Barry Bonds is Inching Towards the Hall of Fame- What Does This Mean?
Although the Baseball Writers Association of America did not make it official on Wednesday night, it made a clear decision regarding the future of Cooperstown: Barry Bonds is going to be a Hall of Famer.
Bonds received a vote from 53.8% of the writers, a major uptick from the 44.3% he received a year ago and the 36.8% he received the year before that. This momentum makes it obvious that Bonds will eventually receive the required 75% to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
On the surface, Bonds may be the greatest hitter the game has ever seen. But a fair look into Bonds’ legacy requires a much deeper examination, one that goes far beyond the 762 home runs and .298 career batting average. A fair look into Bonds’ legacy requires us to look within and ask a simple question- where do we separate the ethics of sports and life?
No matter how vehemently Bonds denies the allegations (the word allegations is used loosely, as it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that Bonds used steroids) surrounding the legitimacy of his gaudy statistics, we know the truth.
We know that Bonds is a liar.
We know that Bonds is a cheater.
We know that Bonds and his fragile ego could not overcome the immature jealousy of watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battle for home run crowns.
We know that his hat size grew, his numbers inflated, and his pride shriveled.
And we know that Bonds took our game- and its audience- for idiots, manipulating the natural beauty of baseball in favor of artificial success.
But still, Bonds seems destined for Cooperstown. In an article for The Mercury News, Andrew Baggarly does a terrific job of detailing Bonds’ voting ascension.
As Baggarly points out, the voting electorate for the Hall of Fame is becoming younger. Previously, once a BBWAA member was granted voting privileges, that right was retained for life. Now, a writer must have been actively covering baseball within the last ten years. Younger voters may not hold steroid allegations in the same regard as an old-school electorate.
Baggarly also argues that as time lends perspective, the writers are becoming aware of the fact that there are almost certainly steroid users already in the Hall of Fame. Mike Piazza was inducted last year and Ivan Rodriguez will be inducted next summer.
Baggarly also goes on to note that as former Commissioner Bud Selig is slated for induction next year, it becomes hypocritical to not enshrine the players from which he benefited.
So, what does this mean?
It seems as if this accentuates the different standards to which we hold our athletes and our average citizens. Bonds’ eventual enshrinement into the Hall of Fame says that we do not care if our athletes cheat, lie, and manipulate. We simply care if they entertain.
And who can argue that Bonds didn’t entertain?
In 2001, Bonds began a streak of four consecutive National League MVP awards by smacking 73 home runs in a single season.
The following year, Bonds displayed incredible on base skills, batting .370 with a .582 on base percentage.
Even in his 22nd and final season, Bonds was a dangerous power threat, sending 28 balls over the fence.
With Bonds, it’s not his ability to entertain that we question, it’s the authenticity of his feats.
A discussion on Bonds naturally lends itself to a number of fascinating tangents. Bonds is the perfect examination of the American view on the significance of sports.
Are we supposed to condemn Bonds as a cheater, knowing that his use of performance enhancing drugs inflated his statistics for much of his career?
Or should we honor Bonds while recognizing that he was part of an era that cultivated an acceptance, perhaps even a reliance, on the use of PED’s.
How are we to compare Bonds to the legends of the game? Is he the true home run king? Is it Hank Aaron? Can we debate the greatness of Bonds alongside Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams- or should Bonds be ostracized like McGwire and Sosa?
With five years left on the ballot, the BBWAA is moving closer to its own decision. It feels that Bonds belongs with the game’s greats. Eventually, Bonds will receive a plaque and a parade in Cooperstown, celebrating his accomplishments, and placing him side by side with the greatest players that baseball has ever seen.
The Hall of Fame is littered with suspect personalities. After all, Ty Cobb was an established bigot who once fought a crippled man in the stands. But despite his inexcusable character, Cobb played the game hard and clean. He did not cheat baseball like Bonds.
Bonds played us for fools with impurity and disrespect. Soon, the BBWAA will express that it doesn’t care.