posted on Nov, 9 2005 @ 08:34 PM
Thank you, Toejam, for opening this post.
Toejam and I had a brief exchange some time ago under a topic concerning the great, but greatly overrated, Roberto Clemente. I wrote about where Gary
Sheffield would rate among all-time right fielders (very high), were it not for the fact he has "a cloud the size of Romania" hanging over him about
steroid use. From there, I went on to say that I was absolutely convinced McGwire, Sosa and Bonds used steroids in their wonder-seasons, and that
NOBODY gets magically twice as huge and three times as good after his 35th birthday, like Bonds did.
I then said that I would draw a big difference between Bonds, whom I despise as much as anybody does, and McGwire or Sosa. McGwire or Sosa I would
bar from the Hall, because if you take away their tainted feats, there ain't much left. But although Bonds suddenly got magically better in the 2000
season, and then exponentially better in 2001, he was already a first-round Hall of Famer on the basis of his accomplishments through 1999, as
explained in Bill James' gigantic treatise on the greatest players of all time, which serendipitously was written after the 1999 season and ranked
Bonds 14th among MLB players all time.
I went on to say that Bonds was unique in this regard, but that as much as I despise him, I'd vote for him in his first year of eligibility, based on
his outstanding accomplishments through 1999. Toejam replied we have no reliable way of knowing exactly when Bonds began juicing.
I don't agree with that, because I live in TRUE Northern California, about 75 or 80 miles from Oregon, and I watch Giants' games like clockwork. I
remember that in 2000, Bonds suddenly became a much better, more powerful slugger than ever before. Suddenly gone was the blazing leftfielder who,
with all due respect to Rickey Henderson and a few guys who patrolled Griffith Stadium when its left field was cavernous (over 400 feet down the
line), was probably the best defensive LF ever. In his place was a muscular LF who hit huge HR's.
And then came 2001, when Bonds posted either the best season in baseball history (to that time), or the best season not posted by someone named Babe
Ruth. And, of course, Bonds has since coasted through his late 30's winning MVP's like clockwork and posting seasons which arguably leave even Ruth's
1921 season (.846 slugging, a still-record 119 extra-base hits, a still-record 177 runs scored, .378 batting, etc., etc.) in the dust.
Well, anyone who's not hopelessly lost in denial knows what's happened there. BUT....
Today came a sprawling series of stories on espn.com which, to my mind, accomplishes two things--assuming you accept the veracity of its source:
(1) It proves beyond any question that Bonds' stats since mid-2000 are b.s. and the result of using steroids and/or HGH and/or other things which
warrant tossing his stats in the trash; and
(2) It also proves beyond any question that Bonds was LEGIT through the 1999 season. In my opinion, this means Bonds clearly must go in the Hall of
Bill James is, in my view, by far the foremost living authority on baseball history. He doesn't let agendas (other than love for Royals players) like
political correctness or bandwagon-jumping color what he says or the conclusions he reaches. (Compare, e.g., Maury Allen.) He gives surprisingly low
ratings to guys like Luis Aparicio, whom he grew up worshiping... much as I've been forced to do to Jim Ray Hart. And he works his tail off on what
James' big book, published in 2000 or 2001, rated the top 100 MLB players of all time at each position, through the 1999 season. More important, it
rated the top 100 total players of all time, including Negro Leaguers. He rated Bonds #3 in left field, ahead of Henderson (#4) and Yaz (#5), but
behind immortals Williams and Musial, which was fair at the time. Then, in ranking Bonds as the #14 MLB player and #16 total player of all time,
James specifically said his rating was based on the assumption Bonds' career ended with the 1999 season.
Well, for my purposes, IT DID END THEN, because this story on espn.com shows that he was clean until then, and that what happened thereafter is
entitled to no credit.
OK, that is a lot of prologue, so here's the story:
A man named Bill Jenkinson has made a life's hobby of studying home run distances. He considers home runs over 450 feet to be "historically
significant." On June 7, 2000, Bonds hit a historically significant home run which really grabbed Jenkinson's attention because it stunk to the high
heavens. That day, at the age of 36, Bonds hit a 493-foot home run, on a day when the wind was 3 to 5 mph.
Of his 469 prior home runs, Bonds had hit only 3 over 450 feet, and all three of those had been aided by the wind. Since Jenkinson knew that players'
home run distances peak around age 26--or 28, if they are very tall, like Frank Howard or Willie Stargell--he realized this home run couldn't be
legitimate, and he said so.
Since then, baseball senior citizen Bonds has hit thirty more home runs of 450 feet or longer, many in one of baseball's worst HR parks. And
he looks like Mr. Potato Head, run amok.
As I have said before, I believe I take a second seat to nobody when it comes to hating Bonds. Do I hate him as much as Terrell Owens? No. And do I
hate him as much as Cobb (about whom I've read two books, one of them lengthy and very scholarly) or Hornsby (about whom I've read one book)? No, but
I hate him plenty.
But I try to be fair about these things, and I believe Jenkinson's data make two conclusions unavoidable:
(1) Bonds' accomplishments from the year 2000 on are baloney and are entitled to no weight. Any records he set during those years should be expunged
(along with records of McGwire or Sosa), and the years 2000-2005 should not be considered in deciding where Bonds rates among the all-time greats;
(2) By the same token, it is now clear Bonds' stats after that bogus 493-foot HR legitimize what he did through 1999... the EXACT point through
which, according to James magnum opus, Bonds was the 16th greatest player ever and the 14th greatest MLB player ever. Such a player, of
course, is a first-round slam dunk inductee.
Thus, as damning as this guy's evidence is in terms of proving Bonds' guilt after 1999--and I think it's REAL damning--it pretty much exonerates Bonds
before 2000, doesn't it? So it leaves us with this question:
Are we to exclude him from the Hall of Fame on the ground he juiced from 2000 on, and thereby overlook the monumental career he legitimately had prior
I don't think so. That's like imposing a morals clause on the Hall. If we're going to do that, a hell of a lot of people--starting with the #1 and
#2 leading hitters for average of all time--are going to get expelled, and not just the inveterate cheat, Gaylord Perry, who should never have been
allowed within a mile of Cooperstown.
Baseball History Nut