He was a difference-maker in three decades, and has the all-time record for most home runs hit in a season (73, in 2001) and for his career (762).
In the last part of his career, in the early 2000s, he began to get involved in steroid allegations: from the BALCO scandal to his perjury case and the Game of Shadows book, his public image was badly damaged to the point that he is in his final season of Hall of Fame eligibility and he hasn’t been able to get in.
Different sources say that he began using steroids in 1997, as ESPN details in this timeline.
However, fans need to remember that Bonds was an absolute monster even before his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
His Pre-Steroid Allegations Career
For his career as a whole, Bonds slashed .298/.444/.607 with 762 homers, 2,227 runs scored, 1,996 RBI, and 514 stolen bases.
No one in the history of the game has 500 homers and 500 steals.
It’s understandable people are fixated at his performance during the steroids era and how they refuse to let the man into the Hall of Fame.
So, for the purposes of this exercise, let’s analyze how he did in the first half of his career, before the 1997 season.
As Ryan Spaeder points out, Bonds had 334 home runs and 380 stolen bases through the 1996 season.
Those numbers are unheard of: no player has reached both totals, ever.
Barry Bonds had 334 home runs and 380 stolen bases through the 1996 season.
No other player in baseball history has eclipsed both of those totals in their entire career.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) July 24, 2018
At that point, Bonds was already picked for six All-Star Games, had won three MVP awards, six Gold Gloves, six Silver Slugger awards, and led the National League in home runs and RBI once.
He started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 and hit 16 homers and stole 36 bases in his debut season.
He became a member of the 40-40 club in 1996, with 42 homers and 40 steals.
At that point, he had a 9.9 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) season in 1990 and a 10.5 WAR campaign in 1993.
He spent seven fruitful seasons in Pittsburgh before moving to San Francisco to keep mashing.
A One-Of-A-Kind Player
Since the 1990 season, he became capable of hitting for a .300 average, bopping 40 home runs, stealing 50 bases, and taking 100 walks per year.
Barry Bonds from 1990-1994
3x All Star
4x Gold Glove
4x More Walks than Strikeouts
3x 30-30 Club (1 SB shy of a 4th)
Bonds was one of the best ever, before the steroid allegations even began. This 4 year stretch is one of, if not the BEST, 4 year stretch of all time
— Coach Bo (@TheCoachBo) December 23, 2020
It’s true that, during the first half of his career, he didn’t quite reach the heights of his 2001-2004 stretch (four consecutive 10-WAR seasons, including two above 12!), but he was a true star before his alleged use of steroids.
Only time will tell whether Bonds makes it to the Hall or not, but there is no denying he was a uniquely talented ballplayer ever since he stepped onto an MLB field.
He is not a particularly well-liked figure around baseball, and he is not popular among media members.
But he deserves to have a place in the Hall.