Friday, April 17, 2015

Barry Bonds: greatest living player.

Joe DiMaggio had been designated greatest living player in 1969 as part of a centennial celebration.  After that DiMaggio was introduced as such for the rest of his life.  Yankee haters and DiMaggio bashers were running naked through the hallways for decades over this so there's no need to go into it.  DiMaggio died March 8, 1999 just before the season when Barry Bonds probably began using performance enhancing drugs (PED).  Within a couple of days of Joe's passing it occurred to me that there must now be a different greatest living player and I immediately and instinctively realized that it was Willie Mays.  Mickey Mantle had already died in 1995 and Ted Williams lived until 2002 but Williams had been too one dimensional to be considered.  Clearly Mays was the greatest living.

Unfortunately, Mays was never so designated, not even informally.  Maybe commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig's crush on Hank Aaron had already taken hold.  Maybe it was the personality and remoteness of Mays.  Now for the first time in 16 years the concept has been revived and by the league itself with its stumbling, bumbling promotion, which mixes an all living list with "dead or alive" lists for each franchise.  Maybe they should have had lists for:
- all living
- all dead
- dead or alive.

However misguided the promotion, it caused at least this one fan to take stock of who is the greatest living player.  Mays is still a viable choice.  But as with the death of DiMaggio I immediately and instinctively realized that it was Barry Bonds as I had mentioned in my previous post:

Greatest living players by position. Thursday, April 16, 2015

Barry Bonds in 1993
by Jim Accordino
via Wikimedia Commons
I've dealt with Mays v. Aaron in posts years ago.  As great as Aaron was, Mays was better at everything, including hitting.  The only mitigating factor is that of Bonds using PED.  There's no getting around that and there's no easy resolution.  If you want to simply eliminate Bonds from consideration, that's not completely unreasonable.  If you want to penalize Bonds but then consider him, go ahead but be careful.  If you want to completely ignore his use of PED, that's difficult, really difficult.

I guess for me Bonds is so far ahead in batting and also very well rounded in his early years that he seems to be the choice.  But it's difficult to put someone ahead of Mays.  Even for a Mickey Mantle fan.


Joseph Coleman said...

I agree with you whole heartedly about the PED's and Willie "Say Hey" Mays, who my Oakland CA Auntie say was "A really good guy". But the PED's do not give one the eyes nor the wrists that the Lord gave Barry Bonds; I'm softhearted though, I would let "Shoeless" Joe and Pete into the HOF. I could not however give Bonds the mantle of DiMaggio.

Daphne Anson said...

The problem is that Bonds started being super-great in his mid-thirties, not before. Before 1998 or so, it is arguable that he would have been elected to the HofF.
From c. 1998 to c. 2004 he reached peaks that not even the Babe ever reached. The obvious question is why he didn't hit that well when he was 26 or 27. The answer is equally obvious. No other player in history had an age profile like this.

Kenneth Matinale said...

Bonds had already won three MVP with the Pirates. Had Bonds simply retired after ten full seasons he almost certainly would have been elected to the Hall of Fame many years ago.