Barry Bonds Belongs In the Baseball Hall of Fame
As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I am proud to see one my favorite players, Greg Maddux, inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Maddux will join his former teammate Tom Glavine and White Sox slugger Frank Thomas in the Class of 2014.
Not surprisingly, the Hall of Fame voters continue to punish Barry Bonds for his steroid use. In fact, Bonds received fewer votes this year than last, finishing with only 34.7% of the vote, far short of the 75% required for induction. While there is little doubt that Performance Enhancing Drugs inflated his all time home run record, I believe Bonds is still worthy of baseball's highest honor.
Don't get me wrong. Steroids re-wrote the record books. Players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza would not have been all stars, let alone Hall of Fame candidates, without PEDs. However, Bonds was the best player in baseball long before he started juicing.
Prior to 1998, when it is widely believed that Bonds began using steroids, Bonds was the only man in baseball history to ever hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases. And they've been playing baseball for a long time. He also had 3 MVP awards to his credit along with 8 Gold Gloves and nearly 2,000 hits. His pre-steroid numbers would surely merit enshrinement.
Not only did Bonds have Hall of Fame numbers before using PED's, he was the best all around player of his era. In fact, Bonds is the best player in my lifetime. I had the chance to see him take batting practice once, several years before his alleged steroid use began, and it was the most impressive display of hitting I've ever seen.
I still remember it vividly. He lined the first pitch down the left field line, then lined the next pitch to left center, then center, then right center, then he pulled one down the right field line. Then he did it again. The man literally placed the ball in different parts of the outfield with pin point accuracy. It reminded me of a sprinkler watering the field. After hitting sharp line drives all over the park, he used his final 3 batting practice pitches to aim for the fences. First he hit one on the right field stands, then center, then left field. Never before, and certainly not since, have I seen a hitter put on a show like that.
Yes, he cheated. And yes, there should be an asterisk next to his single season and lifetime home run records. But based on his statistics before he decided to join a long list of sluggers who were using steroids, he deserves to be in Cooperstown. And so does Roger Clemens. And Pete Rose.