Barry Bonds's HOF Case Involves More Than PEDs
One specific aspect of Barry Bonds rarely gets brought up. I'm not sure why.
Aroldis Chapman will have a solid Hall of Fame case after he retires. He has a career 2.25 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and 183 ERA+ over 11 seasons. He has a 2.40 playoff ERA across 41.1 innings, and will probably end up with around 400 saves. The "Cuban Missile" and his 105 MPH fastball is one of the most gifted pitchers to ever step on a big league mound, and the BBWAA will certainly consider his credentials once he hangs 'em up.
They will also consider his domestic violence issues.
Chapman allegedly got into a heated argument with his girlfriend in 2015 that culminated with him choking her and repeatedly firing a gun in his garage. The police were called, but Chapman was neither convicted nor arrested due to "conflicting stories and a lack of cooperation." Nevertheless, MLB did not hesitate in punishing Chapman, as he became the first player to be suspended under their new (at the time) domestic violence policies. He was out for 30 games the following season and likely cost the Dodgers a shot at trading for the star closer, as their negotiations with the Reds were hindered due to MLB's investigation.
There is a zero percent chance the BBWAA doesn't take this into account as they analyze Chapman's career. Zero. Is this ultimately the tie-breaker for his potential induction? We'll see. But issues like this deserve to have a bearing on a player's Hall of Fame case, do they not?
I bring up the Aroldis Chapman situation because it relates to another player currently on the ballot. An all-time great player, to be sure, but a divisive player whose transgressions have kept him out of Cooperstown thus far.
His name is Barry Lamar Bonds.
The Case for Bonds
Well, this is a pretty simple one; he's easily a top-five player in the history of the sport. A seven-time MVP who reached peaks no one has reached before or since, Barry Bonds has a solid case for being the best ever, plain and simple.
Bonds dominated the first portion of his career as an elite power-speed threat, who was also a Gold Glove-caliber left fielder. He averaged a .291/.411/.556 slash line with 32 bombs and 34 steals over his first 13 seasons ('86-'98). He averaged 7.7 bWAR per season over that span and won three MVPs and eight Gold Gloves, firmly establishing himself as an MLB superstar.
Then 1999 came around, which saw Bonds take a step back. He was still excellent, make no mistake, but the 34-year-old's defense slipped, while his batting average, OBP, and OPS+ were his lowest in a decade. This is the natural progression of things for athletes in their mid-30s, as Bonds seemed to finally be slowing down as a ballplayer.
He became supernatural after 1999, however.
That time Barry Bonds broke baseball
Barry Bonds's average season from 2000-2004 was .339/.535/.781 with 52 home runs, a 174:63 BB:K ratio, and a 241 OPS+. He won four straight MVPs from the ages of 36 to 39. PEDs certainly gave him a boost during this unprecedented tear, but plenty of guys juiced during this time. They didn't become the most unstoppable force anyone had ever seen.
Bonds's HOF credentials as a player cannot be questioned. But there's far more for the BBWAA to consider.
The Case Against Bonds
“Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Them's the rules. I didn't write them. Hall of Fame voters must consider the player as a person when casting their ballots. It's the reason guys like Curt Schilling aren't in Cooperstown. Counterarguments claim that the Hall of Fame is a museum, not a church, and that there are plenty of questionable people already inducted (see: Anson, Cap). I don't think whataboutism works here. Just because there are bad guys already in Cooperstown doesn't mean we shouldn't use our better judgment in future cases.
Let's go over Barry Bonds's character, uh, "issues," shall we?
Barry Bonds's attitude as a player is well-documented. He was a standoffish prima donna in the clubhouse who many reporters, players, and coaches despised. Give him credit for some self-awareness, as he has since apologized for how he carried himself during his playing career.
Still, he repeatedly pissed off the guys in charge of voting him into Cooperstown. Not a great move. This isn't entirely uncommon, though. Baseball history is full of abrasive superstars, and Bonds's antics were mostly just petty, not violent or dangerous.
Those traits were reserved for other scenarios.
It blows my mind how this isn't talked about more. Barry Bonds has multiple allegations of domestic violence attached to his name.
Bonds had a messy divorce with his ex-wife, Sun, in the '90s. During their divorce trial in 1995, she testified that the left fielder had beaten her on several occasions during their six-year union. Some of these incidents allegedly involved him pushing, punching, and kicking her repeatedly, most notably when she was eight months pregnant with their first child together. He once locked her out of their apartment without any clothes on, where she would stay until morning. Another time he pushed her in the bathroom, causing her to tumble into the bathtub while holding their infant child.
These incidents occasionally resulted in the police being called, though the former Mrs. Bonds never cooperated with law enforcement, so no charges were ever filed. These allegations all emerged during their divorce trial.
Fast forward to 2011 when Barry Bonds was again on trial, this time for perjury, as he allegedly lied in front of a grand jury about his steroid use. He had a mistress named Kimberly Bell during his first and second marriage. She was called upon to testify about Bonds's violent temperament throughout their relationship, which the prosecution tried to use as proof of PEDs in his system. Ms. Bell claimed that Bonds was emotionally abusive towards her and threatened to kill her (by beheading, while also burning down a house he helped purchase for her and cutting out her breast implants, which he also paid for).
Bonds was convicted on obstruction of justice charges in this 2011 trial, though that decision was overturned in 2015. Still, testimonies like Bell's will live on forever.
When I bring this up on Twitter to people who don't think his character should hold him out of the Hall of Fame, I get crickets. Mind you, many of the people I bring this up to are members of the media who claim to be feminists. Feminists! Did I just catch them being uninformed? Did me pointing out their hypocrisy make them uncomfortable? I'm not sure, but it baffles me. Bonds's domestic violence is rarely ever brought up. It should be, because he has a lot more character flaws than "he cheated at sports and was a jerk."
Barry Bonds seems to be a pretty fucked up dude, to put it lightly.
What are we doing here?
This is what you're getting if you're in the camp that wants Bonds in the Hall of Fame. Sorry to break it to you, but you have to face the fact that a player's character is objectively part of the voting process. This stuff is in Barry Bonds's character.
What kind of suspensions would this monster have received had he played today? Long ones, I'm sure. Luckily for Bonds, he played under a commissioner in Bud Selig who liked to stick his head in the ground like an ostrich any time anything shady was happening. This stuff doesn't slide in 2020, though.
Unless, of course, you have seven MVPs and 162.8 bWAR on your résumé, apparently? Then the two biggest knocks against you are 1.) you were a grumpy pants when you played, and 2.) you juiced up and broke a bunch of records. People regularly turn a blind eye to everything else for reasons I can't comprehend.
Let me be clear about something; I do not believe you are condoning domestic violence if you think Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame (although you should look in the mirror if you're a self-proclaimed feminist who wants him in there). My contention is that it wouldn't be a bad thing if we kept singular assholes like this from getting inducted.
Let me be clear about something else as well; Barry Bonds is already all over Cooperstown. From his bats, to his gloves, to his jerseys, to his cleats, to every significant home run ball he ever hit, you can't walk through the National Baseball Hall of Fame without seeing Bonds. He just doesn't need a plaque. He will still be an inextricable part of baseball history long after he is gone, and rightly so.
But hey, this is my opinion. Like I said, I don't mean to come after people who want arguably the greatest baseball of player of all time to be in the Hall of Fame. What I do mean to say is that you absolutely need to analyze his history of domestic violence when considering his character, as we will for players like Aroldis Chapman. If you think steroids and being surly are his only negatives, you're wrong. Very wrong. Like, so fucking wrong.
So, what do you want to do?