No, Craig, Barry Bonds Wasn’t A “Great” Baseball Player. Bernie Madoff Wasn’t A “Great” Investment Manager, Either

Christy Mathewson, a genuine hero. Barry Bonds would have made him want to throw up.

Christy Mathewson, a genuine hero. Barry Bonds would have made him want to throw up.

I like and admire Craig Calcaterra, who blogs entertainingly and perceptively about baseball on the NBC Sports website. I suppose I’m a bit jealous of him too: he’s a lawyer who now earns his living blogging about something he loves.

But Craig has always been a bit confused about how to regard baseball’s steroid cheats (they are cheats, which should answer any questions, but somehow doesn’t for a lot of people), and predictably, I suppose, he couldn’t resist reacting to the early results of Major League Baseball’s “Franchise Four” promotion, in which fans vote (until mid-May) for “the most impactful players who best represent each Major League franchise” as well as some other categories, including “Four Greatest Living Players.” The early results have Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver leading in the “Greatest Living Players” category, so Craig snarked that this is sad, because “it must mean Barry Bonds has died in a tragic cycling and/or Google Glass accident and no one thought to tell me.”

No, Craig, this is what someone failed to tell you: cheaters in any profession are not “great” by definition. Great baseball players, like great lawyers, writers, doctors, scientists and Presidents, bring honor on their profession, don’t corrupt everyone around them, don’t force people who admire them to embrace unethical conduct and turn them into aiders and abetters, and accomplish their great achievements while obeying the law, following the rules, and serving as role models for everyone who follows them. Barry Bonds was not a great baseball player. He had the ability to be one, but not the character.

Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver never once disgraced their game while they wore a uniform, and indeed made baseball stronger and better while they played. Good choices all.

The disgrace is that San Francisco fans voted Bonds as one of that team’s “Franchise Four,”  dishonoring great Giants of the past like Juan Marichal, as well as New York Giants greats like Christy Mathewson, Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, and Mel Ott, Hall of Famers  and lifetime Giants who played with honesty and sportsmanship. But Giants fans warped values are among the casualties of Bonds’ career…and one more reason he can’t be rated anything but a great villain.

12 thoughts on “No, Craig, Barry Bonds Wasn’t A “Great” Baseball Player. Bernie Madoff Wasn’t A “Great” Investment Manager, Either

  1. Wouldn’t a Venn diagram of living Giants fans and active voters in Nancy Pelosi’s district involve concentric circles?

  2. It is hard to argue against Aaron, Mays, Koufax and Seaver. But it is also easy to argue for…Cal Ripken, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan…(there I go again, showing my obvious racism, because they’re all white)…okay, FINALLY I remembered Frank Robinson. Certainly there are more contenders. Ernie Banks died too soon.

  3. Barry Bonds was one of the greatest player I have seen and I go back to the early 50s. This is a five tool star. A superb talent that clearly demonstrated a selfish level of hubris and greed that resulted in you know what. Simply put he destroyed a potential up in lights legacy.

    The real “sinners” to me are the Manny Alexanders. The borderline players who juiced to get that 25th roster slot over someone clean. How many lost out on the one day of the roster for life time medical insurance or 35 days on the roster for minimum pension?

    The “stars” got their money when clean and a pant load more when dirty. The borderline player who juiced – and we have zero idea how many – gets into baseball-reference and the one that missed out gets to play a few more seasons in Triple-A.

    • I’ve heard that argument many times, and it makes no sense. Bonds was a great player without cheating. He was greedy and corrupt. We throw brilliant students out of Harvard and MIT who cheat, rightly, and the same applies here. Bonds has also lied about his cheating for 20 years.


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