I’m not going to lie, I 100% spaced out and forgot that this weekend was the Barry Bonds Number retirement ceremony. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, it’s because I thought it happened already.
For me, this is a no-brainer, but it’s something that’s going to inspire some hot takes from the usual talking heads about his Hall of Fame eligibility and the purification of his image.
None of that should come into play, because this honor is 100% justified. Barry Bonds has earned this distinction, PEDs or no PEDs.
Before Bonds came to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants had finished in the top 2 in the NL West only twice in 22 years. In those two years, the Giants suffered a crushing sweep in the World Series at the hand of the Oakland A’s in 1989, and the other was a hard-fought loss in 7 games against the Cardinals in 1987. Besides that, the Giants were hitting the skids on a yearly basis.
With Candlestick Park drawing fewer fans every year due to its terrible location, freezing temperatures and dismal product on the field, the Giants needed a savior and fast.
Enter Barry Bonds.
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When the two-time MVP signed the most expensive contract at the time with San Francisco before the 1993 season, there was no ceiling that could contain the hopes of the Giants faithful. This was divine intervention for the Giants. They had a star, a powerhouse, an incredible specimen of a man, and one of the greatest ballplayers of all-time.
In his first at-bat as a Giant, Bonds did something he’d do 586 times in an orange and black uniform: he hit a home run.
In his first season in Black and Orange, Bonds led the league in home runs and RBIs on his way to a third MVP honor in four years. The 1993 Giants won 103 games after Bonds came to town, 31 more wins than the previous season. So why didn’t the Giants make the playoffs? They fell one game behind the Atlanta Braves. ONE. SINGLE. GAME. Bonds would end that season slashing .326/.458/.677 and an OPS of 1.136. In today’s game, those numbers are comparable to one man, Mookie Betts… with the addition of J.D. Martinez’s homers.
The next three seasons would be tough, as the Giants failed to end a season above .500. That didn’t slow down Bonds, who still managed to rake at a level above what was expected of him. Bonds was keeping the Giants afloat both on the field and off.
For the sake of brevity, for a multitude of reasons, I’m going to say that Bond’s PED use began after the 1998 Home Run Race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. If you were to cut Bond’s career off at that point, when he was 33 he would have amassed 50.3 WAR as a San Francisco Giant, good enough for 12th on the entire franchise list, 6th excluding Deadball Era players, and 5th on the list of players who only played in San Francisco Giants.
In 6 seasons, Bonds had improved upon his numbers from his 7 seasons in Pittsburgh. With those numbers alone, Bonds gets his number retired. The average WAR for a San Francisco Giant who gets his number retired is 63.6, a number Bonds would hit that threshhold in his 8th year as a Giant.
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Does Barry Bonds deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? That’s up for “debate.” Should he be considered one of the greatest hitters of all time? Yes. Will there forever be a black cloud over his career? No doubt. However, all of that doesn’t mean a damn thing to the fans in San Francisco or to Barry Bonds.
If Barry Bonds has earned any bit of recognition, it’s this. Let the man have it. It’s his and there’s no acceptable reaction other than a hat tip.
#25 will never be worn by another San Francisco Giant, and that’s probably the way Barry Bonds always imagined it.
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