The Hall of Fame Case for Barry Bonds and Against Roger Clemens

Last week, the Baseball Writers Association elected four new members to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two of those who didn’t get the call to Cooperstown were Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Bonds and Clemens are two of the most controversial players ever and their Hall of Fame cases are very tinted by PEDs and cheating. Here is a take on why Bonds deserves to be in… and Clemens does not.

To start off, I used to be a big supporter of the idea that neither guy gets in. The logic of it was that if you cheated the game, you don’t deserve to be in. About a year ago, my stance changed.

To recap, both Bonds and Clemens were never technically caught cheating. Neither were suspended for PEDs ever in their career and both put up incredible numbers that puts them up there with the greatest baseball players of all time. Even though both were never caught, the world knows that both Bonds and Clemens cheated.

In the case of Bonds here is just one of the reasons that we know. There is no denying that Bonds got physically bigger when he joined the San Francisco Giants. Bonds was always a speedy player with a fantastic glove and incredible speed. When Bonds joined the Giants, his build started to increase. By the late 90’s, bonds was adding insane amounts of muscle every offseason that was simply unnatural by any standard.

Image result for barry bonds pirates vs giants

That is just the eye test. Simply by looking at the above picture it’s obvious that something may be up with the state of Bonds. On top of that, the evidence stays against Bonds. In 2003, investigators seized documents from Bonds’ trainers house that showed Bonds was using banned drugs.

So if the evidence is so clear, why is Bonds a Hall of Famer? Well, the answer isn’t that complicated.

To put it lightly, Barry Bonds was the most feared hitter of his generation if not the history of baseball. Imagine being intentionally walked with the bases loaded. That was the reality of Barry Bonds who was so feared that pitchers thought one run was the best case scenario.

Although it is close to impossible to pinpoint the exact day that Barry Bonds started taking steroids, the time period is relatively clear. Bonds played from his rookie season in 1986 to around 1998 clean. The year of 1998, Bonds signed Greg Anderson to be his personal trainer, who would later admit he gave steroids to multiple players.

In that case, let’s take Bonds stats from 1986-1998 and completely exclude the rest of Barry Bonds career. This means that he doesn’t get credit for the all time home run title or a 73 home run season.

In the clean time period, Bonds clubbed 411 home runs and drove in 1,216 runs. Older voters like those stats while new age voters will love to hear Bonds also led the league in OPS five times including four years in a row, three of which came in Pittsburgh. His OPS+ which adjusts for ballparks was best in the league four times during that span as well. He led the league in walks five times, only stuck out 100 times during his rookie year and had over 100 runs seven times as well.

Looking simply at the time that Bonds was clean there is no doubt that he could make a fantastic case to be a Hall of Famer. He has more home runs in that 13 year span than new Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez and a higher OPS than next years surefire Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. Before Bonds cheated, he was worthy of a spot in Cooperstown.

The same can’t be said for Roger Clemens. It is somewhat easier to pin point when the hurler started juicing than in the case of Bonds and that hurts Clemens even more. After nine solid seasons in Boston from 1984-1992, Clemens production slowed down. During his last four years in Boston his ERA inflated. Clemens led the league three straight years before owning an ERA over four two out of the next four years.

In a clear decline, Clemens left Boston for Toronto and led the league in ERA during both of his years in north of the boarder with marks of 2.05 and 2.65. Defying age and decline was a clear result of PED’s throughout the tainted career of Clemens so lets treat it the same way we did for Bonds.

From 1984-1996, Clemens was presumably clean. During that time, Clemens won the CY Young three times and led the league in strikeouts twice, including two 20 strikeout games.

Despite those impressive stats, Clemens doesn’t have enough on his resume to be considered a Hall of Famer. Sure three time Cy Young Award winner and four time ERA champ sounds great but one of the key components of a Hall of Famer includes longevity and a five year span of greatness certainty isn’t that. Nearly half of Clemens clean years (the first two and the last three) in Boston were below average for Hall of Fame standards.

Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer because of what he did before steroids. Steroids elevated Bonds from a first ballot spot in Cooperstown to arguably the greatest player of all time and most definitely top five ever. In the case of Clemens, steroids took his career and stretched it significantly longer than it should have on more than one occasion. Bonds should see his spot in Cooperstown and Clemens should come up just short.

Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer because of what he did before steroids. Steroids elevated Bonds from a first ballot spot in Cooperstown to arguably the greatest player of all time and most definitely top five ever. In the case of Clemens, steroids took his career and stretched it significantly longer than it should have on more than one occasion. Bonds should see his spot in Cooperstown and Clemens should come up just short.

photo via Getty Images

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