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Demilio: Pirates Hall of Fame is Nice Honor But Barry Bonds Deserves More

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Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh Pirates

Barry Bonds received a well-deserved honor when it was announced he would be welcomed into the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame class of 2024.

Bonds was the headline of three inductees alongside his former manager Jim Leyland and two-time World Series champion catcher Manny Sanguillén. 

The Pirates selected Bonds with the sixth pick in the 1985 draft and he went on to have one of the more prolific careers in a black and gold uniform in franchise history.

Bonds spent seven seasons with the Pirates from 1986-92 and was a member of the teams that won three-straight National League East titles during his final three years in Pittsburgh.

The statistics? Impressive would be an understatement. He finished his Pirates’ tenure with a .275/.380/.503 slash, which equated to a 147 OPS+. He’s the only Pirates’ player with two Most Valuable Player awards, was named to a pair of All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger awards to go along with three Gold Gloves. 

On the Pirates’ all-time leaderboards, Bonds ranks fifth in home runs with 176 and is sixth in steals with 251. He’s the only Pirate to have at least 175 home runs and 200 stolen bases. 

Following the Pirates’ loss to the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series, Bonds signed a record-setting six-year contract worth $43.75 million with the San Francisco Giants.

Though his time in San Francisco was clouded by steroid speculation, Bonds emerged as the undisputed best player of his generation. The case could easily be made that Bonds is the best player to ever play the game of baseball. 

In total between his time with the Pirates and Giants, Bonds played 22 seasons and is the game’s all-time leader in home runs with 762. The most feared hitter of his time – and possibly ever – Bonds drew 2,558 walks, 368 more than anyone else. 688 of those walks were intentional, more than double anyone else in the history of the game. Bonds was even famously walked intentionally with the bases loaded, showing you the terror he instilled in opposing teams. 

Bonds’ historic career ended with a whopping seven MVP awards. He was an All-Star 14 times, won 12 Silver Sluggers and eight Gold Gloves.

Even with the steroid allegations, I still think Barry Bonds deserves a spot in Cooperstown. 

Bonds fell off the ballot in his final year of eligibility during the 2022 cycle. Nearly two-thirds of voters had Bonds on their ballots, but he came up short of the necessary 75% threshold.

While he didn’t get enough support to be inducted, there are plenty of others who share the same opinion as me. Here is my rationale. 

The first and most obvious reason is that the resume speaks for itself. It’s almost hard to comprehend how good Bonds was over the course of his career. His 182 OPS+ indicates that he was nearly DOUBLE as good as the league-average during his time in the big leagues. Even as a 42-year-old in his final season, Bonds led baseball with 132 walks and a .480 on-base percentage to go with a 1.045 OPS.

The impact he had on the game is – without exaggerating – unmatched. His intentional walks record is up there with Cal Ripken’s ironman run and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak as the most unbreakable records in the game. I have a hard time believing anyone will reach base at a higher rate than Bonds did in 2004 when he posted a .609 OBP, and yes, you read that number correctly. 

Moreover, there are other players in Cooperstown who have been suspected of steroid use, including David Ortiz, who reportedly tested positive in 2003. Iván Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell, both of whom were inducted in the 2017 class, are two others who have been suspected of using performance enhancing drugs as players.

No disrespect to any of those three players, they were all inducted because of excellent careers. However, the statistics of all three pale in comparison to what Bonds did.

If other players who have been linked to steroids in one way or another already have plaques, why doesn’t one of the game’s all-time greats?

I get the controversy, but given his accolades and Cooperstown’s non-perfect purity, Barry Bonds deserves to be enshrined. 

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