Thursday, May 11, 2006

Barry, Barry, Barry

It seems that everyone with a keyboard or a microphone is telling us what we should think about Barry Bonds and how his career stacks up against that of Barry Bonds lately. Some things are left out most of the time, so I thought I'd re-mention them here.

1. - Yes, Ruth out paced his peers by a wider margin than Bonds. By far. Yes, Ruth hit more homers than entire other teams did at some point during his career. Bonds has never come close to accomplishing such a thing. But it's not that simple.

Ruth wasn't also walked as frequently as Barry has been. Granted, intentional walks weren't tracked back in Ruth's day, but that's because they didn't happen frequently enough to be of any interest. That's not the case for Bonds though.

Take 2004 for instance. Barry was intentionally walked 120 times. That doesn't include the unintentional intentional walks (you know, when there's nothing close to the plate). That total alone would be enough to rank Bonds ahead of Gary Sheffield, Larry Walker, Eddie Matthews, Cal Ripken, and Brooks Robinson on the all-time list. But 120 is what Barry racked up in a single season! For his career (entering this season), Barry's 607 intentional walks was far and away the most of all time. In fact, it's more than Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey had combined.

That part of the game has changed, even just from Aaron's day. Opposing managers are afraid to pitch to some hitters. They refuse to challenge them. That didn't used to happen. Back in the day, you went after your opponents. If other teams didn't intentionally walk Barry (and if they actually threw him strikes when the catcher was still squatting), Bonds would have many more home runs.

2. Others have talked about the rule changes since Ruth's day. Ruth likely picked up some homers from what would be ground-rule/automatic doubles today. He also likely lost others because they curved foul after going over the fence. Someone has claimed to have estimated that there were at least 50 of these lost home run balls, but he claims to have done so by recreating the trajectory of Ruth's hits from newspaper accounts. That seems to be pretty speculative. It's a particularly interesting conclusion when the author also concludes that Ruth didn't benefit from the short porches in Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds down the right field line. How is it that he had 50+ homers curve foul, but that he didn't have many which went right down the line? Those that curved foul must have been right on the line. It's hard to believe those were the only balls he pulled.

Sure, Barry's playing in smaller parks. But he's facing stronger pitchers. And more pitchers. In all, that leads me to another point. But the real point here is that we're talking clearly different eras. This isn't an apples to apples comparison.

3. Take the bottom third of players off of rosters in Ruth's day and replace them with blacks and foreigners. That's essentially what Bonds is doing. Yes, there's been expansion and yes, Americans play other sports now. But there are more opportunities to develop your skills in America now, as there are around the world.

If Pedro Martinez, Dontrelle Willis, and Armando Benitez weren't on the mound to face Bonds (and they were instead replaced by white hurlers from AA), how many homers would Barry hit? How many would Ruth have hit if he'd faced Pedro's grandfather or Willis's great-grandfather?

We'll never know. But don't simply discount Barry's performance because he didn't dominate his competitors by the same margin that Ruth did. Ruth was competing against a very different set of people.

4. If you don't like Barry or diminish what he has accomplished because you think he did/is doing steroids (HGH or whatever), what about those he's competing against? Sure, we don't have names and the details behind many others. But the facts are that more major and minor league pitchers have tested positive for illegal, performance enhancing substances than position players. Maybe my logic isn't right, but that also makes me think that there are more pitchers who are beating the test (when they should be testing positive) than there are position players doing the same.

I had more points, but I can't remember them right now.


wiggins said...

Amen, brother.

I can't say I am Barry's biggest fan, but I don't get all the hypocritical hate and hoopla. Barry was and is a great player. He's also a dick - but then so are a lot of players. He also probably used (is using?) enhancers - but so did a LOT of players.

Get over it. Move on.

Watch the game - love the game... with all it's flaws. I know we all need bad guys in our lives, but we don't need to continuously talk about them and crucify them on the televsion, radio and internet, do we?

I'm sick of it.

Mike said...

You know -- that's the biggest joke of all. Everyone gets all worked up about the books, the leaked grand jury testimony, etc. In all of that, it talks about how players are using HGH. But now we're supposed to think the game is clean and no one is using since there's testing? Get real. They're not testing for HGH... or taking blood samples... or taking hair samples. This testing is a joke. Only the stupid people are getting caught. The good stuff only costs $10K or so per year. That's pocket change -- even to guys making the MLB minimum. These guys are still using. Don't kid yourself.

wiggins said...

Amen, Brother.

Anyone who thinks the game is now clean is a moron. The reason the minor leaguers keep getting caught is that they can't afford the good stuff...

Oh - and as you said - they don't test for half the shit, anyway...