I don’t wax poetic about non-political stuff here very often, but the Barry Bonds issue has irked me for some time. You see, there are a lot of people clamoring that he should not be in the Hall of Fame or that when he breaks Hank Aaron’s record for home runs in a career, it should come with an asterix.
Hogwash. Barry Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, regardless of whether or not he used steroids.
First, let’s consider what steroids can do for a hitter. They make the muscles stronger, meaning they can swing the bat faster and thus hit the ball harder. A player who used to hit singles is now hitting Home Runs. The ball pops off the bat more.
But the hardest part of baseball is actually hitting the ball. Steroids do not — DO NOT — make it easier to hit a baseball. Some of the best hitters in the world were barely able to hit one out of every three times. One third is a “.333” hitter. That can lead the leagues. In 20 seasons, Tony Gwynn, one of the best hitters of the ’80s and ’90s, had a career average of .338. The last player to hit four out of ten (.400) in a full season, did it before World War II (Ted Williams, 1941).
In fact, people are calling this the “steroid era” in baseball. The assumption is that hundreds, if not thousands, of baseball players on every team and at every position used steroids. The pitcher who gave up Bond’s 755th home run to tie Aaron – Clay Hensley – was suspended in the minor leagues for, yup, testing positive for steroids. So, if steroids make you so much better that so many players used them, how come none of them could hit .400?
Obviously, hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports.
In 2004, when BALCO was in the news and steroids were the hot discussion topic, Barry Bonds set the league record for most walks in a season and batted .362. He “only” hit 45 home runs that year. Two years before, in 2002, he hit .370 with 46 home runs. He’s batted over .300 11 times in is 22 seasons.
I heard a report over the weekend that said Barry can tell what kind of pitch is coming when the ball is next to a pitcher’s head, still in the pitching motion. Most players can’t tell until it’s 3-4 feet from the pitcher. Steroids don’t help vision.
Complain all you want about how steroids have ruined the game. But don’t place all of your blame on the shoulders of Barry Bonds.
He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.