Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame. Whether you believe he is the legitimate home run king, or you hate how he helped make a mockery of the game, or you think he is a jackass, he remains one of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game. He was one of the best all-around players in the game without steroids and was already a slam dunk for the Hall.
Barry Bonds’ career began in 1986. By 1990 he had broken out and won the MVP Award. He then proceeded to win two more MVPs and finish 2nd in the other vote over the next three seasons. Bonds presumably played clean through the 1998 season. At that point he already had three MVPs, eight Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers. Bonds had also slugged 411 home runs and stolen 445 bases, making him the first player ever to hit that many homers and steal that many bases. Oh, he was also 34 years old and at the top of his game. He had plenty of time to add to those stats. He had achieved all-time great status, a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
Bonds’ ego probably led to his steroid use. With McGwire and Sosa chasing home run records and getting all the attention, Bonds likely looked at them with disgust thinking “I’m better than those guys.” Bonds was also coming back from injury that season, missing the season’s first couple months. He could have taken some substances to come back from injury faster. That season, turning 35 in July, Bonds posted his best home runs per-at-bat ratio of any season during his career. During each of the next six seasons he posted an even lower HR/AB ratio. Steroids made guys like McGwire and Sosa and others home run machines. Barry Bonds had reached all-time great status; steroids made him a video game character. From 2000-2004, Bonds batted .339 and averaged 52 home runs per season. His 174 walks per season aided in giving him an outrageous slash line of .535/.781/1.316. That’s just absurd. In 2004, at the age of 40, he racked up a .609 on base percentage. He really did make a mockery of the game and the record books, but he illustrated the problem with steroids and what it can help guys accomplish.
Would Bonds be the all-time home run king if he had played clean? No. Would he have a .444/.607/1.051 slash line? Again, no. But during the first nine years of the 90s he had a .438/.600/1.038 slash line while averaging 36 home runs and 36 stolen bases per season. And those seasons I bet he played clean. He would probably still own 500-500 club solo, while winning plenty of awards along the way. I don’t think he gets in this year with such a crowded ballot. However, the Hall of Fame exists for the greatest players to ever play, and you cannot have that without Bonds.