Barry Bonds to enter Giants Wall of Fame this summer

Long after his career ended, Barry Bonds will be the 49th San Francisco Giants player to be honored on the Giants Wall of Fame.

Nearly 10 years after he retired from baseball, former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds will join the immortal players who have worn the orange and black on the Giants Wall of Fame. He will be up there with Johnnie LeMaster, Rod Beck and Marvin Benard. Those aren’t exactly household names outside of San Francisco. Of course, the Giants Wall of Fame also includes all-time greats Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey.

The ceremony will take place this summer when the Giants host the Marlins on Saturday, July 8, at 3:30 pm. You may remember that Bonds was a hitting coach for the Marlins last year before coming back to the Giants this spring to work as a special advisor to CEO Larry Baer. In this role with the Giants, Bonds represents the team at community events and helps minor-leaguers as an instructor.

In addition to the Wall of Fame induction, Bonds’ number 25 will be retired by the Giants at a later date, which is as yet undetermined. It’s possible Bonds will have his jersey retired prior to entering the Baseball Hall of Fame, should he eventually get in. This would be a first. Every player who has had his jersey retired by the Giants was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame first.

Whether Bonds will make it into the Hall of Fame is an annual question that pops up every winter when the writers contemplate their ballots. Statistically, Bonds is almost without peer as a major league player. Among position players, only Babe Ruth was worth more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) than Barry Bonds (per Baseball-Reference). He’s the all-time leader in home runs and bases on balls and had a four-year stretch from 2001 to 2004 when he basically broke baseball. This was his AVERAGE season during this time:

.349/.559/.809, 122 R, 52 HR, 110 RBI, 9 SB, 189 BB, 60 K

The numbers over this stretch are mind-boggling. Bonds won the NL MVP Award all four years. He led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage all four years. He was intentionally walked 284 times, including 120 times in 2004 alone.

Even those numbers don’t really do him justice. Whenever he came to the plate, it was an event. You didn’t want to miss it. He looked like an NFL tight end as he settled into the box with a pad on his right elbow that made it look like he had a bionic arm as if he had been created in a laboratory specifically to punish baseballs.

At the plate, he choked up slightly on the bat, which isn’t something you expect from a power hitter. Then the pitch would come in and Bonds’ short, insanely quick swing would send it right back out and over the fence more often than any major league player ever.

Of course, you can’t mention Barry Bonds without mentioning PEDs. He played most of his career during a time before there was testing, so he never failed a test, but it’s assumed he used PEDs, like many others who played with and against him. The PED use is likely one reason why his career ended after the 2007 season.

In that final season in the big leagues, Bonds hit .276/.480/.565 with 28 home runs and 66 RBI. Even with negative value on defense (he was 42 years old), he was still worth 3.4 WAR. His 2008 Marcels projection pegged him as the 21st best hitter in baseball (.257/.420/.488, .380 wOBA). Despite that production and the rosy projection, he went unsigned as a free agent the following spring. No team made him an offer.

Bonds first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013 and received 36.2 percent of the vote, which is less than half of the 75 percent needed for induction. He remained at that level for his first three years, then jumped to 44.3 percent in 2016 and made another jump last year when he had 53.8 percent of the vote. He’s gained 17 percent over the last two years and has another five years to pick up another 22 percent. Now it’s looking much more likely that he’ll be inducted than it looked two years ago.

In the meantime, Bonds will be the 49th member of the Giants Wall of Fame, where the standards are not necessarily based on skill or talent. According to the Giants’ press release:

The Giants Wall of Fame serves as a living tribute to the organization’s greatest players. It recognizes retired players whose records stand highest among their teammates on the basis of longevity and achievements. Those honored have played a minimum of nine seasons for the San Francisco Giants, or five seasons with at least one All-Star selection as a Giant.

The Giants Wall of Fame was created in 2009 and the list of members is an eclectic one. There are the greats, like Bonds, and the aforementioned Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey. There are also Giants players who were very good during their time in San Francisco, like Orlando Cepeda, Jack Clark, Will Clark, Jeff Kent, Gaylord Perry and Bonds’ father, Bobby. You can add Robby Thompson and Matt Williams to this group.

Then there are the less-accomplished Giants; players who either had short bursts of greatness as a Giant (Kevin Mitchell, Jason Schmidt) or were fan favorites (Rod Beck, Kirk Rueter). Statistically, of the 49 players in the Wall of Fame (including Bonds), 36 accumulated at least 10 WAR with the team.

That does leave a group of players whose achievements with the Giants don’t exactly seem Wall of Fame worthy. This group includes Randy Moffitt, Jeff Brantley and Kirt Manwaring. At the very bottom of the list is former shortstop Johnnie LeMaster, who played 11 seasons with the Giants and hit .225/.280/.293. He was below replacement-level in seven of his 11 seasons and finished his career as a Giant with -4.4 WAR.

Yet, he’s right there on the Giants Wall of Fame with Willie Mays. He’s the Harry and the Hendersons of Giants Wall of Fame members (Harry and the Hendersons won an Academy Award in 1988 for Best Makeup).

It’s a nice gesture of the Giants to finally induct Bonds into the Giants Wall of Fame, but retiring his jersey will be a bigger honor. Bonds’ number 25 deserves to be up there among the other retired jerseys, right between Willie Mays’ number 24 and Juan Marichal’s number 27. And perhaps sometime in the next five years, he’ll make his way to Cooperstown.

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