1.15.2006

My Annual Push for Bobby Bonds for HOF

The election of Bruce Sutter got me thinking to this topic again: Bobby Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Sutter got in on the basis of his being the poster child for the re-invention of the closer as a one-inning only, save situation only, reliever (which technically his manager did) and for being the poster child for the split-finger fastball (though you rarely hear anything about that nowadays, what happened to that). His career was way too short and his peak was not that much better than other closers, even of his day. That appears to be Bobby Bonds "fault" in the eyes of voters as well, his short career (relatively) and his lack of peak stats (relatively).

In addition, he suffered from the following as well: 1) not being Willie Mays reincarnated, 2) not being media friendly, 3) being a strikeout monster early in his career, 4) he was a baseball vagabond his last seven seasons with seven teams, 5) his stats were split between being leadoff and an RBI guy during his career, and 6) not enough appreciation for how rare it is for someone to be able to hit for power as well as run for SB.

What voters (and some fans) are missing is that Bobby Bonds was one of the top RF for a decade and that he was a unique player, much like Sutter. Despite a "short" career, he was in the Top 100 list of a variety of counting stats when he retired, among them HR (around 50th when retired, 77th now), SB (45th now, around 30th when retired), runs scored (just short of 100th now, just 35 behind, should have been around 70-80th when he retired), total bases (close to 100th now, should have been in Top 100 when he retired). And despite being a leadoff hitter for a good portion of his early years, he still ended up with over 1,000 RBIs. Plus he's still only one of two to ever achieve 30/30 five times, his son being the other.

In a game that celebrates both the SB (Ty Cobb, Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson) and the HR, how can they miss out on someone who could do both equally well? So well that a feat that is no easy feat to do (how hard is it to just get 30 SB? how hard is it to just get 30 HR? now combine doing both) nor some obscure statistical oddity was accomplished 5 times in his career.

I'm biased in that he was my first baseball "hero/star" for me, but I don't think that is clouding my judgement. Speed and power has always been admired in the game and he had both in spades, just not far extreme like a Rickey/Brock or a Aaron/Ruth, but still extreme enough that neither is a feat that is easily duplicated on their own, let alone together.

I'm still hoping that the Veteran's Committee will correct this oversight when Barry is voted in and have the both of them inducted together, but given the VC's total reluctance to vote in anyone at all, I figure that's never going to happen. I thought the baseball writers were bad but the HOF players appear to be just as bad. Hopefully, they will find a way to fix this by the time Barry is up for election. Maybe if they allow a fan vote like they are doing for baseball announcers, that will help push whoever controls the overlooked veterans to vote in Bobby.

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