Congratulations Barry!

Barry Bonds is the new home run king. If you are curious what I think of the record, see my op-ed in last week’s AJC.

In years to come, we may learn that Bonds broke the rules. At that time, it will be proper to view Bonds with contempt. But what if that day never comes? Baseball fans will have missed the opportunity to celebrate a truly great achievement and give credit to a man who deserves it. As a baseball fan, I am going to enjoy watching Bonds breaking the record, and I hope other baseball fans choose to do so, too.

17 Responses “Congratulations Barry!”

  1. Marc Schneider says:

    JC,

    Following your own logic, even if it is proven that he took steroids (and I think the proof right now is pretty substantial) it shouldn’t alter our view of the record if you assume that steroids had relatively little to do with the record. So that’s not really the issue. As for him deserving credit, the guy makes $16 million a year and treats people like dirt. I will give credit to Bonds for being a great player but I see no need to celebrate him. He has gotten all the props he needs. I’m just glad it’s over.

    Bob Costas made an interesting point this morning. Today it is fashionable to talk about Bonds in terms of possibly being the greatest player ever. But during the 90s it was almost universally thought the Griffey was the best player. If Bonds career had ended in the late 90s, he would be considered a great player, certainly HOF caliber, but not the greatest ever. That judgment is a function of his post-90s performance, which seems to have been at least partially affected by steroids, even if it was just a matter of allowing him to keep his skills as he aged.

  2. Jason says:

    If some people like JC want to celebrate, that’s fine. If others don’t, that’s OK too. I agree with Marc and as I stated earlier, I’m not going to celebrate this. Barry has given me plenty of reasons beside the whole steroids thing to not like him. I’m also glad it’s over. I do take some solace from the fact that Bonds career is close to being over. I figure at most he’ll play one more year, despite all his talk of playing 7+ more years. I also take some solace from the fact that he’ll never win a World Series. You know, what might make an interesting comparison is to compare Ted Williams to Bonds. Williams was often considered a jerk in his playing days and wasn’t very well liked either and eventually everyone forgot how disliked he was as a player. I wonder if that will happen to Bonds as well.

    All I can say about Bonds is that it is entirely without precedent in the history of MLB for a hitter to get better as he ages as Bonds did in his 30s. We either have to believe that Bonds is somehow completely unique in MLB history or maybe he had “help” and everyone knows exactly what I mean by that. Bond’s declining stats (he’s still pretty good, but not the monster he was a few years ago) and tiredness may be because now he’s finally playing without such help and subject to the natural aging process.

  3. Ron says:

    Well, JC, you apparently have decided to just put on blinders and ignore all the evidence we already have including his own leaked statements before a Federal grand jury that Bonds used PEDs and that they greatly enhanced his performance. I don’t doubt Bonds would have been one of the top hitters of all time if he had never used PEDs, but he probably wouldn’t even have passed Ruth’s 714 homeruns and maybe not even Mays’ 660. Steroids gave him that extra boost he needed to hit 73 and 756.

  4. JC says:

    Wow, “blinders.” I guess this is the first time I’ve ever written anything on the subject. I’m clearly just a Bonds apologist.

  5. dan george says:

    way to go Barry. Now let’s talk about all the pitchers who cheat by doctoring there pitches too.

  6. Sal Paradise says:

    Barry Bonds (21-34 seasons): 1 HR/19.1 PA
    Barry Bonds (35-42 seasons): 1 HR/12.8 PA

    Hank Aaron (21-34 seasons): 1 HR/19.4 PA
    Hank Aaron (35-42 seasons): 1 HR/16.5 PA

    Bonds was better before 35, and better after 35. But both players improved as they grew older.

    Here’s a Graph

    Barry Bonds starts off slow, catches up and passes Aaron in his prime, Aaron catches back up in the early 30′s, they stay close ’til mid 30′s when Bonds takes a huge improvement, while Aaron only offers a marginal one. Bonds starts getting worse immediately, while Aaron stays more or less level.

    Bear in mind that I cut off the data at the 40-42 season, and that Aaron had a head start of a year which I didn’t include.

    Save for the ONE year where he had a massive surge in his offense production, Bonds’ aging curve is actually worse than Aaron’s in many ways (as far as the ability to hit home runs is concerned). Bear in mind that Hank Aaron hit his highest HR total at 37 — what Bonds did is far from unprecedented.

  7. Brent says:

    I like how Ron mentions the word evidence and then merely assumes Bonds would have finished below 660 had he not taken steroids.

  8. Jason says:

    Sal makes a compelling case (good job!) but I would like to point out that Bill James showed many years ago how when players age, their skills narrow. In Aaron’s case, he specifically retained the ability to hit home runs, but he lost the other aspects of his game – speed, fielding, batting average. Bonds lost some speed, but it’s hard to say that his skills declined any. In fact, I’d love to see a batting average comparison in those age ranges because I think it would be quite telling.

    Even among the Bonds supporters, I have yet to see even one person explain why his various body parts have grown enormously in size as he has aged when such growth can be attributed to steroids.

  9. JC says:

    Jason,

    The interesting thing is the changes in hat and shoe sizes that the media widely report are rumors based on “anonymous sources.” This as never been confirmed, and please don’t show me a picture of the 1986 Bonds compared to today. We all looked at leaner than when we were 21. Bonds began bulking up well before he faced any steroid suspicions. Most players do.

    The reason I mention this is that the guy who makes Barry Bonds’s arm brace mentioned something quite interesting to Will Carroll the other day. His precise caliper measurements he does to make Bonds’s brace haven’t changed since 1992. That’s not rumor or hearsay. That’s an on-the-record comment from the doctor who makes Barry’s brace.

    Silva states that because of the custom nature of the work, he’s been asked to make casts of Bonds each year. In the first couple of years, he went through the entire process, but due to his workload, he started checking Bonds with precision calipers each subsequent year. “If I made the same brace every year for 12 or more years,” Silva said, “it was because there was no size change in Barry’s arms.”

    You read that correctly–the man who not only builds Bonds’ brace, but who has taken precision measurements of his arm since 1992, has not seen any increase in the size of Bonds’ arm. Point blank, Silva said “there’s been no significant change in the size of his arms.”

    Via Deadspin

    Baseball Prospectus

    Even if his head and feet have grown, who cares! Anyone who has bothered to look at the scientific literature knows that HGH has no performance-enhancing effects. This is the consensus opinion of the exercise physiology profession. Barry is just an idiot for taking the stuff. This isn’t a shot at you, Jason. It’s a shot at the media which has failed to report this important fact.

  10. Marc Schneider says:

    Aaron’s home run improvement I would think could easily be attributed to moving to an easier home run park in Atlanta. Bonds didn’t; if anything the new park is probably worse for lefties than Candlestick Park (I’m not sure when the Giants moved). And Bonds’ improvement seems to be much greater than Aaron’s.

    The comparison of Bonds and Aaron seems pointless. We know Hank didn’t take steroids (although he may well have taken greenies) so any improvement had to be related to other factors. With Bonds, we just don’t know. However, Bonds probably would have started hitting more home runs as he got older anyway and, other than the 73 home run season, his totals, while higher, don’t seem terribly out of line for his earlier career (except for very early when his HR totals were much lower). Personally, while I don’t like Bonds, I am one that thinks that, while he probably did take steroids, they had relatively little to do with his home run totals. At most, it probably added a marginal number (25?) depending on how many of the balls went out only because of his additional strength.

    As for the reduction in other skills, remember that Hank hit .327 in 1971 (with 47 home runs)and .301 in 1973 (in an era with much lower batting averages). While his BA was fairly low in his first few years in Atlanta relative to his earlier days in Milwaukee, that might be attributable to his becoming more of a pull hitter to become more of a power threat with the decline of Eddie Mathews. (The same thing actually happened with Ken Griffey before his injuries; his BA declined as his home runs increased.) Aaron’s skills really didn’t decline substantially until he turned 40.

    I don’t like defending Bonds but I think it’s a stretch to assume that steroids are the only reason for his home run total.

  11. J Hall says:

    I just wanted to add a comment on the issue of the argument put forth by Bob Costas that if Barry stopped playing in 1999 he would not be considered one of the greatest players ever.

    Well, yes. Usually the greatest players have a combination of a high level of skill AND longevity. Truncating a man’s career to by eight years is an easy way to move him out of the ‘great’ category.

    To be charitable, perhaps upon further reflection Costas would say that had Bonds continued on his pre-99 pace he would not be considered among the greatest. But that is an entirely different question than the one he posed.

  12. Sal Paradise says:

    Here are two more graphs for you then:
    Bonds v. Aaron Avg
    Bonds v. Aaron PA/Walk

    While the first one looks pretty damning, when you look at the walks graph, you can see that he had a massive average at the same time his PA/walk dropped to around 3! He was walking every third time he came to the plate! If you can combine patience with power, it’s frightening indeed, as it means he doesn’t have to swing at pitches he doesn’t like.

    Secondly, his PA/Walk graph is almost identical to that of Aaron in shape, but infinitely superior in degree.

  13. I have not heard of reaching you’re prime when you hit 37. The Aaron numbers are interesting. But it’s not as huge of a deal at the ratio Bonds has. Anyways Congrats Bonds.

  14. JPWF says:

    His top 5 age 33 compes were Frank Robinson, Duke Snider, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle- the ONLY one with a higher OPS+ through that age than Bonds’ 163 was Mantle at 175

    I’ve met quite a few people who not only deny that Bonds was on path to be an all-time great before 1999, but who will also deny that he was on HOF path at all.- I could assume ignorance, but otherwiae I’m not sure of what to make of that.

  15. JPWF says:

    It was thought by many, and they were wrong- Bonds OPS+ 1990-99:
    170, 161, 205, 206, 182, 168, 186, 170, 177, 162

    Griffey: 135, 155, 148, 172, 170, 120, 153, 164, 149, 138.

    Bonds OPS+ through 1999 was 163 (which includes the 103, 114, 147 & 125 marks he put up in the 80s)
    In the 90s he was clearly superior to Griffey- but too many observers were unduly impressed by Griffey’s superior single season HR-RBI numbers

    WRT to Bonds and steroids, those who argue that Bonds didn’t use steroids sound just like those who used to argue that there was no evidence that Rose bet on baseball.

  16. Sal Paradise says:

    Marc, I’ve created a graph for you comparing the HR environment of the years he played, with his own HR progression using HR/PA as a baseline. If you’ll notice, the late 90′s were horrible for home runs, and the HR environment peaked right around when Bonds’ totals did.

    Aaron was helped by a larger park. Bonds was almost certainly helped by a livelier baseball.

    (the trendlines are binomial trendlines for reference)

  17. Sal Paradise says:

    Sorry, please change ‘larger park’ with ‘smaller park’ in my previous post. A larger park would not have helped Aaron. Moving from one would.