The Untold Truth Of Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds is the best player baseball has ever seen. Full stop. Baseball is a game of numbers, and Bonds' numbers tell you everything you need to know.

First, as Baseball Reference relates, he was voted Most Valuable Player a record seven times (and finished second in the MVP voting twice). Second, there's his offensive output. Bonds holds the all-time record for career home runs at 762, a number so enormous there's almost no chance anyone will beat it. (The closest active player is Albert Pujols with 662, but Pujols will be 41 next year and hasn't hit more than 30 homers in a year since 2016.) Bonds also holds the all-time record for walks, an underrated stat that he will likely hold forever — he has an astounding 2,558; Pujols is again his closest competitor, with a measly 1,331. He also holds the record for intentional walks with a mind-blowing 688, another record that will stand until the sun goes out, probably. He's third on the runs scored list, fourth in total bases, sixth in runs batted in, and sixth in on base percentage. According to the website of the San Francisco Giants, he's the only player to have more than 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. Bonds was a very good defensive player, winning eight Gold Gloves before becoming more of a designated hitter in later years.

Despite all of this athletic glory, Barry Bonds is a controversial figure.

He's a legacy

Barry Bonds was the greatest player of all time, but he wasn't the first in his family to achieve baseball success — and that's part of what drove him to be the best. His father, Bobby, played 14 years in the major leagues and put up some very good numbers doing it. According to Baseball Reference, Bobby finished his career with a .268 lifetime average, 332 home runs, 1,024 RBIs, and 461 stolen bases, leading the league in runs scored twice and named three times to the All Star Team.

As ESPN points out, although Bobby didn't hit the statistical heights his son attained, he was a remarkable player, and is probably one of the most underrated of all time. Bobby Bonds hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases five times in his career, something only three other players have achieved (his son Barry is one of them). He was a revolutionary player who combined speed and power in a way that just didn't happen often in the 1970s.

Bobby suffered to some extent from unrealistic expectations. He was so talented he was touted as the next Willie Mays (who would become godfather to his son), which meant that his impressive but not superhuman performance was often regarded — unfairly — as disappointments. But it also means it's not really a surprise that he passed that ability to his son, who outpaced his father in just about every category.

He was famously difficult with the press

Barry Bonds was a superstar, and he was paid like it. Baseball Reference tells us he earned $188 million over the course of his career, a figure that doesn't include endorsement deals or other sources of income. He was famous, people cheered for him, and he was the best player of his time — and probably of all time. So it's not surprising that he let the fame and fortune go to his head a little. Unfortunately, he let it go to his head so much he was famously a terrible person to everyone who had to deal with him.

Don't take our word for it: As Deadspin notes, Barry himself admitted it, saying, "I'm to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumbass. I was straight stupid, and I'll be the first to admit it."

As Fox Sports puts it, Barry's attitude during his superstar playing days was a potent combination of "surliness and outward arrogance." He was not friendly towards fans and often openly hostile towards the press. As ESPN reports, he often refused to participate in team activities, didn't support his teammates in any way, hired his own private coaches and trainers, and flashed his star status with stunts like having a chauffeur drive him to practice every day. By the time he retired in 2007, it's safe to say there was no player more hated than Barry Bonds.

He'll (probably) never be in the Hall of Fame

Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all time, but not in the Hall of Fame. Eligible since 2013, his vote totals have risen slowly as time goes by. As The Ringer reports, Bonds continues to work to repair his image, but received only 60.7 percent of the vote in 2020 according to the Mercury News – nowhere near the 75 percent he needs.

One reason he isn't in the Hall of Fame is his terrible behavior. Arrogant and often combative, Barry Bonds alienated the very people who vote on the Hall of Fame: Sports writers. Many sports writers simply don't like him, and won't vote for him. But there's another, even more important reason: Performance-enhancing drugs.

ESPN makes clear that Bonds very likely used steroids and other substances to become more muscular and improve his reaction times. His physical appearance changed dramatically as his body — and, disturbingly, his head — ballooned in size while he packed on muscle. He swatted more home runs than ever, but as ESPN reports, for many in the baseball world, none of it counts, because in their eyes, he cheated.

As Forbes notes, Bonds has just two more shots at the Hall, and may have his best chance next year, though he'll have to gain 15 percent more votes after gaining just 1.6 percent last year. After that, it'll be up to the Veterans Committee — but his chances aren't much better there.