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Friday, July 29, 2011

Joe Posnanski: Saving Bonds

Pos, Bonds and the transfixed rate of Bob Costas.

My friend Bob Costas left a message for me yesterday. It was a very nice message—Bob is a great guy—but he also had a slight disagreement. Bob and I are very often on the same page when it comes to baseball, but he was reading a small essay I wrote in the magazine this week and he noticed this line:

”(Barry) Bonds and (Roger) Clemens are two of the best who ever played the game. If not for the steroid noise that surrounds them, you could make a viable argument that they are simply the two best ever.”

I should say that my thinking, when I wrote the line, was simply that if you took their numbers and performances at face value, you could make the viable argument that they are the two best ever. Bob, though, read it differently. He thought that I was actually saying without steroids Bonds and Clemens are two of the best ever, perhaps even THE two best ever. This did not bother him so much for Clemens, but it did bother him for for Bonds. He strongly disagrees.

We’ve had similar discussions before, and if I could summarize his thought, I think it goes something like this (and I am reworking this a little bit to get Bob’s opinion more precisely): Barry Bonds in 1998 was a great player. Truly great. But there was no argument to make for him as the best ever. In Bob’s words: He certainly wasn’t Ruth; he didn’t hit like Williams or Musial; as great an all-around player as he was he was not Mays and his career did not have the totality of Aaron. Bob thinks Bonds of 1998 could certainly be in the discussion as one of the 10 or 12 best non-pitchers of all time. But there was no argument for him as the very best. And there is no argument that can be made for him as the very best NOW either without steroids.

Repoz Posted: July 29, 2011 at 11:32 AM | 572 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, hall of fame, history, media, sabermetrics, television

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 01:37 PM (#3888150)
This did not bother him so much for Clemens, but it did bother him for for Bonds.


I think there is a perception that Bonds was some speedy light hitter before roids made him a home run machine, while we all still remember a scrawnier Clemens striking out 20 Mariners, and besides, pitchers don't hit home runs.
   2. GuyM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 01:43 PM (#3888155)
Bob thinks Bonds of 1998 could certainly be in the discussion as one of the 10 or 12 best non-pitchers of all time. But there was no argument for him as the very best. And there is no argument that can be made for him as the very best NOW either without steroids.

This is clearly wrong. One can certainly make a very serious argument for Bonds w/o PED. Bonds was a 9 WAR player in 1998. A reasonable projection from there would be for him to lose 1 WAR per season going forward. That would put him at replacement level at age 42, and a total of 45 WAR -- 23 less than the 68 he actually racked up. Take away 23 WAR and that puts Bonds at 149, vs. Ruth's 172. Any reasonable timeline adjustment will close that 15% gap. I can't imagine anyone seriously doubts that the players of Bond's era were at least 15% better than Ruth's peers. Obviously, one can reject timelining and prefer to judge players only in relative terms. But if we're talking about who was simply the best ballplayer on the field, even a PED-free Bonds has a strong claim to make.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:04 PM (#3888164)
One can certainly make a very serious argument for Bonds w/o PED. Bonds was a 9 WAR player in 1998. A reasonable projection from there would be for him to lose 1 WAR per season going forward. That would put him at replacement level at age 42, and a total of 45 WAR -- 23 less than the 68 he actually racked up. Take away 23 WAR and that puts Bonds at 149, vs. Ruth's 172. Any reasonable timeline adjustment will close that 15% gap. I can't imagine anyone seriously doubts that the players of Bond's era were at least 15% better than Ruth's peers. Obviously, one can reject timelining and prefer to judge players only in relative terms. But if we're talking about who was simply the best ballplayer on the field, even a PED-free Bonds has a strong claim to make.

One can quibble around the edges, but there's nothing inherently crazy about that line of argument. Too bad that Bonds never gave us a chance to test it.
   4. Mark Armour Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:07 PM (#3888166)
The only three post-war players to reach 50 WAR over a five-year period were Mantle (who did it over multiple five-year periods), Mays (ditto), and Morgan (who did it once). Until Bonda, who did it post-1998.

The math is fuzzy, and Bonds is in the gray area. But I don't think his peak gets to Mays without the PEDs.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:18 PM (#3888170)
This is clearly wrong. One can certainly make a very serious argument for Bonds w/o PED. Bonds was a 9 WAR player in 1998. A reasonable projection from there would be for him to lose 1 WAR per season going forward. That would put him at replacement level at age 42, and a total of 45 WAR

That's a hugely optimistic assumption.

Bonds had 116 WAR through age 35. At ages 36+, Hank Aaron put up 22 WAR, Willie Mays 27.7.

To assume Bonds gets 45 WAR in those ages w/o roids is wildly optimistic.
   6. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:20 PM (#3888174)
AAAAARGH BLAAARRGH WHY DO PEOPLE PERSIST IN IGNORING THE CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT IS AVAILABLE TO ALL OF US THAT WILLIE MAYS AND HANK AARON WERE "CHEATING" AT LEAST AS MUCH AS BARRY BONDS WAS, IF CHEATING REALLY WORKS, WHICH IT DOESN'T, BECAUSE THERE ARE NO AUTHORITATIVE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES PROVING IT DOES

AND IF BONDS HADN'T BEEN BLACKLISTED HE WOULD BE PAST 900 HR BY NOW

WHIFFEY IS NOT YOUR SAVIOR!
   7. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:22 PM (#3888176)
Bill James wrote that Bonds was better than Ted Williams ever was.... in 1993.
   8. Tracy Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:25 PM (#3888181)
The math is fuzzy, and Bonds is in the gray area. But I don't think his peak gets to Mays without the PEDs.


since Mays was using greenies throughout the 1960s, his WAR totals aren't exactly pristine.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3888186)
AAAAARGH BLAAARRGH WHY DO PEOPLE PERSIST IN IGNORING THE CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT IS AVAILABLE TO ALL OF US THAT WILLIE MAYS AND HANK AARON WERE "CHEATING" AT LEAST AS MUCH AS BARRY BONDS WAS, IF CHEATING REALLY WORKS, WHICH IT DOESN'T, BECAUSE THERE ARE NO AUTHORITATIVE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES PROVING IT DOES

AND IF BONDS HADN'T BEEN BLACKLISTED HE WOULD BE PAST 900 HR BY NOW

WHIFFEY IS NOT YOUR SAVIOR!


Bull-####. You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39.

There is nothing comparable in the greenies Mays and Aaron took to whatever Bonds was doing in the early 2000's. Every other great player in history was below their peak and in decline in those ages.
   10. Mark Armour Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:33 PM (#3888188)
We don't really know who was doing greenies, but we know that they were prevalent throughout Bonds career as well, and likely more so. So, let's call that a wash.
   11. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:38 PM (#3888191)
Bull-####. You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39.


Obviously you can if you're juiced to the gills on designer anabolics.

There is nothing comparable in the greenies Mays and Aaron took to whatever Bonds was doing in the early 2000's.


Given Bonds stonewalling on the issue I don't think it's unfair to assume he was taking steroids and similar agents from the time he was in high school.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:39 PM (#3888193)
Obviously you can if you're juiced to the gills on designer anabolics.

Well, yes. Then and only then.
   13. GuyM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:39 PM (#3888195)
At ages 36+, Hank Aaron put up 22 WAR, Willie Mays 27.7. To assume Bonds gets 45 WAR in those ages w/o roids is wildly optimistic.

My estimate credits Bonds with 21 WAR for age 36+, less than either Aaron or Mays. How is that "wildly optimistic?" Not to mention that I'm crediting him with a grand total of 1 WAR in his age 41-42 seasons, when he actually produced 8. That's quite an imputed PED benefit, even if you ignore the fact there was testing by then (IIRC).
   14. GEB4000 Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:43 PM (#3888199)
That's the frustrating thing about Bonds using PEDs. He pissed all over his own legacy as a top ten player, so we can only guestimate where he would have ended up. As a fan, I'm pissed that he robbed us of that.
   15. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:44 PM (#3888200)
So, the TOLAXOR impersonation wasn't enough to activate your joke detector, huh snapper? Even on top of the 900 HRs and the part about whiffey?

The math is fuzzy, and Bonds is in the gray area. But I don't think his peak gets to Mays without the PEDs.

I realize that the following includes Bonds' 1999, which means it encroaches on the popularly accepted drug timeline, but it makes the symmetry cleaner so what the hell:

through age 34:

Bonds -- 8534 PA; 163 OPS+; 445 HR; 423 2B; 65 3B; 460 SB
Mays -- 8637 PA; 163 OPS+; 505 HR; 375 2B; 118 3B; 276 SB

Mays is way ahead when you figure in defense, of course, but as offensive players I think the peaks match pretty nicely. And Mays had six more excellent season without steroids; I don't see why it's unreasonable to think that Bonds could have as well. In my mind, Bonds is actually pretty easy to figure a rough steroid adjustment for -- ding him around 100 HR and 300 walks and you're just about there.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:44 PM (#3888202)
My estimate credits Bonds with 21 WAR for age 36+, less than either Aaron or Mays. How is that "wildly optimistic?" Not to mention that I'm crediting him with a grand total of 1 WAR in his age 41-42 seasons, when he actually produced 8. That's quite an imputed PED benefit, even if you ignore the fact there was testing by then (IIRC).

He was at 116 WAR through 35, you're giving him 149 total, so that's 33 WAR at 36+ (my mistake on the 45).

Where are you getting 21?
   17. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:46 PM (#3888204)
So, the TOLAXOR impersonation wasn't enough to activate your joke detector, huh snapper? Even on top of the 900 HRs and the part about whiffey?

Hey, it's Friday morning, and we have some irrational Bonds fanboys around here. Mea culpa.
   18. tshipman Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:46 PM (#3888205)
Once again, apparently steroids only affect Bonds to that extent.

Interesting counter-factual: what if the natural state of the league is its performance in 2011, and without steroids, Bonds' first part of his career would have been accomplished in a lower offensive environment, making his totals even more impressive compared to league.

What if, due to a higher than natural replacement level, steroids actually cost Bonds 1 WAR per year during his career?
   19. Toolsy McClutch Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:49 PM (#3888206)
Given Bonds stonewalling on the issue I don't think it's unfair to assume he was taking steroids and similar agents from the time he was in high school.


Ug.
   20. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:52 PM (#3888207)
Interesting counter-factual: what if the natural state of the league is its performance in 2011, and without steroids, Bonds' first part of his career would have been accomplished in a lower offensive environment, making his totals even more impressive compared to league.


That's an interesting question.

since Mays was using greenies throughout the 1960s, his WAR totals aren't exactly pristine.


Does Bonds' greenie use count as a double dose of injesting, or is it kind of concurrent thing?
   21. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:52 PM (#3888208)
That's the frustrating thing about Bonds using PEDs. He pissed all over his own legacy as a top ten player,


The most frustrating thing about the steroid issue in general is that it pissed all over the legacies of almost every player in the league. Baseball dragged its feet for a decade, now everyone was suspect.
   22. GuyM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:58 PM (#3888209)
Where are you getting 21?

My total should be 140, rather than 149 (was counting age 33 twice). Which is a pretty conservative estimate -- I doubt players decline as fast as -1/yr starting at age 34.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:13 PM (#3888218)
My total should be 140, rather than 149 (was counting age 33 twice). Which is a pretty conservative estimate -- I doubt players decline as fast as -1/yr starting at age 34.

OK.

Sure they do. They get hurt, and miss chunks of seasons.
   24. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:15 PM (#3888219)
Does the fact that weight training and other career extending methods began in earnest in the 80's distort the traditional time line for reduction in performance?

And salaries rose post-free agency so that players would be able to work out year round and get better in their profession. So, can we therefore blame Marvin Miller's success as the leader of the MLBPA for year-round workouts and the use of steroids while training?
   25. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:40 PM (#3888234)
Bull-####. You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39.


Unless, of course, your name's Charles Arthur "Dazzy" Vance.
   26. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:41 PM (#3888235)
i'm a fan of Barry Bonds, have been from the start. his dad was one of my early fandom favorites, as well.

Bob Costas.. i was a fan of Bob Costas once, but in the last 20 years or so i have never allowed him in my mind's eye to step into the elder statesman he seems to want to occupy. he has become arrogant and I for one will not allow him to be my moral compass on matters such as Barry Bonds. He so CLEARLY dislikes Bonds, it pretty much strikes me as bordering on unprofessionalism when he gets into it. i dunno. i know he's just a fan, too, but..

i just don't like Bob Costas anymore. what his mouth produceth smelleth.
   27. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:57 PM (#3888246)
Bull-####. You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39.


Hank Aaron's career highs in home runs, OBP, slugging and OPS+ came at the age of 37.
   28. WhoWantsTeixeiraDessert Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:01 PM (#3888248)
Clearly he admitted bias since Poz indicates that Clemens' place in the best pitcher argument didn't bother him as much.
   29. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:04 PM (#3888251)
You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39.


You chose your bands and words very wisely.

Hank Aaron's 4 year period with the most HR's - ages 35-38 - 163 (44, 38, 47 - a career high - and 34. He also hit 163 HR's from ages 26-29.

Coke to Tom
   30. Gonfalon B. Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:12 PM (#3888257)
An interesting window into reputationthink came when the All-Century Team was announced without Bonds on it, and the reaction was about how Clemente had been wrongly denied. (One could also replace "Bonds" with "Musial" or "Henderson.")

Bonds' fundamental mistake is clear: he should have worn his cap backwards.
   31. Ron J Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#3888259)
Snapper, here's the problem with your logic -- and everybody else reasoning in a similar way. If one assumes that the changes in Bonds' productivity are due to PEDs you have to conclude that next to nobody else in the game was using PEDs.

Bonds and steroids are one of those "just so stories" that one should be cautious about.

Uprecidented levels of performance (for age and compared to established level of talent) aren't evidence of anything unless you can demonstate there's something unique to Bonds.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:20 PM (#3888261)

Unless, of course, your name's Charles Arthur "Dazzy" Vance.


He didn't really pitch in MLB before age 31.
   33. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:25 PM (#3888264)

Uprecidented levels of performance (for age and compared to established level of talent) aren't evidence of anything unless you can demonstate there's something unique to Bonds.


I disagree. In my view, to use legal terminology, such unprecedented levels create a rebuttable presumption that PEDs cause the improvement.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:25 PM (#3888265)

Hank Aaron's career highs in home runs, OBP, slugging and OPS+ came at the age of 37.


You chose your bands and words very wisely.

Hank Aaron's 4 year period with the most HR's - ages 35-38 - 163 (44, 38, 47 - a career high - and 34. He also hit 163 HR's from ages 26-29.


Yeah, b/c HR are the best measure of value.

WAR age 26-29 Aaron 36.4, Mays 36.1, Bonds, 35.3.

Bonds was a great, great player.

WAR age 36-39 Aaron 19.8, Mays 19.3, Bonds 47.4.

Bonds cheated like a mother-######, injecting every designer drug known to man.

If he had played clean Bonds would be a consensus top 7-12 batter of all time. Instead, he's a despicable farce.
   35. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:28 PM (#3888268)
I disagree. In my view, to use legal terminology, such unprecedented levels create a rebuttable presumption that PEDs cause the improvement.

Concur.
   36. PreservedFish Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:31 PM (#3888271)
I, for one, am curious how much better Bonds could have gotten in his late 30s if he:

1. Did not take steroids.
2. Did work out like a mad man.

Steroids don't do anything unless you are a weightlifting demon, and it sure seems like Bonds was exercising at age 38 in a way he was not at age 28.
   37. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:39 PM (#3888277)
Yeah, b/c HR are the best measure of value.


Snapper, I thought the Steroid Era was related to chicks digging the long ball and long flyballs becoming front row home runs, thereby cheapening the game, the record book, and causing young children and Costas and Lupica to cry themselves to sleep with images of the "pure" Maris and Aaron in their head.

Steroids don't do anything unless you are a weightlifting demon, and it sure seems like Bonds was exercising at age 38 in a way he was not at age 28.


Carlton Fisk starts weightlifting in his late 30's and hits 37 HR's at age 37, 11 above his previous high. Rebuttable presumption?
   38. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:41 PM (#3888281)
Hank Aaron's 4 year period with the most HR's - ages 35-38 - 163 (44, 38, 47 - a career high - and 34. He also hit 163 HR's from ages 26-29.

Yeah, b/c HR are the best measure of value.


Not to mention that much of Aaron's improvement can be directly attributed to changing his home park from County Stadium to The Launching Pad, and to expansion and the lowering of the pitcher's mound.

And then you've got the degree of the improvement, which nobody who keeps dragging up these late career Aaron / Bonds comparisons ever seems to mention. I feel like a Fact Checker in the wake of a Sarah Palin speech in listing these numbers for the umpteenth time, but WTH maybe at some point it'll sink in. And remember, these are era-adjusted stats, not raw numbers:

Age 26-30 OPS+
Aaron: 155, 161, 170, 179, 153
Bonds: 160, 205, 204, 183, 168

Age 35-39 OPS+
Aaron: 177, 148, 194, 147, 177
Bonds: 188, 259, 268, 231, 263
   39. zachtoma Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:44 PM (#3888282)
If he had played clean Bonds would be a consensus top 7-12 batter of all time. Instead, he's a despicable farce.


If he had played clean Bonds would be a consensus top 7-12 batter of all time. Instead, because he used steroids and put up some remarkable numbers before MLB banned them, he's a top 3 batter of all time (only Ruth and Williams ahead of him).
   40. Buzzkill Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3888286)
There is/was only one player on the planet, in an era where all the stars (apparently) were juicing - who could and did put up the numbers Bonds put up. NOBODY else could duplicate his ability off juice or on. If you believe the urban legend he saw McGwire and Sosa blasting the long ball and knew he had more innate ability in one hand than either of those guys and not only proved it, put on a baseball display the likes of which we will never see again. My point is, IMO, his alien performance on the juice is an argument FOR his being the best player ever. I also agree with a post above that if he was not blacklisted he would be pushing 900 HR's.

He had a 9.3 WAR in 1998 and finished 8th in the MVP - Sosa who won was 6.5 and McGwire 7.2 so even pre-juice he was much better then the biggest juicers in the game.
   41. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:50 PM (#3888289)
he's a top 3 batter of all time (only Ruth and Williams ahead of him).

Not to me.

Are you saying, if you were picking a team to play under neutral conditions (either everybody or nobody gets the good drugs) you're taking Bonds over Willie Mays? Over Mantle, Wagner? Hell, I might take Pujols.
   42. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:52 PM (#3888293)
He had a 9.3 WAR in 1998 and finished 8th in the MVP - Sosa who won was 6.5 and McGwire 7.2 so even pre-juice he was much better then the biggest juicers in the game.


And how do you know that was "pre-juice"?
   43. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#3888296)
Not to mention that much of Aaron's improvement can be directly attributed to changing his home park from County Stadium to The Launching Pad, and to expansion and the lowering of the pitcher's mound.

As you must know, you just made the other side's point -- nobody's late-career performance can be attributed to any single factor, Bonds included. I'm sure you won't mind, since this is not something that you have disputed in the past.
   44. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:57 PM (#3888297)
Snapper, here's the problem with your logic -- and everybody else reasoning in a similar way. If one assumes that the changes in Bonds' productivity are due to PEDs you have to conclude that next to nobody else in the game was using PEDs.

Why would you have to conclude that?

Uprecidented levels of performance (for age and compared to established level of talent) aren't evidence of anything unless you can demonstate there's something unique to Bonds.

Not sure what this means.

I still find it pretty shocking that Bonds' average OPS+ from ages 36-39 is better than any other player has put up in a single season. If you just look at slugging percentage (to ignore the intentional walks), it would have been the third highest of all time, behind Babe Ruth's two best seasons.
   45. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:58 PM (#3888298)
Not to mention that much of Aaron's improvement can be directly attributed to changing his home park from County Stadium to The Launching Pad, and to expansion and the lowering of the pitcher's mound.


And in the 90's - smaller ballparks, strike zones the size of postage stamps, juiced baseballs, another two rounds of expansion....and the advent of year round physical training by the players.
   46. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:59 PM (#3888300)
And how do you know that was "pre-juice"?

Even if Bonds was already using, and even if Sosa wasn't, the fact still remains that Bonds was outperforming a league full of other players who were using.
   47. Cris E Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:02 PM (#3888306)
WAR age 26-29 Aaron 36.4, Mays 36.1, Bonds, 35.3.
Bonds was a great, great player.
WAR age 36-39 Aaron 19.8, Mays 19.3, Bonds 47.4.
Bonds cheated like a mother-######, injecting every designer drug known to man.
If he had played clean Bonds would be a consensus top 7-12 batter of all time. Instead, he's a despicable farce.


I'm kind of here as well. Being a top 10 player of all time wasn't enough for him, he had to be bigger than that. Well screw him. I'm a fan of baseball, not a lawyer, and he doesn't pass my smell test. I'll be the first to admit it's as much aesthetic as anything else. (I probably would have had a hard time with Babe Ruth in 1921 too.)

But here's the deal: he chose to act in a certain way and the rest of the world has to choose how to react to that. That guy might need a heap of evidence before pointing a finger, this other guy think Bagwell's arms are evidence, and another guy doesn't think anything is wrong and no evidence is called for. Bonds chose a freaky route and in so doing risked the support of conservative fans in order to court the adulation of many others. Here it is Barry, just like you could have expected. There isn't going to be a clean close to this for anyone.
   48. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3888311)
He didn't really pitch in MLB before age 31.


So what? You didn't make any stipulation to that effect in your initial formulation of the rule. You just said "top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39" - which Vance did. His age 37 and age 39 seasons are the two highest ERA+ campaigns of his career, and his age 36-39 seasons are, by far, the highest four-year stretch of (B-R) WAR at any point in his career.
   49. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:08 PM (#3888316)
If one assumes that the changes in Bonds' productivity are due to PEDs you have to conclude that next to nobody else in the game was using PEDs.

Why would you have to conclude that?


Because people are arguing that player X's improvement in a relative measure of performance are due to PEDs. If other players are also using PEDs, then their performances are altering the baseline against which player X is being measured, meaning that at least some fraction of his improvement cannot be entirely attributed to the PEDs.
   50. Mark Armour Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:09 PM (#3888317)
Are you saying, if you were picking a team to play under neutral conditions (either everybody or nobody gets the good drugs) you're taking Bonds over Willie Mays? Over Mantle, Wagner? Hell, I might take Pujols.


In this discussion, I think it is important to make clear when you are comparing "hitters" (which half of the comments here are doing) or "players" (which the other half of the comments are here are doing).
   51. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:11 PM (#3888320)
I probably would have had a hard time with Babe Ruth in 1921 too.

Because? What, was he just too damned good?

Bonds chose a freaky route and in so doing risked the support of conservative fans in order to court the adulation of many others. Here it is Barry, just like you could have expected. There isn't going to be a clean close to this for anyone.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Bonds is cool with all of that.
   52. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:12 PM (#3888321)

I, for one, am curious how much better Bonds could have gotten in his late 30s if he:

1. Did not take steroids.
2. Did work out like a mad man.

Steroids don't do anything unless you are a weightlifting demon, and it sure seems like Bonds was exercising at age 38 in a way he was not at age 28.


Seconded.

Further echoes: Buzzkill/40 gets it right in that people lose sight of Bonds' innate ability. Clean Barry Bonds was really freaking awesome, and better than just about anybody in the game. Of course it makes sense that given the opportunity to age (gain experience and learn) without significantly losing his bat speed/hitting ability, Barry Bonds would find even more in the game to exploit. Think of it the way the old think of being young, and how they might re-do things if given the opportunity. Thanks to PED's that simply weren't available for generations prior, Barry Bonds had that chance and made the most of it. In doing so, he attained a truly awesome level of performance.
   53. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:12 PM (#3888322)
People who previously hated Barry Bonds irrationally still hate Barry Bonds irrationally. I'm shocked.
   54. The District Attorney Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:12 PM (#3888323)
This is clearly wrong. One can certainly make a very serious argument for Bonds [as best ever] w/o PED. Bonds was a 9 WAR player in 1998. A reasonable projection from there [etc. etc.]
Okay, but Poz clarifies that Costas meant "What if Barry Bonds had retired in 1998?" (Poz does confuse the issue when his last paragraph speculates about how Bonds' career would have gone had he played it out without PED. But that isn't the point he says Costas is making.)

It'd be an unprecedented career to be "only" 13 seasons long and yet amass so much value. I'm not quite sure what the general perception of such a career would be. (It seems likely that whatever forced such an early retirement onto Bonds would likely create a sympathy effect that would help him be better-regarded. But I guess we can't factor that in.)

As post #7 states, Bill James said in '93 that "Ted Williams was never the player this guy was." That phrasing, however, sounds like it's a "peak" argument, not "career." But then Bonds goes out and has five more great years. Is he the best career LF then? I dunno... I'm sure there's a good case for it.

It is ultimately tough to dispute the exact point Poz credits Costas with making -- that if Barry Bonds had retired after 1998, he would not have had as good a career as Babe Ruth. You'd have to be a humongous timeliner to argue against that.

Bonds' career stats thru '98, BTW, would be: 1898 G, 5016 outs, 1364 R, 1917 H, 3679 TB, 403 2B, 63 3B, 411 HR, 1216 RBI, 445 SB, 130 CS, 1357 BB (289 IBB), 50 HBP, 1050 K, 110 GIDP, 290/411/556, 164 OPS+, 8.7 runs created per game, .769 offensive winning percentage, 103.4 WAR (83.3 offensive, 20.1 defensive)
   55. zachtoma Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:15 PM (#3888325)
Are you saying, if you were picking a team to play under neutral conditions (either everybody or nobody gets the good drugs) you're taking Bonds over Willie Mays? Over Mantle, Wagner? Hell, I might take Pujols.


You said batters. If we're drafting a team of players, there might be a couple more guys who don't play corner OF who I'd take before Bonds, Mays among them.
   56. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:16 PM (#3888326)
So Bonds was taking the champagne of elixirs and Armando Rios, Bobby Estrella and Jeremy Giambi were taking the equivalent of ripple?
   57. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:16 PM (#3888327)
And how do you know that was "pre-juice"?

Even if Bonds was already using, and even if Sosa wasn't, the fact still remains that Bonds was outperforming a league full of other players who were using.


Well that's all well and good, but that doesn't really address the possibility that Bonds had been using various anabolic agents for his entire career. The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.
   58. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:23 PM (#3888333)
Not to mention that much of Aaron's improvement can be directly attributed to changing his home park from County Stadium to The Launching Pad, and to expansion and the lowering of the pitcher's mound.

And in the 90's - smaller ballparks, strike zones the size of postage stamps, juiced baseballs, another two rounds of expansion....and the advent of year round physical training by the players.


Fine, let's forget all unadjusted stats and concentrate on the adjusted ones.

And since those OPS+ numbers I listed the first time around evidently didn't register, here are those same OPS+ numbers averaged out for your viewing convenience:

Age 26-30
Aaron 164, Bonds 185

Age 35-39
Aaron 169, Bonds 252

Improvement from 26-30 to 35-39: Aaron 3%, Bonds 36%. Those numbers aren't going away.
   59. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:23 PM (#3888334)
It seems likely that whatever forced such an early retirement onto Bonds would likely create a sympathy effect that would help him be better-regarded. But I guess we can't factor that in.

If Bonds had held a press conference at the end of the 1998 season to announce that he was retiring because he was tired of trying to compete with all these ####### cheaters, he'd be a hero to Bob Costas and Mike Lupica to day. Of course, Lupica and Costas would have torn him to shreds at the time, but nobody would talk about that any more.
   60. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:25 PM (#3888337)
In this discussion, I think it is important to make clear when you are comparing "hitters" (which half of the comments here are doing) or "players" (which the other half of the comments are here are doing).

You said batters. If we're drafting a team of players, there might be a couple more guys who don't play corner OF who I'd take before Bonds, Mays among them.

I meant batters vs. pitchers.
   61. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:26 PM (#3888338)
The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.

Hey, it's not my cutoff! Go tell it to Costas. And Pearlman.
   62. Ron J Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:27 PM (#3888339)
#44 Sometimes I not English so good.

What I meant to say is that you can't pin an unprecedented level of performance on any single factor unless you can identify something unique to that player.

I don't dispute that Bonds used PEDs. But I don't think he was alone. And in a league where plenty of players were using PEDs (and working out, and switching equipment -- there is no simple explanation for Bonds. Unless you happen to believe that there were only a handful of players using PEDs) Bonds gained a remarkable amount. Focusing simply on the isolated power, Bonds gained 39% relative to the league.

As for Bonds' workouts, he started very heavy workouts in Pittsburgh. David Marasco's father and brother were members of the same gym as Bonds and worked out at different times from each other. Bonds was always there. Working out harder than any member of the Steelers.

What changed in the late 90s is that he made a clear decision to focus exclusively on building strength.

Nothing about steroids (or the BALCO specials) makes a trade of speed for strength inevitable. Remember that BALCO's client list included sprinters and linebackers.
   63. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:27 PM (#3888340)
Bonds fanboys around here. Mea culpa


And the Bonds HaterBoys and Babe Ruth Fanboys are here, too.
   64. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:29 PM (#3888341)
The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.

Hey, it's not my cutoff! Go tell it to Costas. And Pearlman
.


I wish I could go to Bonds, but his credibility is somewhat compromised.
   65. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:30 PM (#3888343)
Interesting counter-factual: what if the natural state of the league is its performance in 2011,

_____________________________________

I have seen a couple of guys (not here) suggest that the downturn in offense is due in part to the amphetamine crackdown.
   66. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3888346)
I don't dispute that Bonds used PEDs. But I don't think he was alone. And in a league where plenty of players were using PEDs (and working out, and switching equipment -- there is no simple explanation for Bonds.


Better PEDs. Most guy were getting their stuff from clubhouse gym rats. Barry was spending big bucks to ensure he got something just a bit better.
   67. Srul Itza Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:35 PM (#3888347)
And then you've got the degree of the improvement, which nobody who keeps dragging up these late career Aaron / Bonds comparisons ever seems to mention.


The problem with these numbers is that a lot of it is driven by his huge walk totals, which raised his OBP to unprecedented levels and also raised his SLG by removing a lot of outs from that side of the equation. Pitchers and managers reacted in a way that was frankly irrational, which inflated his numbers. Even Ruth was not pitched to like that.
   68. Cris E Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:36 PM (#3888348)
>>I probably would have had a hard time with Babe Ruth in 1921 too.

Because? What, was he just too damned good?


No, because he was very different and not playing the same game as everyone else. He added a style that removed layers of tactics and replaced them with brute strength. Again, esthetics. Over time I'd say I like post-1920 baseball better than the dead ball stuff, but I think I probably would have been slow to that position at the time. And frankly I'm not looking forward to the NFL freak show version of gladiator baseball. It's already happened in many ways, it's cyclical and already passing in some other ways, and I'm comfortable with being out of step with the rest of the world on things like this. I'm just a fan.
   69. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:37 PM (#3888349)

I don't dispute that Bonds used PEDs. But I don't think he was alone. And in a league where plenty of players were using PEDs (and working out, and switching equipment -- there is no simple explanation for Bonds. Unless you happen to believe that there were only a handful of players using PEDs) Bonds gained a remarkable amount. Focusing simply on the isolated power, Bonds gained 39% relative to the league.


I think the argument is that Bonds had a world class lab designing special drugs, and most of the other guys were getting random crap mailed from Dr. Nick Riviera in the DR.
   70. Srul Itza Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:38 PM (#3888350)
If you just look at slugging percentage (to ignore the intentional walks)


You can't ignore the walks. Intentional and unintentional, they removed outs from the equation.
   71. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3888351)
And the Bonds HaterBoys and Babe Ruth Fanboys are here, too.

Babe Ruth took more performance-depressing drugs than Bonds took performance enhancing ones.

Let's see Bonds start drinking at 5 PM, stay out all night chasing skirt, come to the ball park without sleep, eat six hot dogs, drink a six pack of beer, and go out and put up a 200 OPS+.

Hell, in those days, team forbid players from working out, b/c they thought it wore them out for the season.
   72. zenbitz Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3888352)
Of course none of you have anything resembling a reasonable estimate for the effect of steroids on a players OPS. Just laughable really. As @18 and others point out - either he was the only one using or the only one using them correctly.

As to his unprecedented OPS+... how much to you think of that is due to opposing NL managers. Because while BB is certainly not the only guy to use what he used, he IS the only guy to be intentionally walked constantly. In fact, he was only pitched to when he absolutely HAD to be. When there was no room to be careful. Maybe if you pitch to someone as if he was scarier than 10 Jim Rices you inflate his stats.

He averaged 190 BBs (steriod induced, I am sure!) over 4 years. No wonder his rate stats were so high.
   73. Srul Itza Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:41 PM (#3888354)
Well that's all well and good, but that doesn't really address the possibility that Bonds had been using various anabolic agents for his entire career. The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.


The repeated assertion that Bonds was taking steroids all his life is equally unsupportable.
   74. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:43 PM (#3888357)
Improvement from 26-30 to 35-39: Aaron 3%, Bonds 36%.


I think it's nice that despite all your spin, you still disproved Snapper's claim in No. 9.
   75. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3888359)
You can't ignore the walks. Intentional and unintentional, they removed outs from the equation.


They also removed homers and singles and doubles. I'll grant that they probably didn't remove too many triples.

The walks removed outs if the alternative was Barry had to swing at those pitches out of the zone. But if you replace those balls out of the zone with pitches in the zone, we can't say for sure what the result is.
   76. Gonfalon B. Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3888360)
that doesn't really address the possibility that Bonds had been using various anabolic agents for his entire career. The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.

No! No! Don't take away our cutoff. It's an ironclad timeline based on meticulous supposition. And I never want to let go of my mental image of Bonds as Jack Nicholson's Joker: transformed in an instant, madly grinning with McGwire jealousy, and vowing "Wait till they get a load of me." It evokes such an emotionally satisfying understanding of the facts.

One of my favorite minor pieces of the "Dirty Barry bent baseball to his will" PED puzzle is that he hit his historic 755th home run off Clay Hensley. Hensley had previously been suspended for using steroids.
   77. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:46 PM (#3888361)
Babe Ruth took more performance-depressing drugs than Bonds took performance enhancing ones.

Let's see Bonds start drinking at 5 PM, stay out all night chasing skirt, come to the ball park without sleep, eat six hot dogs, drink a six pack of beer, and go out and put up a 200 OPS+.

Hell, in those days, team forbid players from working out, b/c they thought it wore them out for the season.


Ruth's big seasons in his 30s (after the collapse in 1925) were actually preceded by calming that down a bit and working out some. You should read Creamer's book again, using a highlighter.
   78. robinred Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:49 PM (#3888367)
One of my favorite minor pieces of the "Dirty Barry bent baseball to his will" PED puzzle is that he hit his 755th home run off Clay Hensley. Hensley had previously been suspended for using steroids.


Indeed, and Ted Leitner, the Padres announcer who is enough of a Bonds drooler to make snapper, Costas, and Andy, proud, called it--without ever mentioning that Hensley had been suspended for PEDs.
   79. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:49 PM (#3888368)
I think the argument is that Bonds had a world class lab designing special drugs, and most of the other guys were getting random crap mailed from Dr. Nick Riviera in the DR.

So no other MLB players were on BALCO's client list? And even if that were true, where is the evidence that THG (the clear, or if you prefer, flaxseed oil) was any better than winstrol? It's advantages were that it was a) orally available (no icky needles) and b) undtectable by then-current testing. The cream was just testosterone, which is not a designer drug and not hard to get.
   80. Dan The Mediocre Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:50 PM (#3888369)
Well that's all well and good, but that doesn't really address the possibility that Bonds had been using various anabolic agents for his entire career. The 1998 cutoff seems unsupportable.


The only account that has Bonds knowingly using PEDs said he started after the 1998 home run race between McGwire and Sosa as a result of anger and jealousy over being entirely overlooked despite being far superior to either.

That's where it comes from.
   81. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:51 PM (#3888372)
if you replace those balls out of the zone with pitches in the zone, we can't say for sure what the result is

I think that we can be fairly certain that the outcome would not have been an OBP of 1.000.
   82. zenbitz Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:57 PM (#3888375)
Better PEDs. Most guy were getting their stuff from clubhouse gym rats. Barry was spending big bucks to ensure he got something just a bit better.


Horsepuckey. BALCO had dozens of clients - many of them baseball players. I
   83. AROM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:59 PM (#3888379)
I F***ing hate it when I make a fairly long post, hit submit, and my comment is lost into cyberspace.

I compared Bonds through age 33 to Mantle, since with his great walk totals Mick seems a better match than Aaron or Mays. Mantle through the same age has 300 more PA, a better average, OBP, and slugging, and 10 points more in OPS+. Defensively you've got an average to slightly below CF vs a great left fielder. Mantle seems to me a clear cut above steroids-free Bonds.

If you think Bonds was juicing before 1998, then the addition of steroids cannot be used to explain how he went from a .600 slugger to an .850.
   84. Daunte Vicknabbit! Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:02 PM (#3888385)
Glad to know we're not sparing the hyperbole in this thread. Bonds is "despicable"? Yep. Guys who do drugs that have no adverse effects on anyone else except in a ridiculously abstract sense certainly rate among the more despicable individuals. Up there with the serial killers and people who save a spot in line for their friends at the Tickle-Me-Elmo release.

Never change, snapper.
   85. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:02 PM (#3888386)
I think it's nice that despite all your spin, you still disproved Snapper's claim in No. 9.

WAR age 26-29 Aaron 36.4, Mays 36.1, Bonds, 35.3.

WAR age 36-39 Aaron 19.8, Mays 19.3, Bonds 47.4.

No, no he doesn't.

Aaron was better in every single 4-year stretch from age 21-35 than he was from 36-39.

Likewise, Willie Mays (from 23-35), and Ruth (from 23-35), and Mantle, and Frank Robinson.

Every other great player was declining seriously from their peak at those ages, but Bonds gets hugely better? C'mon. Yeah that's real "talent" at play.

What're you guys related to him?
   86. Gonfalon B. Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:04 PM (#3888388)
The only account that has Bonds knowingly using PEDs said he started after the 1998 home run race between McGwire and Sosa as a result of anger and jealousy over being entirely overlooked despite being far superior to either.
That's where it comes from.


It's from the book Game of Shadows, and the account is apparently sourced by shadows as well.

There's no credible doubt that Bonds used drugs, but there's even less doubt about the sports media's constant need to erect storylines.
   87. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3888389)
Glad to know we're not sparing the hyperbole in this thread. Bonds is "despicable"? Yep. Guys who do drugs that have no adverse effects on anyone else except in a ridiculously abstract sense certainly rate among the more despicable individuals. Up there with the serial killers and people who save a spot in line for their friends at the Tickle-Me-Elmo release.

Never change, snapper.


He was a great, great player who sullied his reputation, and the game, in a vainglorious need to be the best. Instead of being a huge positive figure of celebration for baseball, he's a punchline. Yes, that's despicable to me.

He's also a lousy human being, as his treatment of his wives, and girlfriends shows abundantly.

Why do any of you like him? What the eff is positive about Barry Bonds?
   88. AROM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:06 PM (#3888392)
The problem with these numbers is that a lot of it is driven by his huge walk totals, which raised his OBP to unprecedented levels and also raised his SLG by removing a lot of outs from that side of the equation.


Obviously all those walks raised his OBP. I don't see how they had any effect on his SLG though. They don't count in the calculation. To assume that Barry being pitched to would have a lower slugging%, you'd have to argue that the pitchers who pitched around him would have had more success against Bonds than the pitchers brave enough to pitch to him.

That seems like a very strange position to argue.
   89. Ron J Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:07 PM (#3888394)
#71 You can find quotes by management ######## about players working out as late as 1991 -- I can't find any after that (which doesn't mean everybody suddenly changed their mind)

The primary reason weight training was discouraged wasn't that they felt it wore players out, but rather it was thought to reduce bat speed.

One thing that's interesting about this belief is that it goes way back. If the face of tremendous success by very strong players. (Lou Gehrig was almost certainly stronger than Bonds as a for instance. Jimmy Foxx -- well there's no shortage)

In their day Honus Wagner and Cy Young were both known for off-season workouts. For some reason their tremendous careers didn't seem to shake anybody's belief that off-season workouts were a bad idea.
   90. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:07 PM (#3888395)
I think the argument is that Bonds had a world class lab designing special drugs, and most of the other guys were getting random crap mailed from Dr. Nick Riviera in the DR.

On the contrary; THG is a relatively weak steroid whose only "special" trait was undetectability.
   91. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:10 PM (#3888399)
On the contrary; THG is a relatively weak steroid whose only "special" trait was undetectability.

You think that's all he was on?
   92. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:15 PM (#3888400)
"Hell, I might take Pujols."

right
   93. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:15 PM (#3888402)
"Hell, I might take Pujols."

right
   94. AROM Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:16 PM (#3888403)
Here are some stats for Bonds' big year in walks, 2004.

Right handers walked him 42% of the time, 23% intentionally. Left handers walked him less often, 29% overall and 13% intentional.

He hit .395 with a .957 SLG against righties. And .307 with a .571 SLG off lefties.

Make all those pitchers pitch to him, and the extra opportunities come disproportionally from right handed pitchers. Sure looks like his slugging percentage would be even higher than it actually was.
   95. Bob Tufts Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:19 PM (#3888408)
I think the argument is that Bonds had a world class lab designing special drugs, and most of the other guys were getting random crap mailed from Dr. Nick Riviera in the DR.


Horsepuckey. BALCO had dozens of clients - many of them baseball players.


As I said before, Benito Santiago, Bobby Estrella, Armando Rios, Jeremy Giambi....

It's not about OPS+. We only care about Bonds because of the HR record. The Mitchell report is littered with marginal players who went nowhere fast while using illegal PED's, but moral indignation is selective and relates only to an arrogant Bonds' passing Aaron on a list in the history books.
   96. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:24 PM (#3888417)
I think that we can be fairly certain that the outcome would not have been an OBP of 1.000.


As AROM notes, that doesn't have anything to do with his SLG.
   97. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:29 PM (#3888422)
No, no he doesn't.


My mistake. When you said "You don't top your best previous performance (in a HoF career) at ages 36-39," I didn't realize you were specifically excluding topping your best previous performance in hitting.
   98. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:29 PM (#3888421)
   99. Cris E Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:29 PM (#3888423)
It's not about OPS+. We only care about Bonds because of the HR record. The Mitchell report is littered with marginal players who went nowhere fast while using illegal PED's, but the moral indignation is selective.

Not exactly: we only care about Bonds because he was great as he was and he threw away universal praise in pursuit of a mixed adulation over tainted achievement. The moral indignation is limited when Manny Alexander wants to become Craig Counsell or JC Romero attempts to be Eddie Guardado; they were meh players just trying to be good, but Bonds was already far better than good. When that wasn't enough for him it reeked of greed and hubris. It's not fair and it's totally selective, but there it is.
   100. Repoz Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:33 PM (#3888426)
and causing young children and Costas and Lupica to cry themselves to sleep with images of the "pure" Maris and Aaron in their head.

Father Raymond J. de Souza sez..."Don't forget your prayers before bedtime!"
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