Bonds: The Problem With Cooperstown.
Baseball, like many things in the United States, have a deep history rooted in racism. Even 75 years after Jackie Robinson officially broke the racial barrier in Major League Baseball, only 7% of MLB rosters are American-born Black players. While legends such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. helped make the sport what it is today, nobody compared to the polarizing icon, Barry Bonds.
Bonds was definitely a polarizing player, as his relationship with the media was a very rocky one, however, it was rocky for a reason. Growing up the son of a baseball player, Bobby Bonds, and the God-son of the great Willie Mays, he seen the media's role in their lives and the way that they were treated. With that, it instilled a cautiousness in him when it came to the media, and as his career went on, it became hostility. As Barry Bonds climbed to the top of record books, steroid allegations began to pile up as well. These questions would understandably annoy Bonds, on top of always having the media follow him around (understandably so, as he was the biggest star in baseball not named Jr.). As Bonds continued to hit home runs, more questions would arise about steroids. However, Bonds never failed a steroid test. People have come to the conclusion that he did begin to take them around the 2000 season, but it's never been proven. When Bonds destroyed the record books hitting 73 homers in 2001 and continued to power his way to the all-time record of 762, his relationship with baseball writers didn't get any better.
Was Barry Bonds an asshole? Absolutely. Does that have anything to do with his production on the field or his legacy and impact on the modern sport? Absolutely not. The fact that people's feelings about players are being considered enough to keep them out of the Hall of Fame is a joke, and morality has nothing to do with it if we want to be completely honest. If morality was the true reason that Barry Bonds is being kept out of the Hall of Fame, then David Ortiz wouldn't have been inducted on Tuesday. That's not a shot at Ortiz, but at the baseball writers, because I don't care how nice he was to anyone, he failed a drug test in 2003. With that being the case, the "morals" of the game should've applied based on their logic with Bonds. Another reason I know that its all for show is the fact that no championships from the steroid era have an asterisk, no money made from the steroid driven Home Run Chase in 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was returned, and Bud Selig, the commissioner during the era, is never brought up during any of these discussions.
We've seen recently how much morality means to Major League Baseball with the Astros scandal, as nothing was stripped away from any players or the organization after being caught cheating during their World Series runs in 2017 and 2018. To truly put the icing on the cake, I can take an even higher moral ground with this question: If being mean to the media is enough to keep you out of Cooperstown because of "hurt feelings", how much does racism and bigotry weigh in at? I ask this question because of the countless players that were stars of the segregated era of baseball, that were huge racists. Baseball's beloved Ty Cobb was suspected to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, among a few other Hall of Famers. If things like these aren't talked about, covered, or seen as enough to keep someone out of Cooperstown for "moral reasons", then media issues while the league makes hundreds of millions off of your likeness as well as others involved in an era that arguably saved Major League Baseball is a joke.
Even when you take steroids into account, though again, they were never proven, Bonds was a first ballot Hall of Fame before any of it. In his 13 years before the steroid era, Bonds stats are as follows:
.290 Batting Average
411 Home Runs
445 stolen bases
Those stats are better than a lot of players in the Hall of Fame currently, and if they want to wipe 1999-2007, they would have to do it for all of baseball, not just Bonds.
Revisionist history is destroying the image of baseball's Hall of Fame, as well as unwritten rules hurting the current game. Baseball has become the "boring" sport to those who aren't normal watchers, and as someone who grew up watching the sport, I see exactly why. Not only are we as Black Americans underrepresented, but the youth of today are trying to break the unwritten rules of the game, such as celebrations after home runs, running up the score and more. The fact that there's pushback shows how stuck in the past that Major League Baseball is, and even while being stuck in the past, the game isn't recognizing the wrongs that the past had, nor the impact those wrongs have had on the current state of the game. The difference between David "Big Papi" Ortiz being inducted into the Hall of Fame and Barry Bonds being left out clearly isn't about steroids, its about the egos of writers/voters and the concept of the "acceptable negro". It doesn't matter how great you are, what your stats are, if they don't like you, you will not be accepted.
While Bonds being left out of the Hall of Fame is a clear travesty, its good to see that most of the sports world sees this problem. You can't tell the story of baseball without Barry Bonds, and trying to do so while he's on top of or involved in most of the record books is irrational. The only way that Barry is able to make it to Cooperstown is going to be by vote of the Today's Game Era Committee, who vote in December. The 16-member committe can do right by Bonds, but I don't know if they will. I do know that the BBWA has ruined their reputation forever, and that Cooperstown will never be looked at the same, unless there are major changes that I don't see happening anytime soon. America's pastime hasn't changed much since Jackie broke the barrier in 1947, and the way that black plaayers are treaated in general in this sport will continue to show until there's some accountability. No matter what happens, Barry Bonds is one of the greatest baaseball players of all-time, and will be in the Hall of Fame of those who truly know the sport and appreciate it for what it was not only during the steroid era, but as a whole.