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Barry Bonds

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Barry Lamar Bonds

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Contents

[edit] Biographical Information

[edit] Introduction

Barry Bonds holds the single-season home run record with 73 and is currently first on the all-time MLB career home runs list with 762. He is generally thought of as being one of the greatest hitters of all time. He has also been a highly controversial figure throughout his career, because of his surly demeanor, poor relations with the media, and because of the allegations of steroid use that have tainted his pursuit of the career home run record. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice in a trial held in early 2011 on charges stemming from his testimony to a grand jury regarding steroid use.

[edit] Early Career

Barry Bonds is the son of Bobby Bonds and the godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays. His aunt Rosie Bonds competed in the 1964 Olympics in track and field. He is also a distant cousin of Reggie Jackson. His brother, Bobby Bonds, Jr. was drafted but never made it to the big leagues. Rick Reuschel, Ken Oberkfell, Mel Hall, and Danny Darwin all played with both Barry and Bobby Bonds.

Barry was considered a prime prospect from an early age and was signed as the sixth overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates and scouting supervisor Jerry Gardner in the 1985 amateur draft, coming out of Arizona State University. He had earlier been a second round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants - the team most associated with his father - in the 1982 amateur draft coming out of high school, but did not sign with San Francisco.

In the 1984 Amateur World Series, Bonds led Team USA by hitting .304/.319/.565 with 16 RBI and 3 home runs in 11 games. He tied for 7th in homers and tied Lourdes Gourriel for second in RBI, 4 behind leader Roberto Bianchi. In the 1984 College World Series, Bonds tied Dave Magadan's College World Series record of 8 consecutive hits.

Bonds did not waste any time in the minor leagues. Shortly after signing with the Pirates in 1985, he reported to their Class A farm team in the Carolina League, the Prince William Pirates, and hit .299/.383/.547 in 71 games, also stealing 15 bases in 18 attempts. Promoted straight to AAA at the beginning of the 1986 season, he did even better with the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League, putting up a line of .311/.435/.527 in 44 games, with 16 steals in 21 attempts. He was the very definition of a "five-tool prospect", a player who had speed, could field and throw, and who could hit for both average and power. On May 30, 1986, less than a year after being drafted, he made his Major League debut with the Pirates.

[edit] Pittsburgh Pirates

Making his major league debut at age 21, Bonds immediately set himself as one of the young players to watch in the major leagues, even if his game still had major flaws as a rookie with the Pirates in 1986. His most visible weakness was in batting average, as he only hit .223 in 113 games that first season; he also struck out 102 times, reminding many observers of his father's strikeout records. However, the good could also not be ignored: he slugged 45 extra-base hits, including 16 homers, drew 65 walks, and stole 37 bases while being caught only 7 times. In spite of his low batting average, the Pirates used him regularly as a lead-off hitter; his speed and ability to draw walks compensated for the small number of singles. After the season, Bill James joked that Bonds keeps telling people that he is not his father, but it would help if he stopped playing exactly like his father. Bonds at the time was very lean and athletic and reminded people of Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis, two similar players who had come into the National League immediately before him, although it wasn't clear whether he had the same superstar potential as the other two.

In 1987, there was a one-year surge in hitting throughout baseball, and Bonds improved his average to .261 in 150 games, and his slugging percentage rose from .416 to .492. He cut down on his strikeouts considerably, to 88 in 150 games, but his walks also went down, and as a result, his OBP was the almost same as in his rookie year: .329 compared to .330. Because of the league-wide surge in offense, his OPS+ only rose from 103 to 114.

In 1988, Bonds took another step forward by hitting .283/.368/.491 with 24 homers and 97 runs scored. The Pirates were still largely using him as their leadoff hitter, depressing his RBI totals, but the rise in OBP made him a much more valuable player, as his OPS+ of 148 attests. He had a slight setback in 1989, hitting .248/.351/.426 for an OPS+ of 126, in his last season as the lead-off hitter.

Barry Bonds's first four years had been productive, but he was still not a star. That changed suddenly in 1990. He was moved to the middle of the line-up, and with Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke also having solid years, he had a lot of runners to drive in. He set personal bests with 33 homers, 104 runs, 114 RBI, 52 steals (the most he would have in his entire career) and a .565 slugging percentage. He became one of the stars of the National League with that tremendous season which earned him a trip to the 1990 All-Star Game in mid-season, and then the 1990 National League Most Valuable Player Award. Indeed, at that point, Strawberry and Davis had hit their peaks prematurely, and would thereafter be looking up to Bonds, and not the other way around. It would take him a few more years to be as hyped as the two had been, however. The Pirates won their first division title since the 1979 World Championship, but Bonds struggled in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds, going only 3 for 18, all the hits being singles. It would take him until the 2002 postseason to shed the reputation, begun that year, that he couldn't deliver the goods in October.

That breakout season was followed by a string of other great years, as he led the National League in OPS+ for four consecutive years from 1990 to 1993; he played in every All-Star Game from 1992 to 1998, finished second in the MVP voting in 1991 and then won the award in both 1992 and 1993. In 1992, he led the league in runs scored (109), walks (127), OBP (.456) and slugging (.624). There was seemingly nothing he couldn't do on a baseball field: he won 8 Gold Gloves in 9 years from 1990 to 1998, only missing out in 1995, and won the Silver Slugger Award 7 of 8 years from 1990 to 1997, also missing out in 1995. Originally a centerfielder as a rookie, he moved to left field full time in 1988 as Andy Van Slyke took over in center, but both were outstanding defenders, giving the Pirates amazing coverage of the outfield. The Pirates won two more division titles in 1991 and 1992, but both years lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS; Bonds was quiet at the plate in both series, and the tendency to blame your best player for any shortcomings got attached to him. Many Pittsburgh fans considered that his lack of sparks in the three NLCS was the main reason the Bucs had failed to reach the World Series. His always difficult relationship with the media did not help things. After the 1992 season, he became a free agent and decided to head to the city where his father had had his greatest success, San Francisco.

[edit] San Francisco Giants

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Barry Bonds's decision to sign with the San Francisco Giants was a key point in that franchise's history. The Giants had had an uneasy partnership with the cross-bay Oakland Athletics since both teams began sharing the Bay Area market in 1968, with both franchises being on the brink of moving to another city at one point. However, Bonds's signing, followed in 2000 by the opening of Pac Bell Park, ignited an on-field renaissance and a rise of popularity for the team that definitely ended any thought of a move. In his first season in a Giants uniform, the team won 103 games, falling to the Braves on the last day of the season, and Bonds won his third MVP award. He hit 43 homers and drove in 126 runs - personal bests at the time - in that first season, and then seemingly repeated that season, with a little variation from year-to-year, every year until the end of the 1990s. Not only was he excellent, he was also consistent, and hardly ever missed a game until an elbow injury cut his playing time to 102 games in 1999. However, he did not win another MVP award during that stretch, even though he put up superlative numbers year after year. There was always a bigger story around, whether his teammate Jeff Kent, who was the MVP in 2000, or the epic chase of the seasonal home run record between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998.

At that point, Bonds seemed to be about to wind down what had been an exceptional, Hall of Fame-quality career, but one in which he had not set any particular records. Aged 34 in 1999 and seemingly showing the first effects of aging, he was expected to begin the down-side of his career, with his numbers gradually tailing down. He had hit 445 homers by the end of 1999, with a high of 46 in 1993. 500 home runs was within sight, but a normal aging process would seemingly preclude him from any more eye-popping total. And then he hit a personal-best 49 homers in 2000 and thus began the most remarkable - and controversial part - of his career.

[edit] The Chase for the Home Run Record

Bonds once again became the most talked-about player in baseball in 2001 when he began to hit home runs at a prodigious rate. As he seemed able to put the ball over the fence seemingly at will, he began also to draw walks at an amazing rate - 177 for the year - but that did not stop him from piling on the dingers. By August, it was clear that Mark McGwire's apparently unbreakable record of 70 homers - set only three years earlier - was in danger. He hit his 50th homer on August 11 and number 60 on September 5. When Major League Baseball stopped its season for a week in the wake of the September 11 attacks, he had hit 63 home runs. It was now clear that he had a shot at the all-time record, and even though teams tried to avoid pitching to him as much as possible, he kept on hitting long balls. He victimized Jason Middlebrook three times in the span of five days to reach 68. On October 4, he went yard against Wandy Rodriguez to tie McGwire's mark, then the next day hit two long balls at home against Chan Ho Park to set a new record. He added another one off Dennis Springer on the season's last day, October 7, to make the record 73. His other statistics for the season were just as mind-boggling, including a .515 OBP, .863 slugging, and an OPS of 1.379 for an OPS+ of 259. This time there was no denying him a fourth MVP Award !

In 2002 Bonds continued where he had left off the previous season. He didn't hit homers at the superhuman pace of the previous year - and by now the tactic of walking him every time he came up in a crucial situation had become standard - but he still connected 46 times while drawing a record 198 walks. When he didn't hit home runs, he still made solid contact, as his league-leading .370 batting average attests. With all the walks and hits, his OPS+ was even higher than in his record-setting year, at 268. He won the second of four consecutive MVP Awards - his fifth overall. In the postseason, he was just as devastating, leading the wild card Giants to the brink of triumph in the 2002 World Series. After connecting 4 times and driving in 10 runs in the first two rounds of the postseason, he proved an unending headache for the Anaheim Angels' pitchers in the World Series. They walked him 13 times, but he still managed 8 hits, including 2 doubles and 4 homers, scored 8 runs and drove in 6. The Giants held a 3 game to 2 lead and were 5 runs ahead in Game 6 of the Series, then collapsed, and Bonds's amazing performance was for naught. The Angels won the thrilling World Series, but Bonds had crushed his reputation as a postseason choker.

He had another great year in 2003, as the Giants won 100 games and a division title under new manager Felipe Alou. On his way to another MVP Award, Bonds hit .341 with 45 homers and 90 RBI, with 111 runs scored. The low RBI total was of course due to opposing teams' unwillingness to ever pitch to him with runners on base. He drew 61 intentional walks that season, after getting 62 the previous year. In the postseason however, the Giants were surprised by the Florida Marlins in the NLDS, who walked Bonds 8 times in 18 plate appearances. It would be his last postseason appearance.

In 2004, Bonds set a single-season record for the highest OPS with 1.422, breaking his own record of 1.381 set in 2002. The only other players in the top 10 in that category are Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. His single-season record for intentional walks of 120 set that year is so far above any previous totals as to be considered as almost unbreakable. The record is almost 3 times the previous record (by someone other than Bonds) of 45 by Willie McCovey. The second-highest total is 68 by Bonds himself. He also won the MVP award for the seventh and last time, and a second batting title; no other player has won the MVP award more than three times.

Bonds hit his 700th career home run on September 17, 2004 at SBC Park. However, he missed almost all of the 2005 season with a knee injury, only playing 14 games in September. Already 40, his chance of increasing his career totals by much seemed slim at that point, but he made a remarkable comeback the following season. On May 28, 2006, he hit his 715th home run off Byung-Hyun Kim to pass Babe Ruth's career total of 714 and move into second place on the all-time major league list behind Hank Aaron's 755. He hit 26 home runs that year, playing just below the exalted levels he had set from 2000 to 2004, and indicating that the career home run record was in fact well within his reach.

Shortly after turning 43, Bonds hit home run number 755 off Clay Hensley, a pitcher who had been suspended in the minors for using steroids (or more exactly a steroid precursor). He hit his 756th home run on August 7, 2007 off Mike Bacsik Jr.. After Bonds hit the record-breaking homer, the team held a brief ceremony and played a recorded congratulatory statement from Aaron.

On September 21, 2007, Bonds announced that the Giants would not re-sign him after the 2007 season. His 15-year Giant career officially came to an end on October 1, when the Giants finished their season against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, he played his final game with the Giants on September 27 against the San Diego Padres. He ended the season with 762 career home runs.

After the Giants' lack of interest in offering him another contract, all the other teams shied away from him because of the ever-growing aura of controversy attached to his name. While columnists speculated during the 2008 season that one team or another should consider adding Bonds to its line-up, no serious offer ever turned up. This is in spite of the fact that Bonds was still a highly-productive player in 2007 (at least as a hitter), posting an OPS+ of 172 and slugging 28 homers. Bonds stated through his representatives that he was a victim of black-balling, but after the end of the 2008 season, articles about his potential return to action slowed to a trickle, as it became clear that his career had ended with a whimper. By that point, the only time his name would come up in the news was in connection with his legal problems, or with speculation that he would be turned down by voters once he would become eligible for election into the Hall of Fame. This particular line of thinking became predominent after Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro did very poorly in their first years of eligibility for Cooperstown because of their association with PEDs.

[edit] The Steroids Issue

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Although Bonds has never tested positive for steroids, his involvement since 2003 in the BALCO scandal made him a frequent target of the anti-steroids backlash that hit Major League Baseball in the early 2000s. In 2003, he was called to testify before a grand jury in relation with the federal investigation of charges of steroids trafficking against BALCO. This was because the name of his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, appeared on a list of BALCO clients. Part of this testimony was leaked to the press and later served as the basis for the book Game of Shadows, published early in 2006, which painted Bonds as a willful steroid user. It was then revealed in early 2007 that Bonds did fail a test for an unnamed stimulant - not steroids - in 2006, but this first positive test did not carry a mandatory penalty in accordance with MLB's drug policy. In fact, under MLB rules, this first positive test should not even have been made public.

When Bonds started closing in on the all-time career home run record, the controversy surrounding his rumored use of steroids became even greater. The public perception was that he was a user of performance drugs, even if nothing had been proved. A big question during the 2007 season was whether commissioner Bud Selig would attend the games in which Bonds had a chance to break Hank Aaron's record.

[edit] The Trial

for more details, see Trial of Barry Bonds

In March 2011, the trial of Barry Bonds for perjury and obstruction of justice began in San Francisco, CA. The charges stemmed from his testimony before a federal grand jury in the BALCO investigation in 2003. Bonds's personal trainer Greg Anderson refused to testify at the trial, earning imprisonment for contempt of court, but others provided very damaging testimony. Associates such as childhood friend and business partner Steve Hoskins and former mistress Kimberly Bell both testified to Bonds's consumption of PEDs and associated physiological and psychological changes which ensued. A number of former players confirmed that Anderson had supplied them with PEDs, and the prosecution introduced a urine sample containing traces of various substances as evidence. Hoskins' sister even testified to having personally seen Bonds being injected by Anderson. Still, the defense declined to call any counter witnesses and in his final statement, defense lawyer Allen Ruby argued that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. On April 13th, the jury announced its verdict of guilty on the count of obstruction of justice, although it could not come to an agreement regarding the three remaining perjury charges. On August 26th, Judge Illston upheld the conviction after hearing oral arguments from both sides, leaving the defense to consider an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 16th, she sentenced Bonds to two years' probation, 30 days of house arrest, a $4,000 fine and 250 hours of community service.

After being a pariah since his retirement, Bonds made a timid return to baseball in 2014 when he was named a special instructor by the Giants, spending a week with the team during spring training.

[edit] Hall of Fame Candidacy

Based on numbers alone, there is no doubt that Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame; he is in fact one of the inner-circle Hall of Famers, whose name should be mentioned when discussing the few greatest players of all time. Even if the latter part of his career, during which evidence that he took PEDs is nearly incontrovertible, is dismissed, his accomplishments still present an extremely strong case for induction.

However, that is counting without the widespread disgust that the steroid era left among fans in general, and sportswriters in particular. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro had already felt the wrath of voters before Bonds first became eligible for election to Cooperstown, finishing with vote totals well below what they would have received under normal circumstances. Bonds's presence on the ballot for the first time in 2013, alongside other first-timers Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, resulted in that ballot being dubbed the "steroid ballot". All of the avowed or suspected users were punished by voters, receiving very low vote totals in a year during which no player was elected by the BBWAA. In Bonds's case, he got 36.2% of the vote, a total nearly identical to that of Clemens, and well behind other first year candidates Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling, whose statistical accomplishment were nowhere near his. In 2014, he failed to progress at all, falling to 34.7% of the total. With the very strong climate against PED users continuing to prevail among BBWAA members, it is unclear that Bonds will be able to overcome their aversion and gain election in the foreseeable future.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 14-time NL All-Star (1990, 1992-1998, 2000-2004 & 2007)
  • 7-time NL MVP (1990, 1992-1993, 2001-2004)
  • 8-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1990-1994 & 1996-1998)
  • 12-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1990-1994, 1996-1997 & 2000-2004)
  • 2-time NL Batting Average Leader (2002 & 2004)
  • 10-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1991-1993, 1995, 2001-2004, 2006 & 2007)
  • 7-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1990, 1992-1993 & 2001-2004)
  • 9-time NL OPS Leader (1990-1993, 1995 & 2001-2004)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1992)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1993)
  • 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (1993 & 2001)
  • NL RBI Leader (1993)
  • 12-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1992, 1994-1997, 2000-2004, 2006 & 2007)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 19 (1987-1988, 1990-2004, 2006 & 2007)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 14 (1990 & 1992-2004)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1993, 1996-1997 & 2000-2004)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2001)
  • 60-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2001)
  • 70-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2001)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 12 (1990-1993, 1995-1998, 2000-2002 & 2004)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 12 (1990, 1992-1993, 1995-1998 & 2000-2004)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1990)


NL MVP
1989 1990 1991
Kevin Mitchell Barry Bonds Terry Pendleton
1991 1992 1993
Terry Pendleton Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
1992 1993 1994
Barry Bonds Barry Bonds Jeff Bagwell
2000 2001 2002
Jeff Kent Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
2001 2002 2003
Barry Bonds Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
2002 2003 2004
Barry Bonds Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
2003 2004 2005
Barry Bonds Barry Bonds Albert Pujols

[edit] Records Held

  • Most Valuable Player awards, 7
  • Player of the Month awards, 13
  • Home runs, career, 762
  • Home runs, left handed batter, career, 762
  • Home runs, left fielder, career, 725
  • Home runs, season, 73, 2001
  • Home runs, left handed batter, season, 73, 2001
  • Home runs, left fielder, season, 71, 2001
  • On base average, season, .609, 2004
  • On base average, left handed batter, season, .609, 2004
  • On base plus slugging, season, 1.422, 2004
  • On base plus slugging, season, left handed batter, 1.422, 2004
  • Slugging average, season, .863, 2001
  • Slugging average, left handed batter, season, .863, 2001
  • Total average, season, 2.250, 2004
  • Total average, left handed batter, season, 2.250, 2004
  • Extra base hits, left handed batter, career, 1,440
  • Walks, career, 2,558
  • Walks, left-handed batter, career, 2,558
  • Walks, season, 232, 2004
  • Walks, left handed batter, season, 232, 2004
  • Seasons with 100 or more walks: 14
  • Intentional walks, career, 688
  • Intentional walks, season, 120, 2004

[edit] Further Reading

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