The hero that never was
It's a shame for Barry. Bonds just finished a record-shattering season and surpassed the Babe and Big Mac as the game's ultimate power hitter, and all he gets is begrudging respect. He deserves it too.
In the midst of a pennant chase and with age creeping on the 37 year old, Bonds blasted home run and home run into parks all across the country. Although it seemed as if Barry might be stuck on 69 and then 70, he found enough pitches to hit to knock out a record 73 home runs.
And oh yeah, he also set two other notable records. He captured the highest slugging percentage in Major League Baseball history with an astronomical .863. The former owner of the record? George Herman Ruth (yeah, that's the Bambino).
He also broke the Babe's record of walks in a season by taking the leisurely stroll to first base 177 times. The Sultan of Swat's record stood for the better part of seven decades at 170.
Add his .328 batting average, .515 on-base-percentage and 137 RBIs, Bonds had arguably the most prolific and productive season of any ball player in the game's long history.
This year's success is not an anomaly, however. Throughout his career, Bonds has awed the baseball world with his unparalleled talent at the plate and in the field.
Bonds is a three-time recipient of the Most Valuable Player Award, a ten-time all star, and eight-time Gold Glove winner. He is an indisputable Hall-of-Famer and a legend in the game.
So why isn't everybody congratulating Barry Bonds for raising the bar even higher? At 37, he had his most productive season ever and shattered three "untouchable" records. And yet, this season he may not even win the Most Valuable Player Award.
Sammy Sosa's 64 home run, 160 RBI season could very well earn him a second MVP Award. After all, he is an extremely talent baseball player with a flashy smile and a big heart.
Two major league criticisms still lurk for Bonds, however. First, he has a tendency to treat the media like a Maine lobsterman would treat a tourist trying to steal his trap. Second, Bonds has played dismally in the postseason throughout his career, thus earning him the title of perennial choker when it counts the most.
New York Times sportswriter, Jack Curry, said that Bonds "may be the best left fielder in major league history, even better than Ted Williams..." but that his me-first, standoffish demeanor is inexcusable.
He isolates himself from the press and teammates, rarely showing his better side because he may be too insecure, as Giants manager Dusty Baker believes, or because he simply is not a personable athlete.
According to Sports Illustrateds Rick Reilly, he has also never fully absorbed the concept of being a team player. Said Reilly, "Bonds isn't beloved by his teammates. He's not even liked...He's an MTV diva, only with bigger earrings."
Episodes of petulant behavior are as common throughout his career as his prolific hitting and fielding. During his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bonds began to tarnish his reputation. During spring training in 1991, Bonds pitched a tantrum because photographers were taking too many pictures of him.
His manager, Jim Leyland, made it clear that his behavior was unacceptable and said that "one guy's not going to run this club. If you don't want to be here, get out of here."
In another less then stellar moment, Bonds actually had the gumption to ask a judge for a cut in his child-care payments because he was temporarily out of work.
Because of such lapses of judgment, the ever-talented Bonds has solidified a reputation as one of the game's most gifted players, but also as the icon of all that is wrong with sports stars today.
Fortunately for Barry, he says that he could care less if he is loved or hated. Said Bonds to the San Jose Mercury News, "It doesn't matter to me. I just want to pay my bills and take care of my family. I don't want to be looked at as an icon."
In addition to his often ill temperament, Bonds has never been a dynamic game-changing player in the playoffs. Actually, he's not even good in the playoffs.
Between 1991 and 1992, Bonds won an MVP award and earned two births to post season play. The Pirates fell short in the National League Championship twice, however, as Barry sported an ugly and un-Bondsian .200 batting average.
During the 1997 playoffs, Bonds continued to struggle- this time with the Giants. He connected on only three of 12 at-bats as his team bowed out early.
Last year, Bonds only added to his postseason woes with a three for 17 campaign. Add up all his postseason play and you get a batting average of .203 for with only one home run.
It's easy to call Barry a jerk, and it's easy to call Barry a choker - he's done both. It's harder to call him a hero, even though the title fits nicely this year.
This season, Bonds shelved his selfish attitude and removed the chip from his shoulder. His reward? The greatest season in MLB history. Let's accept it as such and not downplay his accomplishments.
After all, Babe Ruth almost played the game as well as Barry Bonds