With mid-November fast approaching, it's almost time for an annual baseball tradition launched more than a decade ago — debating home run king Barry Bonds' worthiness for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The maligned former Giants superstar's final chance to be voted into baseball immortality in Cooperstown, New York, via the Baseball Writers Association of American will be examined during "Bonds," ESPN's upcoming "E60" documentary.
The one-hour primetime program, which first airs on Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. PT, will include interviews with a myriad of former Bonds teammates, including Will Clark, as well as two of his former managers, Dusty Baker and Jim Leyland.
They'll all contribute to the debate of whether Bonds deserves to get the ultimate call from baseball's hall.
They can all vouch for Bonds' talents and impact on the game, both of which are on a Ruthian level. But Bonds' ties to performance-enhancing drugs is the reason he'll appear for the 10th and final time on the Hall of Fame ballot, which will be mailed to hundreds of BBWAA voters in roughly two weeks.
The voters who have chosen to ignore Bonds on their ballots point to a voting guideline from the hall stipulating that "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Those casting votes for Bonds say the guideline is vague, it's hard to know who has actually used PEDs, or they simply argue the Hall of Fame is a museum of the game's history, not judge and jury of qualification for entry.
Bonds has come up way short of the requisite 75 percent of the vote for nine consecutive years, including last year when he received a personal-high 61.8 percent of the vote. His candidacy still isn't promising. When this year's results are announced in January, Bonds will need to have received approximately 53 additional votes to be enshrined. It would be considered an upset if he does.
It's also important to realize a 10th failed bid for Bonds won't end his Hall of Fame chances. He will be eligible for consideration by the "Today's Game" committee, a 16-person panel that votes twice every five years on the candidacy of players from 1988-present. That panel will next meet in December 2024 for inclusion in the Hall of Fame class of 2025.
Obviously, parts of Bonds' baseball resume are unrivaled, from his record 762 career home runs and 73 single-season homers to his seven Most Valuable Player Awards, four more than any other player in MLB history. Proof that Bonds was arguably baseball's most feared hitter ever can be seen in his MLB records of 688 intentional walks and 2,558 walks overall.
Most all of Bonds' greatest accomplishments came during the 15 years he spent with San Francisco after leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign a free-agent deal to come home in 1993. Yet, once home, it was his connection to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) and its trainers that tainted many of his accomplishments.
Bonds admitted during a BALCO trial in 2011 that he unwittingly used steroids. He said his personal trainer led him to believe he was only taking flax seed oil and arthritis cream.
Even the upcoming "Bonds" documentary itself is tinged with some controversy, mostly because of ESPN's last big Bonds endeavor. The network had to pull the plug midway through its 10-episode series on Bonds in 2006 after it was revealed ESPN gained inside access to the slugger in exchange for payment.