This week, Michael Schur and I are even more scattered than usual on the PosCast so it would be difficult for me to sum up this hour of madness. I will tell you that in Tony Gwynn’s honor we draft “pure hitters,” which are just like “regular hitters” only with more natural ingredients. Barry Bonds comes up … and there is something about Barry Bonds that struck me today.
I happened to be scanning Bonds’ Baseball Reference page, and I noticed something kind of odd. Baseball Reference has this cool thing called the Fan EloRater, where they have fans rank players against each other and then use the millions of rankings to form a list of the greatest players in baseball history. It’s a great concept and great way to show what fans think about the game. I love to check in on it every now and again.
Trouble is … it really is what fans think about the game — unfiltered and unaltered. Barry Bonds, at this moment, is ranked as the 84th best player ever. EIGHTY-FOURTH! Here are some of the player rated higher:
83. Roger Connor(???)
82. Derek Jeter
81. Kenny Lofton
80. Tim Raines
79. Joe Cronin
78. Ivan Rodriguez
77. Ryne Sandberg
76. Andre Dawson
I don’t think I need to point out how ludicrous any of this is. I mean, all of those are good players but compared to Barry Bonds? I’m one of the world’s biggest Tim Raines fans but against Barry Bonds? Absurd. It’s not even fair to Raines to make the comparison. Raines’ best WAR season is 7.6 which is fantastic, an MVP type season. Barry Bonds had THIRTEEN SEASONS with more WAR. It’s nonsensical.
But, of course, we know the reason why Bonds is ranked so low — people think he cheated. People don’t like him. People think he was a discredit to the game. And that’s fine; Barry Bonds basically asked to be despised with his attitude and the way he treated many people. I say: Loathe away. The trouble begins for me when people move on from loathing and try to change obvious history in order to fit into a neat narrative that fits how they want to see the game.
Barry Bonds was one of the greatest players in baseball history. This is absolute reality. He was one of the greatest in his younger days with Pittsburgh. He was one of the greatest in the middle part of his career with the giants. And, in a time when baseball did not test for steroids, he put up numbers that are unmatched in the history of the game. You could cut his career value in half — IN HALF — and he’s better than every player on that list. You could take the last eight years off his career, shave 10% off that total, and he’s STILL better than every player on that list.
I realize that the fan EloRater is not the census and it’s not the Constitution. It is just a fun game that takes into account fans emotions as much as anything else — and, of course, Barry Bonds would rate very low on most people’s “most honorable players” or “most likable players” list. But I guess this gets to the heart of why I really dislike the idea of keeping Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and a handful of others out of the Hall of Fame. By doing so, we replace history with moral judgment. We replace what happened with what we think should have happened.
I guess it comes do this: We cannot change the basic fact that Bonds and Clemens, for all their flaws, were two of the greatest players in baseball history. And to be honest about it, we look petty and silly trying.