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Barry Bonds is a rightful inductee into the Pirates Hall of Fame

It was announced last week that Barry Bonds, Jim Leyland and Manny Sanguillen will comprise the 2024 class of inductees into the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame.

The Pirates will honor the three men before a game against the Reds on Saturday, August 24, at PNC Park.

Sanguillen, a three-time All-star catcher with the Pirates who spent 12 of his 13 seasons in Pittsburgh and was a part of two World Series championships in the 1970s, will undoubtedly get a huge ovation. The same can confidently be said about Leyland, a two-time manager of the year while in Pittsburgh (1990 and 1992) who led the Pirates to three-straight National League Central Division championships in the early ’90s and may be the most popular coach/manager the city has ever seen.

As for Bonds? It’s a bit iffy. Sure, he received a warm welcome when he was honored before the 2014 home opener at PNC Park, but a Hall of Fame induction that will make him immortal alongside other franchise greats–including Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell?

Does Bonds belong with those other greats? After all, he was notorious for being a jerk to his teammates, reporters and even some fans during his seven seasons with Pittsburgh. He remained a jerk after he left town to join the Giants as a high-priced free agent in 1993. Bonds also never won a World Series and often showed up small come postseason time.

Then, of course, there were those accusations that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs later in his career, which is what reportedly grew his physique, the size of his head, and his ability to hit enough home runs that he not only set the single-season mark with 73 (2001) but the all-time record with 762 (2007).

Besides, Bonds had his best years in San Francisco, where he played 15 of his 22 seasons, hit 586 of his 762 home runs, captured five of his eight gold gloves and won five of his seven National League MVP awards–including four straight from 2001-2004.

Bonds might be the best player in Giants history, including his godfather, the great Willie Mays.

That might sound blasphemous, but you can certainly make a strong case for Bonds.

Heck, you can make a strong case for Bonds being the best baseball player of all time.

Having said all of that, why should the Pirates honor him by inducting him into their Hall of Fame?

Because you can also make a strong case that Bonds was the best player in Pirates history.

No, Bonds never led the National League in home runs for seven-straight seasons like Kiner did. No, Bonds didn’t leave Pittsburgh as the Pirates’ all-time leader in home runs; that was Stargell, who blasted 475 during his Hall of Fame career.

You’d likely lose the case for Bonds when someone presents Clemente’s career as their strongest evidence. Clemente was the greatest outfielder in team history with 12-straight gold gloves between 1961-1972. He was a four-time National League batting champion (1961, 1964, 1965 and 1967). He was the 1966 National League MVP. He was a part of two World Series championships and was voted the 1971 World Series MVP. He was a 15-time All-Star.

And Clemente amassed the most base hits in franchise history (3,000).

But you know what Clemente never did? He never won more than one NL MVP. In fact, no Pirates player ever did that…before Bonds, who won the award in 1990 and then again in 1992. He probably would have won it in 1991 if Terry Pendleton hadn’t led the Braves to an unlikely NL West title.

Andrew McCutchen was the last Pirates player to win the National League MVP (2013), and he was never able to do it again during his prime years.

Furthermore, Bonds is the only Pirates player in franchise history with at least 175 home runs (176) and 200 stolen bases (251).

No, Bonds wasn’t the greatest Pirates player ever, but he was damn-close.

Bonds will probably never get enshrined in Cooperstown thanks to those PED accusations, and he may never have a warm and fuzzy relationship with the baseball media or the two teams he played for.

But Barry Bonds’ career deserves to be honored, and it all started in Pittsburgh, where he spent his first seven years and did enough to put himself in the same class as some of the greatest players in Pirates history.


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