Jaffe: JAWS and the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot: Barry Bonds

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at SI.com on December 19, 2014:

If Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time, then the same goes for Barry Bonds as a position player. Babe Ruth played in a time before integration and Ted Williams bridged the pre- and post-integration eras, and while both were dominant at the plate, neither was much to write home about on the base paths or in the field. Bonds’ godfather, Willie Mays, was a big plus in both of those areas, but didn’t dominate opposing pitchers to the same extent. Bonds used his blend of speed, power and surgical precision with regard to the strike zone to outdo them all, setting the single-season home run record with 73 in 2001 and the all-time home run record with 762 through 2007, reaching base more often than any player this side of Pete Rose and winning seven MVP awards along the way.

Despite his claim to greatness, Bonds may have inspired more fear and loathing than any ballplayer in modern history. Opposing pitchers and managers simply refused to engage him at his peak, intentionally walking him a record 688 times — once with the bases loaded — and walking him a total of 2,558 times, also a record. And even as a young player, he rubbed teammates and media the wrong way and approached the game with a chip on his shoulder because of the way his father, three-time All-Star Bobby Bonds, had been driven from the game due to alcoholism.

As he aged, media and fans turned against Barry Bonds once evidence — most of it illegally leaked to the media by anonymous sources — mounted that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during the latter part of his career. With his name in the headlines more regarding his legal situation than his on-field exploits, his pursuit and eclipse of Hank Aaron’s 33-year-old home run record turned into a joyless drag, and he disappeared from the majors soon afterward despite ranking among the game’s most dangerous hitters even at age 43. Only this past spring did he even make his debut as a guest instructor at spring training.

Read the full article here: http://www.si.com/mlb/2014/12/19/jaws-2015-hall-of-fame-ballot-barry-bonds

Originally published: December 19, 2014. Last Updated: December 19, 2014.