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The Legacy of Barry Bonds Without Steroids: A Hypothetical Analysis

Updated: Jan 8

Despite being one of the greatest players of his era, Barry Bonds's career will forever be linked to controversy

In the much-celebrated history of Major League Baseball, the name Barry Bonds is synonymous with raw power, home runs, and steroid allegations. 

Despite never winning a World Series, Bonds would have a career filled with individual accolades that etched his name into the history books as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. 

From the time he stepped onto the field as a fresh-faced twenty-one-year-old rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bonds was a prodigy, in the mold of his father Bobby, godfather Willie Mays and his distant cousin Reggie Jackson. With an ability to command the plate, paired with an unparalleled baseball IQ, Bonds was on track for a Hall-of-Fame career from his first season as a pro. 

Yet, instead of pulling on the famed jacket and seeing his name enshrined among the greatest players of America’s pastime, the only things that are associated with Bonds’s name are syringes, HGH, and a giant asterisk. 

So what if the outfielder, who was traded from the Pirates to the San Francisco Giants after seven years and two All-Star Game appearances, didn’t become this hulking presence at the plate, one that resembled more of a WWF wrestler than a baseball player? What if the juice that he was on was just protein shakes not a BALCO specialty? And what about his ball-crushing homers, would they be the same based on a carefully designed meal plan and a commitment to banging out a few sets in the gym on a daily basis? 

Although tainted, Bonds was one of the greatest home run hitters of all time

To start, chances are the nightly talk show monologues and sports pages wouldn’t have a reason to talk about Bonds’s head, which somehow looked like it grew four helmet sizes bigger after joining the Giants than when he played for the Pirates. It also meant that Hulk Hogan was still the only man with 24” pythons. 

Rather than having fans speculate and call him out for the various chemical elixirs that they presumed he was ingesting and injecting, Giants faithful and MLB followers would marvel at the feats of a man with super talents and abilities rather than one who was built more like Thanos. In place of home run numbers that skewered the record books and defied the laws of physics, Bonds’ dingers, though still leaving fans in awe and having them diving into McCovey Cove, were without skepticism. 

Would Bonds have bumped “Hammerin” Hank Aaron off the top of the all-time home run leaders list had he not partaken in some “extracurricular” activities? Likely not, meaning that the long-time Atlanta Braves star’s record would remain intact today. This would also mean that Roger Maris’s 37-year-old single-season home run record would also still stand (if we are living in an alternate universe where Bonds didn’t juice, then that same universe would hold the same story for Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa

Without the Super Mario like power up, it would be safe to assume that Bonds would average approximately 35 homers per season during his time in the Bay Area with a teasing of a handful of 50 home run seasons thrown in for good measure, similar to that of Ken Griffey Jr. and Aaron Judge.

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