This article, posted today on ESPN.com, talks about how the San Francisco Giants have removed most of the reminders that Barry Bonds played with the Giants from AT&T Park. Peter Magowan, the Giants President, told ESPN that it is, in his mind, time to move on.
“‘No, not this team,’ he said, standing along the first-base line of a ballpark where images of Bonds have been removed. ‘We’re going in a new direction; that would not be going in a new direction. The time has come to turn the page.’
“‘We’re very respectful, at least I am, appreciative of all the contributions he made to the Giants over all that long period of time, but the time came when we needed to go in a new direction.’”
Bonds says he’s in game shape, but no one wants him. Most presume his career is over — which begs the question, is he the best ever? His career stat line looks like this: .298 lifetime batting average, 762 home runs (most in history, of course), 1,996 RBIs, 2,935 hits, 514 stolen bases, .600 slugging percentage. Sure fire Hall of Famer, right?
Of course, this is where the debate starts. The steroids, the allegations, we all know it, we all don’t want to hear about it, we’re all sick and tired of it. It surely tarnishes, at least in some respect, the record of a player that not only hit so well, but played the field so well, too. And now that hes been indicted, and some think he may go to jail before Hall of Fame voters even see a ballot, a fact that that might eliminate any chance, in some minds, of Bonds ending up in Cooperstown.
My opinion is this: I don’t believe in comparing generations, in any sport. In 1998, the Sporting News ranked their 100 Greatest Players in Baseball History. At the time Barry Bonds was #34. That is not my point, however. Their top 5 is: Hank Aaron, Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, and Babe Ruth. That’s one distinguished class. So can Bonds, or any of the great players of the modern era — Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, David Wright, Ichiro, Johan Santana, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz — the list goes on and on — be compared to the likes of Ruth, Mays and Aaron?
I believe no. Bonds, steroids or not, is one of if not the best players in the modern era, along with those great players I mentioned above and so many more. He sports a complete game: hitting, the eye on when to take pitches and when to swing, fielding — it all. And like it or not, steroids don’t help the intangible parts of the game.
However in the era of Ruth and Marris, Mays and Aaron, it was a different game — and you just can’t compare it. Same way even though we’d like to compare Tiger and Byron Nelson, or Tiger and Ben Hogan, or Tiger and Sam Snead. Sometimes history just prevents those things from happening.
So in the end it will be up to the Baseball Hall of Fame voters, whether to vote in one of the greatest baseball players in history, or a future criminal. And what the answer is to that question? No one knows.
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