Early in the 1999 season, a 6-2 roughly 200 pound Barry Bonds was injured for the first time in his prolific career. Despite this, he would go on to be named TSN’s player of the decade-an honor which he deserved fully.
He came back ahead of schedule that year from an injury that some thought was the beginning of the end to his career. For the rest of the season, he struggled a bit with timing, but was hitting home runs at the highest pace of his career (about 1 per 11 at bats). The next year hit hit a career high 49, then 73.
Here’s my best guess, as well as comments about the issue.
Barry Bonds started taking steroids in 1999 and I suppose he probably almost legitimately justified it as a medical need in coming back from an injury. He quickly added 25 pounds of muscle.
Now, I am not a particular Barry Bonds fan, nor do I idolize any pro athlete, but I want to point out a few things.
Barry Bonds was bordering on becoming one of the 10 greatest players of all time when he got injured in 1999. He already had become the only player with 400 home runs and 400 steals, and matched a record with 3 MVP awards, and probably should have won at least one more.
He easily could have added most or all of that muscle naturally. He didn’t, but to think that an explosive 6-2 athlete could not build up to 225 mostly lean pounds naturally is absurd. The fact is that prior to the 90s, many players still considered lifting weights to be cheating, or at least not worth the time. As a matter of comparison, Darryl Strawberry grew from 190 pounds to 245 just in the natural process of growing up. Also, aside from possibly keeping him in the game longer, Barry Bonds flat out developed a more efficient swing during 2000 and stuck with it. He didn’t hit homeruns on average any farther than he had before '99.
Considering that when perusing baseball stats, it is obvious that steroids as well as weight lifting became prevalant prior to '93 and were in full swing by '95, he really went a long time watching other players rise up to his level (McGwire, Sosa, Thomas) by cheating with steroids.
I think that compared to the others, his choice was at least understandable.
Now if he broke the law, or the rules of baseball as written at the time, he should be get a severe penalty, and his stats should be made unofficial. If he didn’t break the law or rules of baseball, then he should be accepted as the greatest player of his generation.
Negatives: Unfortunately, the stats produced in the last 10 years by steroid abusing players probably turned the lights off on the chances of players like Dale Murphy, Andre Dawson and Jim Rice from getting into the hall of fame. That’s a shame. I think those 3 guys at least would all be in right now as they were undeniably among the top 10 players for at least a decade.