Exploring the Hall of Fame worthiness of Barry Bonds

Courtesy of Steve Mitchell, USA Today Sports

Barry Bonds and the media had an acrimonious relationship through his career. Now, as the first year hitting coach for the Miami Marlins, Bonds is not only acknowledging the bad relationship but also taking the responsibility for it.

“Me. It’s on me. I’m to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumba**,” Bonds said, per Terence Moore of Sports on Earth. “I was straight stupid, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I mean, I was just flat-out dumb. What can I say? I’m not going to try to justify the way I acted toward people. I was stupid. It wasn’t an image that I invented on purpose. It actually escalated into that, and then I maintained it. You know what I mean? It was never something that I really ever wanted.”

This is clearly a step in the right direction for the home run king and it raises an interesting question. Will this help get Bonds into the Hall of Fame?

It will certainly help. Sure, bad relationships with the press didn’t keep guys like Ty Cobb and Ted Williams from the Hall of Fame. Still, it’s important to remember, members of the media vote on the Hall of Fame.

Don’t get it twisted — Hall of Fame voters are like everyone else. If you treat them bad, they’ll treat you bad. If you treat them well, they may throw you a bone. A genuine apology for a broken relationship may well go a long way in getting a few more Hall of Fame votes.

But it shouldn’t. As a matter of fact, as things stand now, Bonds should not be in the Hall of Fame. He should, however, be in the Hall of Fame for other reasons, but we’ll get back to that.

If Bonds receives a significant uptick in Hall of Fame voting next year, then the voting is more flawed than we already thought it is, which says something.

Hall of Fame voting should be all about credentials, not how well you treat the voters. Bonds’ high in Hall of Fame votes came this year, when he received 44.3% of the vote. That’s still more than 30% short of the necessary total, which is 75 percent.

One can never know what goes into the mind of a single voter but if the votes change in a big way because of this, there’s a problem. That would not only be a sign that the voters take themselves way too seriously, but would also create an image of a King in a bad movie who keeps yes-men around him and sends all who dare defy him to the gallows.

Fortunately, it’s unlikely to come to that. This apology may get him a few more votes but, as genuine as it was, it’s doubtful that it will provide that much of a leap.

Whether Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame at all is a different discussion.

As the Hall of Fame is now set up, Bonds should not be in. His backers can cite all of the overwhelming numbers that they want, but really, it makes no difference. Bonds’ use of performance-enhancing drugs, as detailed in the Mitchell Report, should keep him out.

Players who took some form of PED may already be in the Hall of Fame, but really that shouldn’t matter. A few guys sneaking through the cracks shouldn’t open the floodgates. That goes for Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and anyone else in the same boat.

With that said, all of those guys should already be there, which really speaks more to the flaws of the Hall of Fame process than anything else.

Right now, the Hall of Fame essentially only serves as a filtered remembrance of the greats of the game. It’s important to remember that the “Hall of Fame” is just an informal title. The venue is actually called the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but it’s never really been a true museum.

Would a museum devoted to the Beatles be complete without giving any mention to the infighting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney that eventually broke the band up? Would a museum to the life of Vincent van Gogh be complete if it only focused on his brilliant art and not any of his mental issues?

A museum needs to tell the full story of its subject. Baseball, just like every human that’s ever walked the face of the earth, is not perfect. An institution devoted to baseball should, of course, honor the greats. But also give mention to the imperfections.

Like it or not, the steroid era is a huge part of Major League Baseball’s history. It needs to be mentioned in a big way, and guys like Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, and so many others need to be featured, as do the 1919 Chicago White Sox.

Mar 10, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants former outfielder Barry Bonds in the dugout during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, that would require a complete overhaul of the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see that happening. Players with a history of PED use have largely been kept out of the Hall of Fame, and as the institution currently operates, it’s one of the few things that the voters get right.

Barry Bonds may be a more sympathetic figure now, and it was very nice to see him come clean and apologize for his past actions. Hopefully his future actions back up his words.

Unfortunately, until the Hall of Fame becomes a more accurate representation of the full history of baseball, he should still find himself on the outside looking in.