New PosCast … and a Barry Bonds thought

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.

59 thoughts on “New PosCast … and a Barry Bonds thought

      1. John Gale

        I agree that Kareem is too low (I’d have him No. 2 behind Jordan). Somehow, Larry Bird is on the top of the list, and I think Bobby Orr is above Wayne Gretzky. I think the lesson here is that Boston fans are absolutely delusional.

        Reply
  1. Pete R

    I strongly disagree with the last four sentences, and I don’t even have an opinion on whether Bonds and Clemens and A-Rod should be on their way to the Hall.

    The voters aren’t replacing history with anything. They’re applying moral judgment to history, which is rarely a bad thing to do. They’re not replacing what happened. They’re voting against Bonds and Clemens because of what Bonds and Clemens did.

    The voters aren’t changing the fact that Bonds and Clemens were great players probably before they used any steroids. And it is possible to vote against known steroid users without looking petty or silly…although I admit that Joe knows these voters, and maybe they do look petty and silly, I don’t know.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      Well said.

      Joe has a huge blind spot on this issue. He’s irritated by others people’s personal views on this, but unaware that he has very strong, not entirely rational feelings, about it as well.

      Reply
      1. Greg

        In this context, is Barry Bonds worse than Ty Cobb? Ty Cobb, a racist, who hurt players, who gambled on the game? He’s listed as the 15th best player by this system. People are selectively applying moral judgement, which is the problem with this system. Completely arbitrary, completely random, completely useless.

        Reply
        1. bellweather22

          Why? Cobb died before most people voting on elo-rater were even born. If Cobb were alive today with social media, he’d be the most hated man in the world. Bonds was kind of a version of Cobb. Selfish, surly and generally disliked by fans and teammates. But people saw Bonds acting like an entitled pr*ck. There are a handful of Cobb stories, and it’s clear he was a terrible person. But the fact is, he played 80 years ago.

          Reply
      2. John Gale

        Agreed, DjangoZ. I think Bonds and Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame (I also think they tarnished the game, and some of their numbers are suspect at best) .But Joe was attacking some ridiculous straw men. At one point, he suggested that people think that if Bonds hadn’t taken steroids, he would have hit .248 with 12 home runs in the seasons that he actually put up the three best OPS+ numbers ever. I have never heard anyone–not one person–ever say anything remotely like that. People think he wouldn’t have hit 73 home runs or passed Hank Aaron. That is not the same as saying that Bonds would be a below average player. Ridiculous arguments are not helpful to Joe’s position.

        Reply
    2. MCD

      I think your take is spot-on.

      Who would have thought that such a rational assessment of how morality should be applied to HOF voting would come from a guy named “Pete R”?

      Reply
  2. Sam

    I agree with Joe’s point completely, but for the record I think he is kind of understating just how silly the EloRater is, and possibly overstating its importance as any kind of indicator of what anyone thinks about anything, outside of a certain subset of baseball reference users. For one thing, the EloRater is compiled through voluntary responses, which gives rise to HUGE bias problems: the activity of ranking two players against each other appeals to a certain type of fan, and it seems likely that that type of fan is frequently also the type of fan to take an especially dim view of Barry Bonds.

    For another thing, I spent most of my class time in Family Law on the EloRater, voting alphabetically by first name. (Gary Shefield was remarkably clutch, in alphabetical-by-first-name ranking, at one point beating out Ricky Henderson) Of course, I did fairly lousy in Family Law, and thus now know that what I did was morally wrong…but, again, the EloRater is complied through voluntary responses on the internet, and thus reflects more of the bored, the trolls, and the people with axes to grind, than actual reality.

    Reply
  3. Matt Vandermast

    Isn’t there more to being a great player than helping your team? Bonds and Clemens hurt the game. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make a deduction for that.

    Reply
    1. Ed

      Did they really hurt the game? Baseball is doing as well (and maybe better) than it ever has. Certainly much better than it was immediately preceding Bonds and Clemens.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        They are HUGE black marks on the game. So much so that they’re not getting HOF support from a significant number of voters, despite clear 1st ballot career es on the field. To say they didn’t hurt the game, and aren’t continuing to hurt the game as long as they’re on the ballot, is just head in the sand naive.

        Reply
        1. Ed

          How? They’re a black mark in the game to SOME people, but even then… that still doesn’t give any indication that they are hurting the game. Is it making less money or less popular than it was? No… so there’s no evidence whatsoever that they have hurt the game in any way.

          Reply
  4. Jeff A.

    I think it’s quite a jump to compare the Elo ratings on the BR site with the player’s HoF case. We’re not “replac[ing] what happened with what we think should have happened.” You can clearly see in the stats tables below the Elo rankings on Bonds’ BR page what actually happened. The statistics don’t change.

    As BR notes in its explanation of Elo, “It is up to the user to determine how much weight to give to offense versus defense, peak value versus career value, regular season versus playoffs, etc.” Of course, as pointed out in previous comments, this is only reflective of the opinion of a small subset of baseball fans, it *is* quite useful in evaluating where players like Clemens and Bonds stand _among fans who saw them play_.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE supporter of Bonds and Clemens’ HoF cases and think they are both top 5 all time position player / pitcher. But clearly there is a substantial contingent of baseball fans who feel that PEDs grossly enhanced their greatness. I just happen to be in the minority who doesn’t think those two qualities are mutually exclusive.

    Reply
    1. E

      This is the heart of it. But it’s not even that substantial of a group, just one of the more vocal. The type who will always come on here and moan about Bonds are the same who sit there and vote for players on that rater. Rational baseball fans will accept Bonds as one of the greatest ever and move on. It’s the sanctimonious that winge and try to change history to better suit what they wish happened. They’ll never get the hint it won’t.

      Reply
      1. bellweather22

        So a minority of fans think Bonds and Clemens grossly inflated their numbers with PEDs? That’s delusional. Just reading the comments on this site, a site who’s author openly embraces PED users, but has many,many readers who like Poz but strongly disagree with him about PED users. If,you think you’re in the majority on this topic, I don’t know what to say.

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        1. E

          I never said a minority of fans in the way you claim, I was specifically talking about a minority who are so viscerally opposed to what happened that they’ll stop at nothing to try and change history. I’m sure you’re right; a majority probably do think they know what effect steroids had on player’s careers. They’re wrong. But hey, at least there’s a lot of you. Another awesome use of a bandwagon logical fallacy too!

          Reply
  5. frank eagle

    “We replace what happened with what we think should have happened.”

    Is this not the basis for every Negro League Hall of Famer?

    I really don’t have a problem with the exclusion of the steroid guys because (as much as Joe and Bill James and others have made merit-based arguments for why Player A belongs in Cooperstown, or Player B does not belong) the Hall of Fame is a purely subjective thing. It’s not a WAR leader board; you can find that elsewhere. It’s a place to celebrate the game, and we as fans have no obligation (moral or otherwise) to celebrate anyone or anything that represents a stain on baseball history. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen, but don’t celebrate it either.

    Reply
    1. Tim

      I get what you’re saying, but I think you’re off base. The idea of getting the Negro Leaguers in the HOF was not to make a statement about how good they would have been if they’d been allowed to play in the majors, but how good they actually were based on the statistics and reports that are available (which in many cases are admittedly spotty).

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      1. Darrel

        The problem I see with your argument Tim is the record is so spotty as to be irrelevant. We only need look to Joe’s top 100 pieces to see what I mean. On all of the MLB guys we get an interesting story yes, but more importantly we get numbers that back up Joe’s reasoning. On the Negro league guys we get great and funny anecdotes and one liners from Joe’s friend Buck. Joe is 100% doing the thing he has just argued against by replacing history with a best guess as to what MIGHT have been. Not sure he can have it both ways. I don’t see how he can argue that if X Y and Z had happened then negro leaguer A would have been a hall of famer while discounting any argument that says that without steroids player B wouldn’t have been a hall of famer. It is two sides of the same argument.

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        1. Ed

          Can you point at any players and say they wouldn’t have been a Hall of Fame quality player without steroids, though? Bonds and Clemens were both clear HOFers before the time frame in which they began using (at least based on the evidence we have… which is all we can use. Otherwise you may as well say Randy Johnson was on steroids because he was good for a long time, despite the lack of any evidence).

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          1. Darrel

            McGwire, sosa, mannybmanny, Ortiz, a-rod, Sheffield. That’s off the top of head and I think A-rod is the only guy who might have been able to reach the HoF clean. The point though was more about the theory. If we can imagine a player up to HoF standards and that’s OK then it must be OK to downgrade based on obvious cheating. Everybody I just listed has either tested positive(Manny, Ortiz, a-rod) or is widely acknowledged to have been a user so I believe it should be within reason to look at their numbers with raised eyebrow.

          2. bellweather22

            Clemens was NOT a clear HOFer. He was a great pitcher about to have an early decline before he discovered the fountain of youth and amazingly regained his dominance for another 10 YEARS.

          3. Ed

            Well in response to Darrel — that’s really impossible to know, because we have absolutely no idea what effect steroids actually had on players.

            Did they help them in some way? I’m sure they did. But it could have been as simple as letting them play in more games than they would have otherwise… obviously that would help the counting stats, but it wouldn’t really change their rate stats.

            I’m not saying that steroids didn’t help people hit a lot of homers — it’s certainly possible that it did. But we literally do not know, and to claim otherwise is disingenuous. Did everyone suddenly take steroids for one season when HR totals skyrocketed in the 80s (1987, I think?) and then stop taking them again for 1988?

            Additionally, we have no idea who was actually taking steroids. I don’t have any difficulty believing that 90% of the elite players were taking them in some form, if not more.

            As to bellweather — he had 3 Cy Youngs. He would have easily made it into the HOF.

          4. Tim

            bellweather, I couldn’t disagree more about Clemens. I don’t know when you date his fountain of youth/steroids to, but let’s just say it started with his move to the Blue Jays (where he did, in fact get better). I’d say at that point he was already probably a HOFer. He had a 144 ERA+, had led the league in numerous pitching categories many times (ERA 4 times, shutouts 5 times, strikeouts 3 times), and had, by age 33, already put up over 80 WAR. I’d say that’s a HOF career right there.

  6. Shagster

    Poscasts must be slow days on site. Or he’s bored (Springsteen HoF instead?). Oh well.

    Bonds and Clemens chose to cheat. Then they made even worse choices to hide it. Like the rest of us they have to live with the consequences of their choices. Based on their paychecks, I think they’re still ok with it. The story of their choices, and the consequences of those choices, is told every day they are not in the Hall. Heck, by you.

    Once you or some other silly writers put them in, then they stand as a record, and how they got there goes away. Don’t take my word for it;. Ask King Tut how it works. Entombed. Enshrined. (Enigma). Remind me again the names of all those other pharoahs?

    Said another way. Lets put the kid who cheated and became valedictorian ahead of the kid who worked his ass off/was simply smart. Once first kid was caught, he trashes the teachers and kids around him. Hey, a 4.0 is a 4.0! Amazing! “Let’s not go on about oo killed oo…” Kid gets to remain valedictorian?

    Should we cry any tears for Bonds and Clemens? You can try to make it so, but there is no requirement that they be enshrined in the Hall. They made choices. There are consequences. Given the ease of their current lives I think they’re ok with it.

    In terms of the their relevance to baseball, as it stands their story is told every time it is pointed out that they are not in, I think most of us are ok with it too. Sure beats ensuring them for it.

    Reply
    1. norme

      Shagster,
      Your comment is the best answer to Joe’s often eloquent, but wrong stance. Behaviors have consequences. If you cheated you should be held to account.

      Reply
      1. Darrel

        Karyn, It WAS cheating when they did it. MLB just didn’t have testing in place to catch those who cheated. I’m too lazy to go back and dig it up but I’m 95% sure that rules against steroids were on MLB’s books at the time but unless you saw a guy stick a needle in his ass then you couldn’t catch anyone. And oh by the way it was against the law on top of all that.
        As for Clemens, the HoF without steroids case is a little fuzzier. Assuming he started in Toronto as most people believe he would have had to get in on his Red Sox numbers alone and any other possible mediocre years he put up after leaving Boston. Not sure he was a stone cold lock. 192 wins an ERA just over 3. He’s probably in but add a couple more years with an ERA of 4 like his last couple of Red Sox years and it’s closer than you think.

        Reply
    2. Xao

      Ramses? Hatshepsut? Khufu?

      Tutankhamun is a bad example of enshrinement: he’s well known because his tomb was found largely intact by westerners. It hadn’t been previously looted because of it’s relatively humble size as compared to say, Khufu’s necropolis.

      Other than that, you’ve indulged in quite the smorgasbord of logical fallacies here. Some ad hominem, a false analogy, a straw man, and over generalization. Pretty impressive list for one post!

      Reply
  7. Michael Green

    I agree with Joe. I’ll go further: I am willing to argue that Bonds and Clemens belong in Cooperstown on the basis of what they did before there were any questions. That’s a far cry from, say, McGwire or Sosa.

    I also have a problem with saying they hurt their teams. Without them, their teams wouldn’t have done so well as they had. Also, if that’s our approach, let’s haul down Ty Cobb’s statues because he was a first-class pain in the rear to so many of his teammates.

    Let’s also face another fact. Bonds, from all reports, was a miserable person to be around. Fine. I also don’t believe in making this kind of accusation recklessly, so I am being careful when I say it here: if Barry Bonds were white, he would have gotten better press.

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      “I also don’t believe in making this kind of accusation recklessly, so I am being careful when I say it here: if Barry Bonds were white, he would have gotten better press.”

      Absolutely. Jeff Kent was just as big a jerk, and didn’t get half the crap Bonds did.

      Reply
      1. DjangoZ

        Plenty of people think Bonds and Kent were both jerks. So are Lance Armstrong and OJ Simpson and Oscar Pistorius. Though those last two deserve stronger words than “jerk”.

        I don’t think race has been a huge factor in the perception of Bonds. A factor, of course, but not a huge one.

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    2. bellweather22

      If Clemens was black would he get better press? Jeff Kent is not a good example. He didn’t, as far as we know, use PEDs. He’s not up for the HOF. So, there’s no reason for outrage. He’s just a garden variety jerk… Who’s fairly irrelevant. Who cares. Ah, it must be race…. Get real.

      Reply
  8. Carl

    Guys,was Clemens all that great before the Steroids? Bonds – yes. Clemens? Not so sure.

    At the conclusion of the 1996 season he has 192 – 111 w a 3.06 era. Good – yes. Very good – yes. Great? Not so sure. Consider at the time had had not won more than 11 games in 4 seasons and had 2 losing seasons in the prior 4 years. To me he would have wound up his career in the low 200s to 220 win totals similar to guys like Tiant, Cone, Wells, Drysdale. His closest comp in BR for his age was Dwight Gooden. Potentially still Hall-worthy, esp given the 3 CY’s he had already won, but to me not a slam-dunk case ala Bonds.

    Reply
    1. Doug

      The problem with your argument here is that far too much of it is based on pitcher wins, considering how many problems pitcher wins have as a stat.

      Clemens in 1996, looking at his stats, was absolutely great. Had he retired after 1996, he would have been remembered in the same light as a Pedro or a Koufax – an electrifying and dominant pitcher with a career that was too short but still great. In his 7-year period from 1986 to 1992, he put up a 2.66 ERA (ERA+ of 166 – Koufax’ ERA+ during his 4-year peak of brilliance was 172). He lead the league in ERA 4 times, led the league in strikeouts twice, won three Cy Young awards. He was dominant over that period.

      The reason he wouldn’t have had many wins has relatively little to do with his performance; the reason he wouldn’t have had a lot of wins is because it would have been a very short career. And given that this is a hypothetical where we’re imagining his career cut short at the age of 33, that seems a little unfair (not to mention that wins are inherently not a very good measure of pitcher performance).

      Of course, as it happened, for whatever reason (probably related to steroids), he went on to have an extraordinary resurgence after that, which is what puts him in the argument for top-5 pitchers of all time based purely on his stats. But he had absolutely been a great pitcher up to that point. You can quibble about the definition of greatness I guess, but Clemens even to 1996 was one of the great pitchers. I would argue even up to 1996 you would have to put him as one of the top 20 or so pitchers in the history of the game.

      Reply
    2. DM

      In reply to Carl’s post (and adding on to Doug’s comments/observations)……

      While it’s true that through age 33 (Clemens’ final season in Boston), Clemens’ #1 comp on bb-ref is Gooden, that’s an incomplete picture. The top 10 comps include 4 current Hall of Famers (Gibson, Seaver, Maddux, and Glavine), another player who should be a first-ballot HOF’er (Pedro Martinez), 1 other that almost was elected (Jack Morris), and another that has a good HOF case despite a disappointing debut on his first ballot (Mussina). The other 3 are Gooden, Welch, and Warneke, who were certainly decent enough pitchers, if not quite HOF-worthy.

      If you look at the 10 comps, it’s clear that Gooden isn’t really the most comparable. Yes, he has the highest similarity score, but that focuses on wins, losses, ERA, hits, strikeouts, IP, things like that. Other metrics like WAR and ERA+ are not part of the scoring system, I’m sure because, when Bill James first came up with the methodology, those metrics were not on the scene. When you consider those, Clemens through age 33 had a WAR of about 82 and an ERA+ of 144. Gooden was 53 and 113+. Those are not very similar results. Maddux was 77 and 144, Seaver was 87 and 139, Gibson 61 and 134, Martinez 82 and 166. The truth is, Clemens was really more similar to those 4 than he was to the others.

      Doug and Carl mentioned that, through age 33, Clemens had 3 Cy Youngs and 4 ERA titles. To give proper context, here are the others that had reached those thresholds:

      3 or more Cy Youngs:
      5 – R. Johnson
      4 – Carlton
      4 – Maddux
      3 – Koufax
      3 – Seaver
      3 – Palmer
      3 – P. Martinez

      4 or more ERA titles:
      9 – Grove
      5 – Alexander
      5 – W. Johnson
      5 – Koufax
      5 – P. Martinez
      5 – Mathewson
      4 – R. Johnson
      4 – Maddux

      Pretty impressive company. Those achievements for Clemens through age 33 were certainly HOF-worthy. So, while a 192-111 record, if his career had ended there, was not in and of itself a HOF record, his awards and other achievements were most definitely of HOF quality. And, although his age 30-33 years, weren’t up to his prior standards, there were some positive markers. In his last year in Boston, although he was 10-13, 3.63, he still led the league in K’s with 257 (42 more than the 2nd place finisher, Chuck Finley), his ERA was good enough for 7th in the league, and his ERA+ of 139 was good enough for 5th place. In other words, he wasn’t exactly washed up. His WAR up to that point in his career was around 81, which would put him right around Bob Gibson, in the top 25 among all pitchers. I think even he put up some fairly modest numbers after age 33, his would have been a very strong HOF case. He had the highlights of a HOF career at that point…..he just needed a little more of what some call the “bulk” stats (career wins, career K’s, etc.) to round out his record. I think he would have made it.

      Reply
      1. Carl

        DM,

        Great reply and I thank you for that work. I think the sohrt-brief high-peak argument is pretty strong for 1996 Clemens, similar to Pedro or Koufax. Had no idea his peak was that high. The career totals, which do tend to depend on wins (obviously not perfect) and a rising era (how high,how fast, how long) would have been a test for the voters.

        Joe,

        Just as an FYI, the reason I did not join the great group-work done by DM was because I know you’re going to have Bonds as #1 or #2 (I suspect #1) on your list and I refused to adjust my choices for what I expected you to pick.

        Reply
  9. Dr. Doom

    A few random thoughts:

    1. I don’t remember anyone mentioning Rod Carew in the pure hitters draft. He seems to me the essence of the pure hitter. And if you included him, all the guys to get close to Williams since ’41 would have been drafted: Gwynn (.394), Brett (.390), Carew (.388) and Williams (.388).

    2. I think one of the necessary components of being a “pure” hitter as opposed to just a “great” hitter is a high batting average. That’s why Mark McGwire, who was an AMAZING hitter, will never be considered a “pure” hitter, even though all he could do was hit, and for a few years he did it better than anyone else.

    3. Sign-offs are best when they’re simple. You could just say, “For those of you still with us, thanks for making it to the end.” I feel like that’s your go-to joke (even though you both KNOW that people listen all the way to the end; you DRASTICALLY underestimate the lengths people will go to to make their work days more tolerable).

    4. I love the silly drafts (except the superhero one – it was funny, but MAN were those choices brutal to listen to). But the serious ones are even more fun. You both have such a great love of baseball. I’d love to hear you draft more baseball stuff: owners, GMs, managers, coaches, mascots, stadiums, ballpark food, leftfielders, pitchers, whatever. It’s a blast.

    5. Thanks as always for giving me something to distract myself at work. I appreciate it!

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  10. Tyler

    Ray Lewis is ranked #213 for defensive players on profootball reference. 213. His “winning %” sticks out as way higher than other players around him, which I take to mean that there are people who will vote against him no matter who he is matched against, which drags the score down with some ugly losses.

    Reply
  11. jarbrewer

    Not voting for Bonds/Clemens for induction isn’t rewriting history. It’s simply saying: ‘All things considered, I’d really rather not waste a plaque on this guy.”

    It seems that Bonds’ low ELORating is a strong piece of evidence that, no, the steroid scandal is not a media invention. At least among the subset of fans who follow baseball closely enough to find and click around on Baseball Reference, there was real (emotional) harm done during the steroid era.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      I think that is what upsets Joe the most about this: that a larger number of fans see things very differently than he does.

      Joe continually underplays the steroids issue and makes excuse after excuse to sweep it under the rug. To see that many people take it into account has to be unsettling to him.

      Reply
      1. wordyduke

        Let’s show our M.D. credential before we long-range psychoanalyze Joe. “Huge blind spot . . . he’s irritated . . . unaware of not entirely rational feelings, etc.” In fact, it would be classier just to omit personal comments about our host here..

        Argue for or against Bonds, for or against Clemens, or, if you really want to appear thoughtful, demonstrate that you can see both sides.

        Reply
  12. Al Brooke

    “We replace what happened with what we think should have happened.”

    To be more precise, “We replace what WE THINK happened with what we think should have happened.”

    We (the fans) don’t really know WHAT happened. Lots of people draw conclusions from Clemens’ aggressive personality and Bonds’ surly nature.

    Reply
  13. Cathead

    Great statistics (i.e., Bonds and Clemens) are only part of what makes a great player. Great stats — which always speak for themselves — may even be the most significant part,, but there are other factors that play into greatness as a player.

    Reply
  14. MikeN

    Kareem at #9 is not terrible. Considering a modern bias, I can see all of the following in front of him.

    Russell, Jordan, Bird, Johnson, Chamberlain, Duncan, James, Bryant, West, Robertson.
    I would put him third or fourth, with maybe James or Duncan topping him.

    Reply
  15. BobDD

    re: pure hitters

    Some others I would bring up for consideration are Manny Mota who hit .357 as a 41-yr old pinch hitter;

    Mike Piazza whose AB’s most resembled a batting practice swing than any other hitter I ever saw, especially the way he flicked that bat out effortlessly for the low outside corner pitch;

    Bob Horner – he had such a fluid compact swing his first three years and then it just started to fall apart as he put on weight;

    Tony Oliva who had a beautifully balanced hard swing that was simply viciously graceful until his knees went bad and then for balance sake he had to shorten his swing;

    and Mr. Smooth himself, Billy Williams.

    Reply
  16. MCD

    The one advantage of the ELO ranker is that it can bring some sort of meaningfulness (is that a word?) to the over-used terms “over-rated” and “under-rated”. I once heard someone say Nolan Ryan was over-rated and wasn’t even one of the top 5 pitchers of all time. My reaction was “has there ever been been a single person who claimed Nolan Ryan was one of the top 5 pitchers of all time?” The problem with the terms “over-rated” or “under-rated” is it assumes knowledge of what others are thinking. ELO ranker, by definition, is a pretty good indicator of what others think of a player.

    Reply
  17. KB

    The Bonds apologists like to play the old “But Barry was an all-time great before he took the steroids” arguement. If you look at the bottom of his profile on baseball reference they have this little thing calle Most Similar by Age. Look at Barry’s list. He left Pittsburgh when he was 27. The names of the people on that list when Barry played in Pittsburgh include Brunansky, Bruce, Clark (as in Jack), Sizemore, and Bonds (as in Bobby). Funny, I don’t see a single Hall of Fame player on that list before Barry left Pittsburgh. Try the same exercise with Clemens. He left Boston when he was 33. With a sore arm it is generally believed that was when he started juicing. Had his career ended at 33 with a bad arm the guy he looks the most like is Dwight Gooden. Gooden had HoF talent to be sure, and snorted his plaque out through his nose.

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    1. Spencer

      @KB

      So Bonds started juicing in 1992 when he left Pittsburgh? Is that your claim? Or are you just being difficult?

      Cut bonds career off in 1998 and he’s a slam dunk hall of famer.

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