The Pirates took Bonds with the sixth pick of the first round of the 1985 Amateur Draft, and he made his debut a year later.
In Pittsburgh, Bonds established himself as one of baseball’s top young stars, capable of hitting more than 30 homers and stealing over 30 bases in a season.
He won the National League MVP award in two of his last three seasons in Pittsburgh, 1990 and 1992.
So why did Bonds leave?
Barry Bonds was left out of the hall of fame….thinking about him and his Pirates era😪🥵 pic.twitter.com/CIABwlKLZ8
— Rare Hasbulla Hello (@sc0rpi_h0e) January 26, 2022
Bonds Wasn’t Liked By Media Or Fans In Pittsburgh
Despite being a true star on the field, Bonds was never a media darling.
Additionally, most fans didn’t like him despite his success on the diamond.
Despite the MVPs, he was being named the “MDP”, or Most Despised Pirate, in the media.
For all his regular season success, Bonds didn’t perform well in October for the Buccos.
His OPS marks in three NLCS with Pittsburgh were .542 in 1990, .392 in 1991, and .868 in 1992.
He was good in only one of the three, his last season in Pittsburgh, which is when he could finally hit his first postseason home run.
At one point, in early 1991, the Pirates’ brass told Bonds they wouldn’t be handing contract extensions with players with two or more arbitration years remaining, which was his case.
According to two Pittsburgh papers, Bonds said he wouldn’t re-sign even “for $100 million” if the team didn’t give him a long-term deal worth at least $3 million a year before his February 15 arbitration hearing.
“And if I do leave, I’ll haunt the Pittsburgh Pirates,” Bonds was quoted as saying by the newspapers.
“They’ll be the one team I will beat up on.”
It’s hard to think fans liked to read that.
The Pirates Couldn’t Afford Bonds
Pretty clearly, the Pirates couldn’t afford Bonds.
He then went to the Giants, the team in which his father Bobby and his godfather Willie Mays had played.
He signed a six-year, $43.75 million deal: he was, by far, the best free agent in the market and one of the best in history, so he naturally signed the largest pact at the time, both in total dollars and average annual value.
Pittsburgh didn’t have that kind of money.
Not only did the Pirates fail to sign Bonds, but they also didn’t bring back Drabek, their ace and a former Cy Young award winner.
Naturally, they fell off a cliff after losing both stars (and Bonilla a year before).
An old ESPN article details that the Pirates won 96 games in 1992, but without their stars, they fell to 75-87 in 1993, then 54-61 in a 1994 season shortened by the strike.
This Day in #PGHistory: Francisco Liriano pitches a gem, Marlon Byrd homers, and Russell Martin adds two of his own as the #Pirates defeat the Reds in their first playoff appearance since 1992. A night we will never forget. (2013) pic.twitter.com/XqV5X7F3Kc
— Pittsburgh Clothing Company (@PGHClothingCo) October 1, 2020
They finished under .500 since Bonds left until 2013, when they returned to the playoffs under the leadership of young center fielder Andrew McCutchen.NEXT: 3 Reasons The Pirates Can't Get Out Of Perennial Rebuilding Phase