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Keith A Bit Too Kind to Bonds
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
March 8, 2006

In his standup special, filmed in San Francisco in the mid to late 1990s, Dana Carvey has a joke in which he makes fun of Johnny Cochrane at the O.J. trial.

There's this mountain of forensic evidence, and he's like, "Why we even havin' a trial?"

Keith is now the Johnny Cochrane of

First, I will say that Keith's assessment is very well thought out, very well researched, and very thought provoking.

I guess my problem with Keith's assessment is more fundamental and philosophical than literal. I agree with most of his points, though his statement that "Many of the pitchers whom Bonds faced likely had the same advantages as he did" is a bit silly. Nevertheless, Keith posits

But if we say that steroids helped him hit a few more homers and play in a few more games during certain seasons within that span, don’t we also need to acknowledge that they may have cost him a season and a half of DL time?

Keith decides to deal speculatively with the effect that steroids had on Barry Bonds' career. Why be speculative? Let's look at the effect that steroids actually had on his career. He started juicing at the end of 1998. So, let's look at his career through 1998, and then look at his career after 1998. If you can't acknowledge that Barry's game changed significantly, you are allowing yourself to be blinded. Almost every aspect of his game changed drastically. Keith acts like this is coincidence. While I agree that Bonds missed all of 2005 due to injury, he was 40 years old for pete's sake.

I am particularly bothered by Keith's statement that "Steroids may have hurt his career numbers nearly as much as they’ve boosted them." Are you kidding me? Bonds hit 258 homeruns from 2000-2004, after hitting 186 from 1995 to 1999. So, the positives of steroid use were cancelled out by Bonds' injuries while he was using, but he improved naturally as a player to the tune of 14 homeruns per year. The steroid use was merely coincidental to Barry's natural growth as a player. Why am I more skeptical than Keith?

Don't get me wrong – such an improvement per season over five years is not unprecedented. But come on.

Barry was a great player before he allegedly started juicing. Was he Top Ten without the juice? Maybe. My own tenth through fourteenth players are Mays, Speaker, Musial, Alexander, and Mantle. I would definitely put Bonds in that company – his power, speed, on-base percentage, and fielding appear to have been as good as any of those guys before 1999. My five through nine are Williams, Hornsby, Gehrig, Young, and Wagner. As a hitter, Bonds pre-1999 wasn't better than Williams, Hornsby, or Gehrig. Obviously he is defensively more valuable than Splinter and the Iron Horse, but not so much that I think it outweighs their offensive advantage.

I think Keith is probably kind to call Bonds a Top Ten guy, but it is close. Definitely Top Twenty, and probably Top Fifteen. Fact is, if you play it as safe as possible and just consider Bonds through 1999, he was still one of the best all time. I am no longer willing to ponder comparing him to Ruth or Cobb or Williams, but I would put him up against Mays or Mantle or Musial any day of the week. And that is still quite a class of players.

I do, however, agree with Keith's point about the media's need to dig through Barry's personal life. I don't care if he was the most despicable person in human history. Think he was the first arrogant, racist, ego-inflated baseball player we've seen? No. Think he was the first womanizing baseball player we've seen? No. Sure, I'd rather have my daughter marry Cal Ripken, Jr. or Dale Murphy or Andre Dawson or A.C. Green, but that has NOTHING to do with Bonds as a player and as a future Hall of Famer.

Humorously, everything the press has accused Bonds of being off the field is something that another one of the Top Twenty players of all time was. Honus Wagner, Lou Gehrig, and Stan Musial were some of the standup guys in baseball history. But you want racism? How about Hornsby, Speaker, and Cobb. Womanizing? How about Mantle and Ruth. Surly to the press? Williams, Mays, Hornsby. Substance abuser? Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle. Arrogant? Every single last one of them.

So if you think his behavior is enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, then get real. And to the extent that there are members of the BBWAA who feel that way, they should have their credentials revoked.

Just wanted to point that out.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher B. Chancey resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and can be reached at