At the age of 49, Barry Bonds returns to the San Francisco Giants not as an active player but as a 7-day roving instructor for Giants manager Bruce Botchy. He donned a San Francisco Giants uniform for the first time since his last game in 2007. Pictures of him show a slimmed down Barry Bonds. He attributes his loss of weight to his becoming an avid cyclist. For many years the Giants have had a tradition of bringing back retired players to spring training. Such retired players as Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow, Randy Winn, and Will Clark are appearing this year.
In talking about his new role as instructor, Bonds said, “I’m more nervous at this than when I was playing, because as a player, it was only my mind, me. Now I’m trying to put that [knowledge] into other players’ minds. I’m a little l more nervous being on this side than that side. Hopefully I can just bring some good value to the ball club. Hopefully, I can bring value to these guys and then let Bochy see how I do. I would rather let them evaluate me, and then hopefully something good can come out of this.” Unlike Mark McGwire, who admitted to using PEDs when he returned to the Cardinals as their hitting coach, Bonds has no comment about his alleged use of PEDs
When a reporter asked him if he was upset or had any jealous feelings about the Giants winning two World Series without him he responded, “I’m not jealous. I’m happy,” he said. “This is my town. It’s my city. It’s my family. I’m happy. I was almost in tears when they won, I was that happy. It was something we had wanted for a long time. … I’ve always been a Giant.”
In his final year at the age of 42 Barry Bonds still was able to put up gaudy batting statistics. In 407 plate appearances, he had 132 walks, tagged 28 home runs and had OPS (on-base plus slugging average) of 1.045. He hit 1 HR for every 12 at bats. Yet, no team would offer him a contract for the following year. An argument can be made that in fact he was blackballed by baseball. When asked if he had any bad feelings toward baseball, he said that was in the past and he is only looking forward to the future.
Let’s look at his baseball career. Barry Bonds is a 7-time MVP who holds the single season HR record of 73 and the career HR record of 762. His career statistics are awesome. He ranks 4th in career OPS (1.0512), he ranks 5th in career slugging (.6069) and he ranks 6th in career on-base percentage (.4443). In my book “Sandlot Stats” I ranked the greatest hitters of all-time. Using a basket of 13 statistics, I ranked Barry Bonds 6th behind in order Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Hornsby, and Cobb (not bad company to be with). Clearly his career statistics should make him a first ballot Hall of Famer. Yet, in his first year of eligibility 2013 he received only 26.2% of the votes and this year he received only 34.7% of the votes. Both numbers are far short of the 75% needed for election. Yes, the answer to why the baseball writers are not voting for him is of course his alleged use of banned substances.
My view as expressed in previous blogs is I will judge him solely on his baseball statistics and these statistics equate to arguably one of the ten greatest baseball players of all-time. Since drug testing became mandatory in 2004, the only player currently on the 2014 ballot that tested positive is Rafael Palmeiro. That means the rest of the players on the ballot who played during the Steroid Era can only be suspected users, by virtue of other player accusations or because of the change in their physical appearance. In our legal system you are assumed innocent unless proven guilty. Unlike in his playing days when he was rude and unfriendly to sports writers, today Bonds was all smiles as he joked with the sports writers. We are now looking at a new Barry Bonds and maybe this new Barry Bonds will eventually receive his invitation to the Hall of Fame.