In a recent TD about Barry Bonds, Peach suggests that Barry would have been the greatest player of all time if it weren't for the controversy surrounding him in life.
Let me first say that I used to be Bonds' number one fan. I cherished the Rookie Card I had of him. I had a limited edition HR record card. I was a huge proponent of the stance that Bonds would go down as one of the best to ever play the game. During his time in San Fran, I started to become a little annoyed with his behavior. Some of my other favorte athletes include Jerry Rice, Ozzie Smith, Steve Yzerman, Steve Nash and Mario Lemieux. All of them are stand up guys with nothing to tarnish their name or legacy (that I know of). I was a little disappointed with Barry... but when I found out he was a cheater, I was crushed. I no longer mention him as a favorite.
As for his baseball achievements, I think he honestly COULD have been in the conversation of Greatest to ever play... provided he didn't cheat. He never would have gotten the honor (because of his attitude) but I think he deserved to be in the discussion.
In 1998, Barry was about to achieve something monumental. He was going to have 400 and HR and 400 Steals (not to mention totals of 1200 RBI, 1300 Runs, 1300 Walks). In his 12 year career thus far, he had been a statistical anomaly. He WAS the perfect 5 tool player. After reaching the milestone (as well as batting over .300, 122 RBI and other amaznig stats) and barely garnering any media attention, he decided to join Sosa, Big Mac, etc... and juice up.
Prior to steroids, Bonds had amassed this sort of stat line per year (not 162 games):
105 Runs, 31 doubles, 32 HR, 94 RBI, 34 SB and more Walks than K's.
His career OBP up until then was .411 and his OPS+ was 164. The man was unreal.
He played 9 more seasons of drug induced ball, then was unable to find work because of legal trouble and poor attitude/chemistry issues.
His 162 game averages for 1999- 2007 (steroid and injury filled years) were:
129 Runs, 30 Doubles, 53 HR, 117 RBI and 11 SB. I went with 162 game averages because his last 3 years were a hot mess in terms of games played.
Let's pretend that he never took steroids and he played 8 more years at his career averages (unlikely perhaps, but he also would have played more than the 9 he actually did, adding to his totals at whatever level/rate he was at).
His new career totals would near:
2200 Runs, 3000 Hits, 650 Doubles, 600 HR, 2000 RBI, 700 SB, 2100 BB
* The only total I drastically reduced was the HR, because he might have had similar totals for every stat except the HR, since power drops off with age more than any other*
Now sure you can look at those numbers and say "His production wouldn't have stayed at the high level for 8 full years." You are probably right. However, look at this way:
- No Roids means fewer HR, but it also means fewer intentional walks and better pitches. Since everyone was afraid to pitch to him, his hit totals, doubles, RBI, etc... were all actually lower than they would have been if he was just a "normal" hitter.
- He would have been faster (not as bulky) which would equate to more steals, more doubles, and played in more games because he wouldn't have been a liability in the field like he was.
- A team would have signed him as a DH hitter later in life. He couldn't get on with an AL team as a DH as it was, because of his problems. Without them, someone would have taken him on and he could have played more seasons than he actually did.
So looking into all the factors and "making up" some numbers that are quite realistic, here is where he stands all time:
Runs: Around 3rd
Hits: Around 25th
Doubles: Around 7th
HR: Around 8th
RBI: Around 3rd
SB: Around 10th
Walks: Top 5
As we see, the guy would be top 10 in 6 of the 7 offensive stats listed. He was a 3 time MVP before the drugs, 7 time Silver Slugger before the drugs and 8 time Gold Glove winner.
He STILL would have been the only player to ever hit 500 HR and steal 500 bases. A very good chance to make that the 600/600 club if he hadn't lost so much speed with the bulk. He made the 40/40 club in 1996, before the drugs (1 of only 4 members... 2 of the others being on steroids). Quite literally, he is 1 of only 2 players do it legitimately.
I say all of these things considered, he definitely could have been in the running for greatest of all time... providing he stayed off the steroids and had any semblance of a personality.