By In Stuff

A Dozen Days in the life of Barry Bonds

A lot of people are talking about the awesomeness of Miguel Cabrera … and rightfully so. He’s the best hitter on earth right now. I love watching the guy hit baseballs. Thing is, I heard someone on television the other day say something like: “I’ve never seen a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera.” And I thought to myself: OK, look, maybe we want to forget that baseball happened from 1995 to 2005 or so. Maybe that time period was irredeemably tainted by performance enhancing drugs. Maybe it will come to be viewed as an inauthentic time … kind of the garbage-in, garbage-out school of thought.

But, you know, it DID happen.

And nobody — I mean nobody who ever lives — will be a better hitter than Barry Bonds was in 2004.

Before even getting to Bonds, we should mention Albert Pujols, who has fallen from grace so rapidly that it seems people forget that everything Cabrera’s doing now, Pujols did it first.

Miguel Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs to win the Triple Crown?

Pujols in 2006 hit .331 with 49 homers and 137 RBIs (and, incidentally, didn’t lead the league in ANY of the three categories).

This year, Cabrera is hitting .360 with 40 homers and 120 RBIs.

In 2003, Pujols hit .359 with 43 homers and 124 RBIs, plus FIFTY ONE doubles and he scored 137 runs.

In his decade, Pujols hit .359, 357 and four times hit hit between .329 and .331. He hit between 41 and 49 homers six times. He drove in 120 runs six times. And those were just his triple crown numbers. He also stole some bases (twice stealing 16), won a couple of Gold Gloves, was touted constantly for his intangibles while still managing to lead the league in that much debated WAR statistic four years in a row. As I’ve written before and will write again: Miggy is a demigod. But Prince Albert was there first.

And then, to be fair, Frank Thomas was there before Pujols.

Then there was Bonds. And he’s an entirely different category. You can argue, if you like, that every single thing Bond ever did on a baseball diamond is tarnished and blemished and unworthy of memory. That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. The counter argument is: Whoa! That’s all. Whoa! It seems to me that even if you THINK you remember how ridiculous he was, you probably don’t. I didn’t. I went back and found 12 games he played from August 10 to August 21 in 2004. I kind of picked the games at random — I was only going to do one series, but then I kept going because, frankly, it still absolutely blows the mind. He broke the game, that’s what he did. He tilted it. He blue screened it.

Take a look:

August 10 (Giants lose to Pirates 8-7)

AB 1: Runner on 2nd. WALK (five pitches).

AB 2: Runner on 1st. WALK (on full count)

AB 3: Runner on 3rd. FLY OUT (warning track in right)

AB 4: Leads off. HOME RUN

AB 5: Nobody on. STRIKEOUT (looking)

August 11 (Giants lost to Pirates 8-6)

AB 1: Bases loaded. WALK (on full count)

AB 2: Runner on 2nd. INTENTIONAL WALK.

AB 3: Nobody on. FOUL POPOUT.

AB 4: Nobody on. GROUNDOUT (first base).

AB 5: Leads off inning. INTENTIONAL WALK.

August 12 (Giants beat Pirates 7-0)

AB 1: Runner on 2nd. Pitched to! DOUBLE (off centerfield wall)

AB 2: Runner on 1st. WALK (five pitches)

AB 3: Runners on 1st and 2nd. LINEOUT.

AB 4: Runners on 1st and 2nd. WALK (full count).

August 13 (Giants beat Phillies 16-6)

AB 1: Nobody on. WALK (five pitches)

AB 2: Runners on 2nd and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK.

AB 3: Runners on 2nd and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK.

AB 4: Runner on 2nd. SINGLE.

AB 5: Nobody on. HOME RUN.

August 14 (Giants beat Phillies 7-6 — Bonds did not start game)

AB 1: As pinch hitter in eighth with nobody on base. INTENTIONAL WALK.

August 15 (Giants beat Phillies 3-1)

AB 1: Runner on 2nd. INTENTIONAL WALK.

AB 2: Lead off inning. FLYOUT (To deep centerfield)

AB 3: Lead off inning. WALK (full count)

AB 4: Lead off inning. GROUNDOUT (to 2nd base)

August 16 (Giants beat Expos 8-5)

AB 1: Runner on 2nd. INTENTIONAL WALK.

AB 2: Runner on 1st. STRIKEOUT (looking)

AB 3: Lead off inning. WALK (five pitches)

AB 4: Leadoff inning. POPOUT (third baseman)

AB 5: Runners on 1st and 2nd. WALK (four pitches)

August 17 (Giants beat Expos 5-4)

AB 1: Lead off inning. HOME RUN

AB 2: Runner on 1st. HOME RUN.

AB 3: Runners on 1st and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK.

AB 4: Nobody on. FLYBALL (Deep centerfield)

August 18 Game 1 (Expos beat Giants 6-2)

AB 1: Pinch hitter in eighth, runners on 1st and 2nd. POP OUT (third baseman)

August 18 Game 2 (Giantas beat Expos 14-4)

AB 1: Runners on 2nd and and 3rd. INTENTIONAL WALK

AB 2: Runner on 1st. WALK (five pitches)

AB 3: Lead off inning. SINGLE.

AB 4: Nobody on. HOME RUN.

August 20 (Giants beat Mets 7-3)

AB 1: Nobody on. SINGLE.

AB 2: Runner on 1st. SINGLE.

AB 3: Nobody on. DOUBLE.

AB 4: Runner on 1st. GROUNDOUT (shortstop)

August 21 (Mets beat Giants 11-9)

AB 1: Runner on 2nd. WALK (full count)

AB 2: Lead off inning. TRIPLE.

AB 3: Leadoff inning. WALK (four pitches)

AB 4: Runner on 1st. DOUBLE.

AB 5: Runner on 1st. SINGLE.

It’s a cartoon. It’s a busted video game. In those 12 games, Barry Bonds hit .556. He slugged 1.333. He hit five home runs. He walked 21 times, nine of them intentional. His on base percentage — are you ready for this? Yeah: .750. He got on base three-fourths of the time he came to the plate.

But is that surprising? Heck, his on-base percentage for the entire year was .609. That was the crazy level of fantasticality Barry Bonds achieved. One year he hit 73 home runs and slugs .863, the all time record. The next he hits .370 and walks 198 times. The next he slumps to .341/.529/.749. And in 2004, the year he broke the game, he hit .362, walked 232 times, was intentionally walked 120 times, nobody will ever have a year like that again.

Everybody has their own thought on the steroid part of the equation. But the truth is that in 2004 (and it wasn’t very different in 2001, 2002 or 2003) someone became so good at the game of baseball that there was really no way to deal with. It was like an alien coming from outer space with some weapon we simply cannot counter. It was ike some running back coming along who is 10 feet tall, weighs 475 pounds and cannot be tackled even by all 11 men. The guy on TV who said he’s never seen a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera might want to exclude players he believes cheated the game, and that’s absolutely his right. But, make no mistake: He HAS seen a better hitter.


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88 Responses to A Dozen Days in the life of Barry Bonds

  1. Sean OLeary says:

    Great job for glorifying a steroid user. He broke the game by cheating. Stupid post.

  2. Zachary Ross says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. tarhoosier says:

    His manager saw nothing unusual.
    No baseball manager has EVER seen anything unusual with these guys.
    Lance Armstrong and other cyclists had managers who were deeply involved with doping; same with track and Olympic athletes. Managers who were admittedly complicit.
    When will baseball managers admit they are just as involved with the cheating? Or are so clueless to be in the Stooges HOF?

    • I think you overestimate the amount of time an MLB manager spends with an individual player and their development. There’s a reason of the four major American sports, only in baseball is the top instructor called a “manager” and not “head coach”.

    • yefrem says:

      We just saw Joe Girardi blow his top on the home plate umpire after his player, an admitted cheater, got beaned. Sports are tribal in nature. Teams will never punish their own for cheating, its up to the league to do that.

  4. I watched Barry Bonds for much of the early ’00s. I didn’t like him, but I respected him. When I first moved to San Francisco, I much preferred the charming pre-Moneyball-publication Billy Beane A’s. But Bonds’ at-bats, all of them, were appointment TV. I’d keep an eye on the Giants game and switched to it when Bonds hit. If I had the Giants game on in the background, I’d stop what I was doing when Bonds hit.

    Like him or not, Bonds was the most compelling hitter ever. Pujols was great, Cabrera is great. But Bonds, in his best years, it seemed like if he got three pitches to hit, one of them was going out of the park.

    A forgotten bit about Bonds is the nature of his home runs. They weren’t majestic bombs like Chris Davis’. They were vicious line drives, slashed by his cobra-like bat speed. They weren’t the furthest home runs, but they were the fastest. I still remember one ball he hit at AT&T Park that was gone so fast, it seemed like the naked eye couldn’t follow it. I mean, I think I remember it. My naked eye couldn’t follow it.

    • ethegolfman says:

      I still say the hardest hit home run I have ever seen was Bonds off Curt Schilling. He it down the tunnel that suits above and beyond the pool at Chase Field and it was really not much higher than basically a line drive. Seems like I looked it up one time and officially it was like 460 feet like I said , it was a 460 foot line drive.

      Actually Bonds/Schilling was always kind of fun because Schilling would challenge him for the most part which means he hit some absolute bombs off Schilling.

    • Dave says:

      Bonds v. Percival, World Series. Angels up by a few runs; Percival challenges Bonds with an inside 100 MPH+ fastball; ball goes into orbit.

    • ftghb says:

      @Dave, I’ll give you another one from that series. Game 6, against a young K-Rod. 87 mph slider, neck high and absolutely lasered into the second row. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver could barely get the words out and it was already in the seats.

  5. kyle. says:

    good article, but comparing cabrera’s 2013 hr/avg/rbi in august to pujol’s full 2003 is a bit misleading. cabrera won’t approach the runs or doubles of pujols, but he’ll crush the rbi & hr.

  6. nscadu 9 says:

    Friends of mine still are going on about the greatness of Cabrera’s triple crown. I don’t think anyone even looks at his numbers they just see highlight reels and a crown. There have been so many players that have bested Cabrera’s year, but didn’t win the triple crown. Off the top of my head I would say Walker’s MVP year, Ichiro’s record breaking hit year, A-Rod, Griffey jr. all have had more historic years than anything Cabrera has done this year. and as you mention Pujols and Bonds over various years and yes Mike Trout too.

    • Matt says:

      Doesn’t that make Cabrera look even better? Relative to his peers, he’s performing at an even higher rate. In an era where power rates are down (and why would this be, it’s not as if the hitters are less strong/powerful/muscular), there’s a guy who is outperforming the league at an insane rate.

      For example, the total amount of home runs hit during the A-Rod, Griffey, and Walker years.

      57/5059 1.12%
      56/5064 1.10%
      49/4640 1.05%

      (A-Rod/KG/LW’s percentage of total home runs hit)

      Cabrera this year: 41 home runs out of a league that’s hit 3729. 1.10%, right in line with the others. Done with a higher batting average and NO INKLINGS of steroid abuse.

  7. B.E. Earl says:

    An interesting comparison of Bonds and Cabrera is to look at their first 11 years in the bigs.

    Bonds 1986-1996 (ages 21-31) 6713 PA, 334 HR .288/.404/.548 161 OPS+ 84.3 rWAR
    Miggy 2003-2013 (ages 20-30) 6996 PA, 361 HR .321/.399/.570 155 OPS+ 54.2 rWAR

    Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball right now, but would anyone prefer his first 11 years over Bonds’ first 11? I doubt it.

    Sure, Bonds was insane from 2000-2004. But some folks forget how great he was BEFORE all of the PED nonsense. Well, allegedly…

    • ceolaf says:

      Yes. This.

      People who decry Bonds in the 00’s really should look back on Bonds in the 90’s. He was clearly the best player in the NL the entire decade — including 1998 –, and perhaps the best player in baseball.

      His on-based numbers BEFORE 2000 were excellent. Usually first or second in the NL. He was top 5 in both slugging and on base just about every year (once, he was #6 in slugging), except 1999 (when he didn’t qualify).

      To understand how amazing Bonds was, think about a surefire first ballot hall of famers, with multiple MVPS, who was widely acknowledged for being robbed of at least one MVP, who led his league in WAR seven of nine year, who was so feared that he led his league in intentional walks SEVEN STRAIGHT YEARS.

      Then, and only then, add the juice — whatever it was.

      He was better than Griffey seven out of nine years (WAR). He averaged 1.4 WAR better than Griffey.

      Then, and only then, add the juice.

      What did juice to do other players? Well add that to Bonds.

      To understand how crazy Bonds’ performance was in the 00’s, you have to understand how great — truly epically great — he was before juice.

      The juice added .200 to his slugging. He was already top five in slugging every year, and then added .200 to that. And the fear upped the IBBs — which explains almost all of his increased OB%.

    • The juice added .200 to his slugging. He was already top five in slugging every year, and then added .200 to that. And the fear upped the IBBs — which explains almost all of his increased OB%.

      I would argue it wasn’t just the juice or even the juice itself. I may be incorrect, but what I recall is that after seeing McGwire and Sosa destroy the HR record, Bonds decided to improve his strength and gain more power. I’d like to think how much the juice actually helped him with his strength program is debatable. Using .200 as a starting point, perhaps Bonds’s new, intense conditioning program contributed 0.150, while the PEDs boosted it another 0.050.

      And other factors could also be at play. Perhaps Bonds implemented a new strategy at the plate, which also helped improve his slugging. This has happened with other players … think Jose Bautista in Toronto, when he dramatically changed his approach at the plate.

      My point is that it’s too simplistic to state “The juice added .200 to his slugging.” It’s more complicated than that.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Damon stop it. Revisionists just look retarded. Bonds took roids and turned into a cartoon. It had nothing to do with workouts and had everything to do with the substances that fueled his workouts.

    • Ian R. says:

      @Damon – It’s illogical to try to separate the impact of the steroids and the workout regiment. Steroids are precisely what made the superhuman workout regimen possible.

      Did Bonds work very, very hard to achieve the incredible heights he did in the early ’00s? Absolutely. Roger Clemens did the same thing. Were steroids a vital part of that transformation? Yup.

    • Rob Smith, people who use variations of the word “retard” in a derogatory manner look ignorant and insensitive.

    • ftghb says:

      I really hate to go off tangent here, as all of you have made excellent points. But I find it surprising how stark the contrast is between the readership here and on the nbc site, considering Joe posted the exact same article:

      “ray0414 – Aug 19, 2013 at 6:49 PM
      Alright i just looked up barry bonds stats. gotta say im very surprised they werent better. bonds a career .298 hitter????????????? seriously?? u guys talk about how great a hitter he was?? take out a couple of those juiced up years and his BA is like 285 to 290. his first 6 years in the league he batted 300 1 time. NOT IMPRESSED!! he may however may be the best at drawing walks. but hitting? miggy ALL DAY!!”

      sorry, I just found it a little funny. Have a nice day.

  8. John Franco (.216/.268/.270 over 41 plate appearances) doesn’t get what the big deal is with this Bonds guy.

    • It is very much one of my favorite things that Franco had Bonds’ number, including striking Bonds out looking to end Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS in the bottom of the 10th, then striking Bonds out swinging to end the top of the 9th in Game 3 (a game the Mets eventually won in 13 innings).

  9. Alejo says:

    If only all those stunts were true, Pro Wrestling would be the most fantastic sport ever and yet… They are not true.

    When I read this kind of post I feel somewhat disappointed. Posnanski cries over how the joy of HoF debates is gone and the next day he glorifies the man who deliberately killed the joy, and demolished the credibility, of the game.

    Just for kicks, check Tom Verducci’s position on dopers (if you want to know how the normal point of view sounds like):

    • B.E. Earl says:

      Verducci’s point of view is “normal” because you agree with it? That’s…interesting.

    • drunyon says:

      If Bonds killed your joy about baseball, that sounds like a personal problem to me. Bonds didn’t kill even a single bit of the joy for me. I think you need to stop taking everything so personally.

    • Ed says:

      Well, technically, those stunts in pro wrestling ARE true. It’s not like it’s CGI; those are real people doing all those things, and they are constantly injured.

      I realize that’s not the point, and I haven’t watched pro wrestling since I was roughly 16, but saying it’s fake is a little misleading. It’s scripted.

    • ftghb says:

      “….glorifies THE man who deliberately killed the joy, and demonlished the credibility of the game”

      I still find it surprising that there people are of the view that the steroid era was propagated and even motivated by the singular man that was, Barry Bonds.

      The reason why I dont necessarily hold it against bonds in the way many others do is because:

      1) he was certainly not the first user, nor the last
      2) the league undeniably, willfully ignored the steroid era, and one can even argue that there was tacit encouragement
      3) his accomplishments on the field (aided or not) are worth mention, considering they were so far and away in another stratosphere compared to his peers

      You certainly have a right to your opinion as far his eligibility for the hall of fame, but that will never alter his effect as far as on field play. For me, despite knowing Bonds enlisted the help of PEDs, I will most likely NEVER see a stretch of dominance like that again, and I cannot help but be awed by it.

  10. Apparently the only acceptable position on the steroid era is to pretend it never happened. To do otherwise is to “glorify” cheaters.

  11. Alejo says:

    ok, lets put it this way:

    You have a daughter, she is a good student, number 1 of her class, but one day she starts performing like an universal genius. Einstein seems small potatoes compared to this girl.

    You know this is too good to be true, but you are so happy, seeing her shine. Yet, one day what the truth comes out: she is a cheater. She not only cheated her way to college, she went into overkill because she wanted to be the best EVER. And she was, for a time, only, it was a fake.

    Ten years after you remember her not as what she really was, but as what you believed her to be.

    Reality check man: you are deluded.

    • “You have a daughter, she is a good student, number 1 of her class, but one day she starts performing like an universal genius. Einstein seems small potatoes compared to this girl.”

      No way one can cheat their way to being a universal genius. You can cheat on tests and ace ’em all, but to be a universal genius, you’re developing new ideas, discovering fantastic results, and proving your intellect well beyond tests.

      Not the point, I know, but, just saying.

    • ftghb says:

      your analogy is somewhat lacking, but I’ll roll with it:

      The talking point as the basis of all of this is the height that was achieved and the historical significance of all of it. If it turns out she was aided by help that was deemed unfair to a level playing field, then so be it. Take it with a grain of salt. But her revolutionary ideas and accomplishments that will stand the test of time will still be regarded as great.

      Babe Ruth and Ted Williams played in a segregated era. Does that detract from their accomplishments? Maybe, but they outperformed their contemporaries by such a great margin that their accomplishments will forever be remembered.

      I’m not trying play the moral police here. If your question is, whether Barry Bonds was truly great or was he simply a good player, then consider that he routinely led his league in win shares and OPS every single year despite playing in Candlestick park. That by the time of his purported steroid use in 1998, he was already the only member of the 400-400 club, a 3 time MVP, 7 time gold glove winner, and the finest two way player since Willie Mays.

  12. And if you also found out that she didn’t cheat by stealing answers, she cheated by abusing caffeine and cocaine in order to study extra hard and for longer hours and, as it turns out, a significant portion of her fellow students were also abusing caffeine and cocaine to varying degrees?

    Maybe you could come to a position where you can still marvel at the performance without approving of how it was accomplished?

    • Alejo says:

      Hey, don’t abuse my analogy and don’t insult those who played clean.

      Check Verducci’s column on cheaters. It’s illuminating.

    • Sorry, if you post an analogy as flawed as that, I’m allowed to make amendments to make my point.

    • And I’m not sure how I’ve insulted clean players…

    • Alejo says:

      And yet you followed it.

      Ever heard of Lance Armstrong? Ben Johnson? Marion Jones? Man, in every other sport doping is prohibited for a reason.

      Do you have an idea of how steroids improve performance? (

      If he was the greatest, why did he dope in secret?

      Yeah, the steroid era happened, its numbers were mind-boggling, but these guys aren’t the best at anything. They played doped, therefore the dominance, the speed, the aggression, were a lie.

      Lie/truth, I am sure they taught you the difference at home.

    • Are you willing to toss every player that ever used amphetamines, or doctored a ball, or used a corked bat, into that same category?

    • Alejo says:

      Man, you serious? can you compare the odd corked bat or vaseline in a baseball with a state-of-the-art doping program going on for ten, twelve seasons? Really? I mean, yeah, some old timers cheated and are in the HoF, but this is comparing a stick of dynamite to the atomic bomb.

      Get some perspective.

    • Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

      Since you are of the opinion that the kind and degree of cheating is important, please explain where exactly that line is drawn, and what criteria you used to determine the appropriate placement of that line.

      For instance, if a player receives one injection of anabolic steroids, how should that be considered? If he does it for one full year? Five years?

    • B.E. Earl says:

      @Alejo – So is it your contention that there are/were acceptable degrees of cheating? Who should be the one to determine those degrees of acceptability?

    • drunyon says:

      Mark– The actual answer is “The line is wherever I arbitrarily want it to be”, but of course he’s not going to respond and say that. Too bad; it would be the honest thing to do.

    • Alejo says:

      “Degrees of cheating” huh? I have some information here guys: there are degrees of cheating.

      If you shoplift, once, you may get in less trouble that if you do it ten times. If you rob the shop at gun point and kill someone, you will get in more trouble. If you blow up the mall with a bomb, islamic style, you get the death penalty.

      You see, in real life there are plenty of degrees of cheating.

      Now, back to baseball:

      Ten tons of cork won’t give you 73 home runs in a season. 10000 gallons of Vaseline won’t give you five Cy Youngs. This is why Bonds and The Rocket didn’t go for cork and lubricants. Steroids and hormones will keep you going at a sustained level of excellence at an age when every other player should decline (see Armstrong, Lance).

      Where to draw the line? where indeed? difficult, just ask Craig Biggio. No guys, it´s not a matter of black and white here and that’s the problem. MLB looked the other way for too long and no one knows where’s the frontier between clean and steroidland.

      However, one thing is to doubt Bagwell, and the other to glorify Bonds and Clemens. I mean, some guys are in a grey zone but others are a living medical compendium of growth hormone extravaganza (ever seen Bonds’ head?)

    • Alejo — nobody claimed there weren’t degrees of cheating. Our question was whether you believed that there are ACCEPTABLE degrees of cheating. And you still haven’t answered the question. You’ve stated (without demonstrating) that corked bats and doctored balls aren’t as effective as PED’s, but you haven’t actually said whether you believe that using corked bats or doctored balls should be punished differently than using PED’s.

      I have a guess as to what your answer will be, but I hate to speak out of turn, so I’ll wait for your reply.

    • Alejo says:

      Dear Mark,

      There are more than one thousand scientific papers describing the different effects of steroids on athletic performance. There are few describing how cork is not really effective to increase bat power (if you don’t remember your science, check “Myth Busters”). I will translate your “without demonstrating” to Mark: you’re just too lazy to read, make an effort at least.
      Cheating is unacceptable, therefore, cheaters shouldn’t be glorified. As I am not defending Whitey Ford, but simply stating that people like Bonds should be left out of the HoF, I find my position entirely consistent.
      And yeah, doctored balls is a punishable offence according to MLB, with the same punishment as PEDs: suspension. Only, you get more games (as you should) if you dope. Which is only logical.

    • B.E. Earl says:

      @Alejo – Some batters who faced Gaylord Perry over his career (2 Cy Young awards, 3 other Top 10 finishes, 314 wins) might disagree with you about all the 10000 gallons of Vaseline thing, but whatever.

      Yes, there are degrees to cheating. Yes, certain violations might require stricter punishment (I dislike the shoplifting/murder/terrorist analogy though…that’s old and much too extreme). If you got caught with a corked bat or doctored ball, you got tossed and/or suspended. Until 2005 there was no way for MLB to catch these PED guys because there was no testing in place. Was it still cheating? Sure. But so was the use of amphetamines (also illegal in MLB, but non-tested until 2005), corked bats and doctored baseballs. You may argue that the extent of enhancement on some of these newer drugs is much, much higher than “greenies”, and that may be true. But we have no idea exactly how much of these player’s performance was affected by PEDs. It’s all opinion and conjecture.

      Barry Bonds physique certainly changed around 1999-2000, but pointing out his skull structure as “evidence” would be an indictment to guys like Placido Polanco. Have you ever seen that dude’s skull? Amazing!

    • Oh, I believe PED’s are more effective than using corked bats; I was just noting that you continually make all kinds of claims without offering any support at all. I would have noted it whether I agreed or disagreed with that particular claim. And it still should be said that while it’s fairly easy to agree that PED’s are more effective than, say, amphetamines or doctored balls, actually knowing HOW much more effective is quite a bit more difficult, and if we are now tasked with constructing different punishments for different degrees of cheating, then knowing how these different things compare is important.

      But the bigger issue is that you repeatedly sidestep the sticky problem you’ve created here. You say that cheating is “unacceptable” and that cheaters shouldn’t be “glorified” — but when pressed on what kinds and degrees of cheating are included in this standard, you neatly sidestep and reiterate that you’re “simply stating” that Bonds should be excluded from the HoF.

      So what’s your answer? I’ll give you a simple hypothetical:

      If you were the commissioner of MLB, would you remove from the HoF every player that ever publicly admitted to (or was caught) using amphetamines?

    • Hey, don’t abuse my analogy and don’t insult those who played clean.

      He can do whatever the hell he wants.

    • Alejo says:

      B.E, thanks for agreeing with me. Cheaters out: whether it is ball doctors or dopers.

      But yeah, for some players it’s “conjecture”, for others, less so.

      Mike Piazza, will we ever know for real? I don’t think so.

      A-Rod? McGwire? Sosa? Palmeiro? Bonds? Clemens? man, all these guys are well into the dark side.

      Not only that, dopers create an environment of illegality and bullying that undermine the whole sport (again, Lance was a real Godfather of doping; A-Rod seems to have induced others to dope; Bonds is supposed to talk Sheffield into it)

      So, listen, we have no idea of how many homers Bonds would have hit without HGH, but the point is he was killing the league at an age when players go down (see Pujols, Albert). That suggests 73 and 762 are way too many.

    • Do you have an idea of how steroids improve performance? (

      Change “sports” to “baseball” and you go from 1360 entries to FOUR. I have yet to find a definitive research paper that accurately assesses how steroids help with hitting a baseball above and beyond how one can improve hitting a baseball with safer, legal methods.

      The high offense era may not be solely due to illegal PED use. As others have shown … slugging percentage of balls in play NOW are the same as they were during the high offense era (or doping era). The drop off in offense NOW is primarily due to more strikeouts, and the increase in strikeouts could be a result of a few factors other than and likely especially not involving PEDs.

    • Alejo says:

      The commissioner of baseball can’t get anyone out of the HoF, which is a privately run thing.

      And I am not sure it is legal to judge a matter twice (as in, you can’t punish someone retrospectively). As I say, I am not sure that’s possible.

      So that’s that.

      About sidestepping: no man, you get caught with a doctored ball you get suspended. You get caught in Biogenesis (or whatever) you get suspended.

      And then the writers get to vote. And that’s a totally different kettle of fish but… bottom line, doping is bad, man, no matter how you see it.

    • B.E. Earl says:

      @Alejo, Ha…nice try, but we clearly aren’t in agreement. Hank Aaron hit more HR in his 30’s than his 20’s, and much of the that occurred in a low-offensive era. There are instances of players who excelled at ages when others were retired. Aaron and Nolan Ryan, for example. No sneaky sideways glances at those guys?

      And everything Damon Rutherford just wrote above. There is more empirical evidence that PEDs didn’t blow up baseball than evidence that they did.

    • Alejo says:

      Hi Damon,

      I am sure running in baseball is pretty much the same as running in other sport. Hence the same doping program was used by Bonds and Marion Jones. The same goes for muscle mass and all of those things that make you faster, stronger and a better athlete.

      If you think steroids won’t give more pop to your bat, I suggest you write an email to Mark McGwire, asking him. He will tell you.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Damon, stop it. You are making a fool of yourself. And Mark, using the greenies were just as bad as steroids argument is old and tired…. and doesn’t wash. There is a huge difference between a little jolt to keep you going during a long summer and building your body into a superman cartoon with a needle (yes, and weights). Any person with an ounce of intelligence can tell the difference between the 90s and today….not only how players performed, but also how players looked…. and everyone with more than a pea for a brain can give the root cause of that difference. Nobody is today is hitting 60 or 70 HRs. Nobody is slugging .800. Nobody has a 1.300 OPS. Please stop it both of you, it’s embarrassing.

    • Alejo says:

      Ok, last entry.

      Aaron? have you heard him defending Bonds? saying Bonds did the same he did? Nolan Ryan saying Clemens was just like him? no? enough said.

    • Rob Smith says:

      OK B.E. Earl. You say there’s empirical evidence that steroids didn’t “blow up” baseball. I presume you mean that individual steroid users didn’t increase their homerun output at a an unprecedented rate. Let’s see your evidence.

    • B.E. Earl says:

      Love it. “Last entry” and “Enough said”. I guess you win. Cheers!

    • B.E. Earl says:

      Rob – I was referencing the overall power numbers for all of baseball, not individual users. If you’d like to read about it, here is a nice write-up from David Schoenfield on ESPN referencing some early work by Joe Sheehan and Dave Cameron. It’s interesting.

    • I’d also like to know how it is “glorifying” to simply point out statistics. There’s no question, regardless of where you stand on the steroids debate, that no one in the history of baseball put up numbers like Bonds did during that 2004 season. Even Babe Ruth at his most Babe Ruth-ian didn’t put up those numbers. It’s not so much glorification as it is pointing out a fact.

      Whether he cheated or not is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

    • Nobody is today is hitting 60 or 70 HRs. Nobody is slugging .800. Nobody has a 1.300 OPS. Please stop it both of you, it’s embarrassing.

      So the lack of PEDs is causing the increase in strikeouts while keeping the slugging percentage of hit balls the same?

      And given the comments down below, is that due to a decrease in bat speed?

      I’m not trying to make a fool of myself. I’m trying to be open minded about this, ask questions, and not so easily write off most of the steroid era and its “cheaters”.

  13. William says:

    I saw Bonds play in St. Louis that year and the one noticeable thing about him was that ridiculous bad speed. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was likely fueled by steroids, but it was super-human or non-human.

    • Daniel Flude says:

      His bat speed was ridiculous. He would stand right on top of the plate, and he’d get busted in with a perfect fastball in on the hands. And he’d somehow, without stepping in the bucket or throwing his hips wide open, get the bat through the zone and crush the pitch while managing to keep it fair. You almost didn’t believe it while you were watching it.

  14. Unknown says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Mike Beyer says:


    You’re one of my favorite writers, but when it comes to Miguel Cabrera it’s as if the guy owes you money or something. Why? Even when you pay him compliments, they are a bit backhanded. Is he your vote for MVP this year? Or is Trout still your man?

    • Tonus says:

      I think it’s because it generates so much interest and discussion. Cabrera and Trout seem to be a focal point of the “old versus new” discussion in baseball. Bringing Bonds into it is a bit out of, er… left field, though.

    • BobDD says:

      what’s backhanded about saying he’s “the best hitter on earth right now”- and then putting it into historical perspective with the few who have done similar in earlier years?

  16. My buddy and I bring up Super Bonds quite often. It was amazing watching the man break baseball. Yes, he cheated, but really he did everyone a service. He showed you just how bad you can wreck a sport via PED’s. And it was entertaining. Really entertaining. Him hitting a check-swing homer almost into the Cove is my lasting memory of those ridiculous 4 years he had.

    I also feel good about the Super Bonds years because my boys stopped him from winning a title 😀

    • As a fan, why do I care if players use PEDs? I enjoyed watching Bonds, et al., play at fantastic levels, whether they were using or not. While it is disappointing to learn that they were using banned substances, why does that have to make my enjoyment of the sport less? Bonds still hit 73 homeruns, McGwire still hit 70, Sosa still has three seasons over 60. I still enjoyed watching those performances.

      The people who should be upset are clean players who lost jobs or playing time to PED users. This injustice is enough to warrant cleaning up the sport, but it does not make the viewing less pleasurable. Indeed, PEDs perhaps made it more pleasurable. Do I want to watch a team of 9 Mark Belangers?

    • Gene Claude says:

      Sports injuries – THIS. I am constantly amazed at how anyone cares about PEDs that much (as a fan). Yes, it needed to be cleaned up (for the other players), but I am totally nonplussed by it. I can’t even read the debates and feel any emotion about it. I end up rooting for the A-Rods and Bonds of the world because I’m so mystified why they are demons. Compared to the things done daily by “normal” citizens…meh. Baseball fans and media are so smugly holier than thou. PEDs did not affect my enjoyment of the game an iota; the backlash against PEDs sure has. I rarely read about baseball (other than here) and can’t listen to a game because of all the hypocrisy.

      I love the Tom Verducci “normal” comment. Tom Verducci is about as far from my definition of normal as there is. Mobs aren’t “normal.” They are sad.

    • invitro says:

      My opinion is pretty much identical to Mr. Claude’s. I was not emotional about steroid use, but I was and still am turned off by sanctimonious sports writers and fans. I rooted hard for McGwire; he was my favorite player in 1987 when I was a young teenager. I rooted hard for Bonds, both because he did amazing things, and because the hatred of him seemed extreme. The Sosa / McGwire battle in 1998 is the most exciting non-pennant race regular season event in my years of following baseball. I thoroughly loved baseball during the steroid era, and find the regular season rather bland since Bonds retired.

      I am sympathetic to the players who felt required to use drugs to stay in the game. I am a-ok with the long suspensions baseball is now handing out, and I am a-ok with the non-suspensions of the pre-testing era.

      I do like reading facts in this debate. I didn’t know about the similarity in batted-ball SLG that someone mentioned above. That is very interesting.

  17. Devon Young says:

    I couldn’t agree more & I’m sooooooooooo glad you wrote this post. Yesterday I was watching the Royals @ Tigers, and after Cabrera drove in Torii Hunter, the Tigers announcers said something about Miguel Cabrera being the best hitter ever (not just the best they’ve seen). Seriously, they said that. I’m not exagerrating. I was shocked.

    Granted, Cabrera’s currently batting .360/.452/.689 with 40 HR’s and a 207 OPS+ for the season. It’s nothing to sneeze at, but, that’s also this season ALONE. That’s not a career. I love your bringing up Pujols. When comparing Pujols basic stats from his 1st 6999 PA to Cabrera’s (’cause Miguel only has 6996 so far for his career).

    409 HR, .331/.425/.624 Pujols (thru Apr 4, 2011)
    361 HR, .321/.399/.570 Cabrera (thru Aug 18, 2013)

    That certainly doesn’t show Cabrera to be the best ever hitter, let alone the best hitter in the past 13 years. This is a great comparison ’cause they were peers. They faced the same pitchers, defenses, & scouts. They had the same type of baseballs pitched to them (it’s not like we’re comparing a 1988 season ball to a 1987 one in any of this).

    I’d go into the more advanced stuff (RBI%, RE24, WPA, etc) but I don’t have the time.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I agree with your comments. I have no idea why Joe interjected Bonds into the conversation. It’s one thing if the media is getting over the top with their praise for Cabrera, it’s quite another to start comparing Cabrera to the worst steroid cheat in history to counteract the praise. Even with Pujols, though, we’re talking about that era again. I’d say to pick another player from another era preceeding, say 1987, and use that player to see where Cabrera falls. To me, any player from 1987-2003, should not be used in the comparison. And no, I’m not foolish enough to think that steroids weren’t used before that. I just think that when Conseco hit the scene it got a whole lot more popular. Canseco was a blatant user who showed off what steroids could do. Anyone before that at least had the pretense that they were just hitting the weights (Brian Downing anyone?)

    • Gene Claude says:

      He isn’t comparing Cabrera to Bonds in any way. He is saying that there has actually been someone who hit this way before on the field. So saying “nobody has ever done this” isn’t accurate.

      I’m quite certain that Joe is awed by Cabrera’s hitting. I think we all are. However, there have been other people that have smacked the tar out of the ball in similar fashion. I thought Joe was incredibly careful to put about 10 PED-related caveats, although I’m also sure he knew that there would be an outcry, because anytime anyone mentions Bonds, A-Rod, etc. the mob starts dusting off the pitchforks and getting the torches lit….

      Why do so many people need to make the Trout / Cabrera thing a debate about stats? I used to think that everyone universally thought defense and baserunning counted. Just saying that they count towards a player’s value doesn’t seem so controversial.

    • BobDD says:

      uh yeah, defense and base running counts – what a novel concept

  18. Joe, it’s interesting what a firestorm you have caused by making a factual statement. As you said, you can add an asterisk if you’d like, but statistically, Barry Bonds was the greatest hitter ever, period. His .863 single season slugging percentage is the best ever. His .609 single season on-base percentage is the best ever. As of course is his 73 home runs, hit in a park that is notoriously difficult to homer in.

    What made it even more amazing was that Bonds did it while getting almost nothing to hit. The year Bonds hit 73 homers, he had 177 walks. Turn those walks into real at-bats and Bonds hits 84 homers. His plate discipline and pitch recognition were as off the charts as his power. Which is the saddest thing about the steroid shadow hanging over Bonds—it obscures the legitimate baseball skills that enabled him to do the otherworldly things he did.

    The other thing that people tend to forget about Bonds was that for most of his career, he choked in the post season. His OPS for his first 6 post season appearances were .542 .392 .868 (inflated by walks) .647 and .653. Plus he couldn’t even throw out Sid Bream at home plate.

    The Giants somehow missed the playoffs the year he hit 73 homers, but in 2002, at the age of 37, he became Godzilla in the playoffs, with an OPS in 3 series of 1.233, 1.318, and 1.994. That to me is the real difference between the pre-steroid and post-steroid era Bonds. They were both Hall of Fame caliber players, but one of them needed the juice to get it done when it counted the most.

  19. David Fryman says:

    The crazy thing about Bonds (perhaps also tragic) is that you don’t even need his PEDs years to compare him to Cabrera. Bonds put up those kind of eye-popping number in the early 90s while playing Gold Glove defense and stealing 40 bases a year. If you just replace his PEDs stats with mediocre ones, he still makes most all-time top-10 lists.

  20. Robert says:

    This whole thing is because there are lots of people who think what they just saw is the whole enchilada.
    We heard the same thing about “not having seen anything like this” with Pujols, not a few years after Bonds had done more.

    BTW, if you know how to push the right buttons with the “I only believe what I saw last” crowd, you can make easy money off them through betting.

  21. KHAZAD says:

    I think Barry Bonds saved baseball.

    Not purposefully, or out of any sense of altruism. He did what he did because of ego, and the fact that he couldn’t stand being overshadowed by lesser players who he (and Bud Selig, and everyone else) knew were enhanced.

    Fans loved all the home runs, so Bud loved them as well. He nodded and winked and turned a blind eye. Pitchers threw harder, which contributed as well. Those of us who didn’t like steroids had been talking about them since the ’80s, but baseball tried to ignore it as they pocketed the profits. Records fell. Ken Caminiti turned from a slim, slick fielding third baseman to the beefed up 1996 MVP winner. His steroid abuse and an addictive personality led to abuse of other drugs and eventually, his death. He “came out” about using steroids and Bud clucked and shook his head and said it was a tragedy, but an isolated one, when he (and all of us) knew better.

    Then Barry Bonds started taking them. He took the best ones and went to Balco to make sure his regimen gave him the maximum enhancement. He took HGH before anyone else knew what it was. And he became Superman. Joe described as being like an alien from outer space, and someone else above said it was like a cartoon character. Both are apt. The point is that no one could ignore it or pretend that steroids didn’t exist or weren’t a problem anymore. It defied reality.

    Steroids were an issue for many years even before the late 90’s when it became widespread and obvious. (Except to Bud) I remember having debates about it in 1987 and rooting against Tony Larussa’s steroid fueled A’s teams because of it in the late ’80s.

    The worst for me is Bud Selig, who knowingly benefited from the steroid era as much as anyone, who now sees himself, belatedly, as a crusader against them. He is like a reformed smoker who now sighs and covers his nose and gives a withering look if someone lights up a block away outdoors.

    I am not saying you should like Barry, or condone what he did, but without him, even with Canseco’s book, the steroid era might still be happening today, and Bud would still be nodding and winking. You couldn’t ignore Barry Bonds. You couldn’t pretend that it was natural. He was unreal, and it was the impetus for the end of the Steroid era.

  22. I think a point that is largely being missed here is the sheer difference between what Bonds did and what other admitted/known/strongly suspected users did in the same era. Did BALCO give him, and only him, the good stuff? Somehow, I don’t think A-Rod was PED shopping at Dollar General, just to name one guy. I don’t like Bonds one bit, didn’t root for him at all, but he was a mesmerizing hitter. The disconnect between his numbers and those of his steroid-using contemporaries is nothing short of astonishing.

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  24. […] baseball player, and probably a surefire Hall of Famer. But those four years, during which Bonds broke the game of baseball, emblazoned him into our memories. For a myriad of reasons, we’ll probably never forgive him for […]

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