Barry Bonds, Major League Outfielder

This is a biography originally written for a baseball website, but before any contracts were signed, they decided to go in a different direction creatively. So, I was left with a really long biography that reads like a wikipedia page. Feel free to critique this article, or praise it, or whatever. It’s here because otherwise it wouldn’t see the light of day.

Barry Bonds will go down in history as one of the most prolific ballplayers to ever play Major League Baseball. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985, he tore through the minor leagues and made the Pirates’ decision to promote him easy. His first career hit came on April 20th, 1986 in the 17th inning of a game versus the Chicago Cubs. His hit, coupled with an error, ended the 6 hour stalemate and the Pirates went on to beat the Cubs.

Despite finishing 6th in the Rookie of The Year honors, Bonds led all National League rookies in home runs, runs batted in, walks and stolen bases. During his first several seasons in the big leagues, Bonds gradually improved his numbers, and his walks began piling up as he learned to maneuver the strike zone. By 1989, he had nearly as many walks as he did runs scored.

1990 was a breakout season for Barry Bonds, as he collected his first of 14 subsequent All-Star nods and the first of seven Most Valuable Player Awards. In addition to reaching the level of being a 30 homer, 100 RBI player, he reached the .300 mark for his batting average for the first time. He led the league in slugging and OPS to win the Silver Slugger, and completed the award sweep with a Gold Glove. A slight drop in offensive numbers in 1991 prevented Bonds from a repeat performance as he finished second in the NL MVP voting to Terry Pendleton, of the eventual NL Pennant winners the Atlanta Braves. However, 1991 was a resounding success overall, as Bonds kept his power pace and was undoubtedly considered among the best players in all of baseball.

Barry Bonds had another stellar season in 1992 as he lead the league in runs scored and walks while hitting .311. His power numbers were reflected in leading the league in Slugging Percentage,On-Base Percentage and OPS. He captured his second Most Valuable Player award as the Pittsburgh Pirates reached the National League Championship Series for the third straight season. After two lackluster playoff performances from Bonds, he responded in 1992 by hitting .262 against the Atlanta Braves and slugged his first career postseason home run.

The 1992 NLCS ended on a play that involved Barry Bonds, and would serve as his final play as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Facing an 0-2 deficit in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 7, the Braves mounted a comeback against Pirates starter Doug Drabek. After loading the bases on a pair of hits and an error, Stan Belinda was called upon to stop any further bleeding. Belinda allowed a walk between the first two outs of the inning before facing utility player Francisco Cabrera, who had played in just 12 games during the 1992 season. With the bases loaded, Cabrera hit a line drive to Barry Bonds in left. Bonds fielded the ball and made a throw home that arrived just late of Sid Bream scoring the winning run.

During the 1992 off-season, Bonds signed a record breaking deal with the San Francisco Giants worth $43.75 million over 6 years. The most lucrative deal in baseball history also brought Bonds to the team that both his father and godfather had spent the majority of their careers. Bonds wore number 25 with the Giants since 24, the number he wore as a member of the Pirates, was retired by the Giants to honor Willie Mays.

Bonds played up to his contract hype immediately, when he led the National League in home runs for the first time in his career with 46. He also set his own new career highs in almost every offensive categories en route to his first back-to-back MVP seasons. It was the fourth straight season that he won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Despite leading his team and the league in most offensive categories, Bonds’ 1993 Giants failed to make the playoffs with a 103 win season. The Giants and Atlanta Braves were in the middle of one of the greatest pennant races in history, which the Braves won with a 104 win season.

During the strike shorted 1994 and 1995 seasons, Barry Bonds slugged 70 homers and hit .302 over 256 games. He was named to the All-Star team in 1994 and led the league in OPS, but saw a slight decline overall in his power numbers. Following the strike shortened 1995 season, Bonds returned to his usual offensive numbers entering his 30’s. In 1996, Barry Bonds became just the second player in Major League Baseball history to join the elusive 40 / 40 Club, which Jose Canseco became the first member of in 1988 when he stole 40 bases and slugged 40 home runs.1996 was a historic year for Bonds, as he became fourth member of the 300 / 300 Club when he stole his 300th stolen base and slugged his 300th home run. He joined his father Bobby Bonds, his godfather, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson in the exclusive club. Within two years, he established the 400 / 400 Club with his 400th stolen base and 400th home run, and tied his father with his fifth 30 / 30 season. In each of the two seasons following the strike year, Bonds ranked 5th in National League MVP voting.

Around the same time Barry Bonds joined the 40 / 40 Club, the great Home Run Chase was beginning to grip baseball as the league attempted to recover from the eighth work stoppage in history that saw the 1994 postseason wiped out for the first time since 1904. Coming off a few injury plagued seasons that slowed the early promise of his rookie year’s 49 homer season, Mark McGwire followed up his 39 home runs during the strike-shortened 1995 campaign with a league leading 52 home runs in 1996. The most home runs by any player since George Foster’s 52 homer campaign in 1977 was quickly surpassed by McGwire in 1997 when he slugged 58 home runs while playing with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals. The 1998 season turned out an incredible race between Mark McGwire and Chicago Cubs’ slugger Sammy Sosa towards the single season record of 61, held by Roger Maris for the previous 37 years. Ken Griffey Jr. came closest prior to the 1998 season with a 56 home run season in 1997.

As the home run record was being chased by McGwire and Sosa, Barry Bonds’ numbers slipped slightly. His home runs total of 71 from the 1998 and 1999 seasons nearly equaled McGwire’s record setting 70 homers during the 1998 season. Despite the perceived power loss, Bonds managed to slug 34 homers in just 102 games during the 1999 season. As Bonds’ 1999 season was shortened due to injuries, it was also the last season where Bonds swiped at least 15 bases in a season. The following year, Barry Bonds made a full recovery from his injuries, and at the age of 35 years slugged a career best 49 home runs. Though he trailed Sammy Sosa’s 50 home runs for the league lead, Bonds finished 2nd in voting for Most Valuable Player., his highest finish in MVP voting since winning his last MVP award in 1993.

Barry Bonds’ 2001 season is among the greatest offensive seasons of all time. In addition to shattering his own personal bests, Bonds set new single season records in slugging percentage(.853) thanks in part to setting a new record for the most walks in a single season with 177 free passes. He smacked 39 home runs before the All-Star break, the most ever hit in the first half of any season, en route to his record breaking 73 home runs for the season. Bonds’ on-base percentage of .515 had not been achieved by any player in the previous 40 seasons. He received 98% of the MVP votes over second place Sammy Sosa and his 64 home runs, securing his fourth Most Valuable Player Award and first since the 1993 season.

Though Barry Bonds set the single season home run record in 2001, and had previously won the MVP award four times, his offensive output between the 2002-2004 seasons are easily the greatest numbers of his career. Simply put, those seasons are among the greatest of all time. By the end of this era, Bonds was the player with the most MVP awards in history, and the only player to ever win four consecutive MVP awards. Bonds had a batting average of .358 between 2002-2004, winning the batting title in 2002 and 2004. He had an on-base percentage of .575 and a slugging percentage of .786 over the three season span. These staggering numbers are coupled with the fact that Bonds was walked 578 times in 420 games over three seasons, of which 249 were intentional walks. This stretch included the closest Barry Bonds would get to winning a World Series title with the San Francisco Giants. During the 2002 postseason Bonds slugged 8 home runs, including four against the Anaheim Angels while hitting .471 in the World Series. Despite his heroics, the Giants lost the series in 7 games. Though the Giants reached the postseason in 2003, they were quickly eliminated in the National League Division Series by the eventual World Series champion Florida Marlins.

During the height of Bonds’ success in the 2000’s, he also came under great scrutiny due to an investigation into the company which his personal trainer was involved. Greg Anderson of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative faced federal indictment when their investigation revealed the organization may have supplied anabolic steroids to athletes. Bonds steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, and testified under oath that he used supplements known as “the cream” and “the clear”, and believed they were nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis.

Despite the growing media pressure and public outcry from the alleged steroid use, Bonds continued to perform at a high level when he won his seventh MVP award in 2004. The steroid scandal grew during the off-season, and did not let up when Bonds missed much of the 2005 season due to a knee injury and subsequent surgeries needed before being activated in September of that year. Even with a limited number of at bats, Bonds managed to slug 5 homers in just 15 at bats.

Prior to the start of the season, a book entitled “Game of Shadows”written by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada was released and detailed the alleged steroid use by Barry Bonds. The book arguably played a critical role in the change of the public opinion on Bonds. Despite the previous injuries and the mounting pressure about steroids, the outfielder returned in 2006 and was able to play a full season, reaching several historic milestones. In addition to moving into second place all time by displacing Babe Ruth with his 715th home run, Bonds later broke Hank Aaron’s National League record of 733 home runs when he hit his 734th on September 23rd, 2006 in the Milwaukee, the same city where Hank Aaron had established his career. Despite hitting his fewest home runs in a season since 1991, Bonds still led the league in on-base percentage due to again leading the league in walks during 2006.

2007 was Barry Bonds’ final season, and he managed to improve his overall numbers by slugging 28 home runs and receiving 130 walks in 126 games. His final season saw a several home run droughts, and it wasn’t until August that he threatened to finally break the all-time record of 755 career home runs, held by Hank Aaron. Coincidently, Barry Bonds’ 756th home run came off Washington Nationals pitcher Michael Bacsik. Bacsik’s father, Mike Bacsik, had faced Hank Aaron soon after he hit his 755th home run.

In late September of that year, the San Francisco Giants announced that they would not re-sign Barry Bonds for the 2008 season, and in October he officially became a free agent. Despite his agent’s expected interest from many ballclubs, the all-time leader in home runs went unsigned for both the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Though he has not officially retired, Barry Bonds will be eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame following the 2012 season.

Much of Barry Bonds’ story remains to be played out. While not on the field, the impending resolution of the BALCO scandal and eventual place he will take on the ballot for Hall of Fame consideration will undoubtedly gain as much interest to baseball fans as his illustrious career did.

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