Reflecting on Barry Bonds’ Home Run Record

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Rangers programming to reflect on Barry Bonds’ feat of becomming the all-time home run leader.

So much has been written and said about Barry Bonds, Balco, steroids, home runs, etc. that I doubt I’ll add anything new. Instead, I want to share some questions that, while they’ve probably been asked before, I think are worth pondering.

  • The Babe and the Hammerin’ Hank achieved their record milestones against the peers of their time. In the Babe’s time, not much was known about nor was there much emphasis on physical training. By Hank’s era, guys had work out routines and fitness programs. During Bonds’ era, players became dedicated athletes with year-round training programs and diets based on ever-improving science guiding training to increase stamina or build targeted muscle groups or develop “muscle memory” or enhance “fast twitch” muscles for speed while diets were paired with training from hich protein shakes for building mass to carbs for endurance. Somewhere around halfway through Bonds career, a bunch (my bet is a majority) of players used performance enhancing substances of some sort or another. So if he did use performance enhancing substances and so did many if not most pitchers he faced, isn’t that fair? Isn’t he just competing against his contemporary peers?
  • Bonds has gotten a lot of bad press for being a difficult guy. But it seems he has the respect of a lot of his teammates and players current and past. Those who know him best, speak highly of him. Couldn’t be more obvious that he’s a family man. He hasn’t mistreated animals, done narcatics, raped women, gambled millions, killed anyone, been in a drunken rage or DUI accident, punched a fan or choked his coach. Other athletes have done all these things, and more, and haven’t been as negatively judged by the public. It seems to me that Barry’s paying a high price because he doesn’t like or get along with the media. I’ve worked with the media, and can tell you that most of them are jerks. So maybe we shouldn’t believe all that we hear and read from reporters who generally don’t like it when someone doesn’t bow before the power of their pen (or microphone)?
  • Barry may have the best eye and discipline at the plate of anyone ever. Sure – pitchers pitch around him. But they pitch around a lot of power hitters, many of whom are also big strike out victims. It was only his 4th year in the majors when Barry had 93ks and 93 walks. In the 18 seasons since, Barry’s averaged almost 2 walks for every 1 strikeout. In 2004, he had a record 232 walks, beating his own record of 198 from 2002 when he beat his own record of 177 from 2001. Thus, he has the top three seasons for walks, and is the all-time career leader. He eclipses Babe Ruth’s 4th-ranked season of 170 walks in 1923. He’s had 9 seasons that rank in the top 91 EVER for walks in a season. Do performance enhancing substances help a batter develop a keen eye for the strike zone? 
  • It’s alleged that he started using steroids sometime between ’98 and 2000. But before that, he’d averaged more than 31 HRs a year, including 46 in ’93 – his first season as Giant. From ’90 to ’97, he’d averaged 36.25 hrs. If he’d continued at that pace from ’98 through ’06, he’d have hit 297 HRs (adjusting for his injury season in ’05). That would have put him at 671 HRs entering this season. That’s within 85 HRs of the record, which – especially if he plays a few more years as a DH in the AL – would have been easily attainable for him (especially when you deduct the 23 he’s now hit this season which would have put him within 62 of the record under this scenario). So even without the widely questioned power surge, Bonds quite likely would have reached 756 home runs within another two seasons. So does that still make him the best HR hitter of all-time?

Speaking of which, he just hit 757 while I was writing. So I’m gonna go, and I haven’t gotten to his basestealing, defense, clutch hitting, etc.

Personally, I’ve long thought that he’s a jerk who’s cheating his way to the most prestigious record in sports.

But lately, I’ve started wonder if that’s unfair.

While guys like Bonds, McGuire, Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa’s physiques changed rapidly and dramatically, we fans, the All-Powerful Players Union, the Commissioner, the Owners, the media – we all applauded  because we love us some offense and especially home runs! So if in the end, the investigations show that Bonds did use a performance enhancing substance(s) and that so did many of his contemporaries, don’t we all share some stake in the shame of the “steroid era”?

Just questions worth pondering.

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11 responses to “Reflecting on Barry Bonds’ Home Run Record

  1. Ahh… I see you’ve been reading the Frisco newspapers, rangersorrobbers (lol). Naw, just kidding. You make a good point about the different era’s the three played in – but I wasn’t aware the pitchers were huge steroid kings as well. Pitchers need to be lean and flexible – although being as big as Chris Young won’t hurt – a big steroid injected cow is not going to make a very good pitcher. And I always thought that steroids made you bigger – like Barry, Sammy, Mark, Juan, ext. But then again, I’m not an expert on steroids – in fact, I’ll admit don’t know much about the scientific aspects of them – but that’s just an observation based on what I’ve read about steroid use. I’m not saying that pitchers can’t or haven’t taken performance enhancing substances – but I do doubt any juiced to the point that Barry and Co. did. I also don’t remember hearing of any pitchers connected to ‘roid use like Barry has been – maybe someone could enlighten me?

    But my point is Barry became the player he is by way of jucing. And I don’t think you can say that’s OK just because “a lot” of other players were using them. Cheating is still cheating, and some people cheat more than others. Just my opinion, though – I know this is a pretty inflamatory issue.

    The bottom line is Barry broke the record, and we have to live with it now, whether we like it or not. And I do agree with the main point rangersorrobbers is making here – if we want to blame anyone, we should also be blaming Bud Selig, and MLB baseball itself for allowing the juicing, rather than exclusively blaming the guys that did it.

  2. Jon – The thing about steroids with pitchers, is it’s a HUGE aid in speeding up recovery time. Alot of pitchers will use them almost exclusively for that. These guys can go out and throw 100 pitches no problem, and feel almost 100% the next day. It’s also a huge aid in the sense it that they can build up a ton of strength in their legs, and get that much more force behind their deliveries…Alot of them won’t necessarily use them to get bigger and stronger like hitters will. Just different types of training. There have been plenty of pitchers linked to steroids. You hear Roger Clemens’ name alot, and it’s ironic Barry hit 755 off a known steroid user.

    Barry hasn’t been proven guilty of anything, though it wouldn’t surprise me if he had juiced. He’s got that cloud floating over his head, but until someone comes to the forefront with some legitimate, hard evidence against Barry, he’s the home-run king in my opinion.

  3. “but I wasn’t aware the pitchers were huge steroid kings as well.”

    Well, more than half of the players caught during steriod testing have been pitchers. I would suspect that if they are risking getting caught – it probably has some real benefit for them.

  4. BTW – would Hicks go after Bonds next season as a free agent?? He’ll almost certainly come “cheap” considering his still impressive production (still #1 in baseball in OPS).

  5. Bonds in Arlington would be hilarious. But if Hicks and JD are now committed to this ‘youth’ movement, and Botts proves himself deserving of more at bats over the rest of this season, there’s no way Bonds is brought here. If he is, it’s another example of Hicks not making moves to win, but making moves to line his pockets with cash from the apparel/ticket sales a guy like Barry would bring the Ballpark. No different than Sammy this year, just a gimick to increase revenue.

    If Barry is a Ranger, chalk up one for the Robbers side of this blog’s purpose.

  6. Well, thanks for enlightening a dumb redneck, guys.

    If Barry comes to Arlington, I will not attend a Ranger game as long as he would be here – thankfully, I serously doubt that would happen. Sammy is one thing, but Barry is another.

  7. “I serously doubt that would happen. Sammy is one thing, but Barry is another.”

    I do agree – just stirring the pot.

    Barry & Sammy aren’t really comparable anymore (except for age & cheat-meter), Barry is a SIGNIFICANTLY better player than Sammy is right now and will cost SIGNIFICANTLY more $$.

  8. There is no such thing as a “youth movement” from the Rangers. Since 1999, the year Hicks bought the team, the Rangers have not won the AL West and have been rebuilding since with so-called “young” players. EX: What happened to the Alex Rodriguez “youth movement”?
    I believe that we have had all the young players we needed to win the AL West (which the Rangers have mildly competed for) but the simple fact is that at the end of the year Hicks does not spend the necessary money to keep players. If he was serious about winning, then he would reach deep into his pockets and buy the necessary players. ex: Red Sox, Mark Cuban

    “You don’t even have to win a championship every year to draw the fans. You just have to show you’re really trying.” -Tom Hicks 99′

    Sammy is a good guy, but i can’t help but to think that Hicks signed Sosa for ticket sales. Cowincedently, Sammy was on the virge of hitting 600 home-runs, which is a huge career milestone. What a great way to sell tickets.. right? With all the hoopla of hitting 600 homeruns creates a ripe oppurtunity to sell t-shirts and tickets.

    My Point: Tom Hicks would sign Barry strictly to keep people interested in the Rangers. TICKET SALE$$$$$

  9. rangersorrobbers

    Mario –

    Can you cite that quote from Hicks? Because if he really said that, I rest my case. That’s as good as a complete admission to how I view his management of the team: do just enough to make the fans think we have a chance to win, so they’ll keep buying tickets. If we happen to break through and win by the hair on our teeth – nice. If not – did we sell a lot tickets and merchandise? Super!

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