks of steroids late in his career, Bonds only led the league in home runs twice. He only topped the RBI and runs scored charts once each.

He did, however, lead the league in a lot of categories multiple times.

  • batting average twice
  • on-base percentage 10 times
  • slugging percentage seven times
  • OPS nine times, and finished over .999 nine other times
  • walks 12 times
  • intentional walks 12 times
  • wins above replacement 11 times (positional players) )

He is the all-time leader in home runs, walks (and it’s not even close), and intentional walks (and it’s REALLY not close). He’s fourth all-time in WAR, sixth in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, third in runs scored, sixth in RBI, 17th in doubles, and 34th in stolen bases.

Many of these numbers will hold up over time. He might slip down a list here and there, but it is doubtful baseball will ever see too many players of his talent again. In 80 years, when people study stats, and the Steroid Era is just a paragraph in the history of baseball, Barry Bonds will stand out as a statistical marvel.

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It is time to let the past rest. Barry Bonds has done his time in baseball jail. Put the man in the Hall of Fame where he belongs!