Pittsburgh Pirates Outfielder, Barry Bonds

For seven seasons, Barry Bonds roamed the outfield for Pittsburgh, helping the team to three playoff appearances, while collecting two(should’ve been three) MVP awards along the way. Born on July 24,1964, Barry Lamar Bonds was the son of longtime baseball player Bobby Bonds, a three-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and a member of the 300 homer run, 300 stolen bases club. Barry attended Arizona State University, where he was good enough to be selected by the Pirates, taken sixth overall in the first round of the 1985 amateur draft. It didn’t take him long to work his way to the majors.  

Bonds spent the second half of the 1985 season with Prince William of the Carolina League, where he hit .299 with 13 homers and 15 stolen bases in 71 games. By the start of the 1986 season, he was in AAA playing for Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League, where he batted .311 with 37 RBI’s in 44 games before being called up in late May. Bonds would not return to the minors during the rest of his career. Playing all of his games with the Pirates in center field that year, Barry had a tough rookie season, hitting .223 with 102 strikeouts in 111 games. It was the only time in his 22 year career that he struck out more than 100 times in a season. His season wasn’t all bad though, he hit 16 homers, with 36 stolen bases, 72 runs scored and 65 walks. On August 11th of that season, Bonds played in the completion of a suspended game against the Cubs, giving him the odd distinction of being credited for his first game in the majors(April 20th), while he was still in the minors.

In 1987, Bonds made the transition to left field, playing 101 games there, while seeing just 46 games in center field. His power numbers improved with 68 extra base hits, while his average crept up to .261 and he just missed on scoring 100 runs, falling one short. In left field that year, he had 15 assists, finished second in fielding percentage among NL left fielders and he had the best range among the same group.

Bonds improved the batting average again in 1988, raising it to .283, while drawing 72 walks and hitting 24 homers. His 17 stolen bases that year were the lowest total he had during the first 13 years of his career. He also just missed out on the 100 run plateau again, falling three short this time..

The 1989 season was a struggle for Barry. His average fell to .248 and while he played a career high 159 games, he hit just 19 homers, During this season, the Pirates moved him from his customary lead-off spot, down to fifth in the batting order for 38 games. The next season, that would become his spot in the batting order all year. Bonds scored 96 runs in 1989 and stole 32 bases, while also drawing 93 walks.

The Pirates in 1990, made their first playoff appearance since the 1979 season when they won it all. Bonds was a huge part of it, in what would be the breakout season of his career. That year included many firsts for him, among them being his first All-Star game, first Gold Glove award, first Silver Slugger award and he won the NL MVP award. Bonds batted over .300 for the first time, broke the 100 run barrier finally and he had his first 30/30 season, going beyond that with 33 homers and 52 stolen bases. He also drove in 114 runs, nearly doubling his previous career high of 59 set three years earlier. It was truly a complete regular season for him, although he struggled in the playoffs, going 3-18 with one RBI.

Pittsburgh repeated as NL East champs in 1991 and Barry was again the key to the team. He topped his previous season total by two RBI’s and drew 107 walks while hitting .292, giving him the best OBP(.410) in the NL. He won his second Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and should’ve won the NL MVP, but was narrowly beaten out by the Braves’ Terry Pendelton, who led the NL in average but didn’t come close to the overall numbers that Bonds put up. A second try at the playoffs proved to be even worse than the first. Barry hit just .148 with no RBI’s, and while he at least drew six walks in six games the previous year, he fell short in that regard as well, getting two free passes in the seven game series.

The 1992 season ended up being the last in Pittsburgh for Bonds and he made it count, leaving no doubt who the NL MVP was this season. He led the NL in runs(109), walks(127), OBP(.456) and Slugging(.624) while driving in 103 runs and reaching the 30/30 mark again, this time with 34 homers and 39 steals. He won his third straight Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, was named to his second All-Star team and easily outdistanced Pendelton in the MVP voting. He performed better in the playoffs, hitting .261 with six walks, five runs scored and hitting his first postseason homer.

Barry signed with the Giants in 1993 and he won his third MVP award that first year in San Francisco. It was the only season during his career that he led the league in RBI’s, driving in 123, while hitting 46 homers. Bonds’ 34 homers in 1992, started a string of 13 straight years in which he hit at least 33 homers in a season. For as good as his career was in Pittsburgh, he far exceeded it in San Francisco and while it took his two more failed attempts, he also finally had a breakout series in the playoffs. He led the Giants within one game of winning it all in 2002, hitting eight homers and drawing 27 walks during the 17 playoff games that year.

That near win in the World Series came in the middle of his best stretch, one where he broke the single season home run record and shattered all records for walks. His plate patience and eye at the plate were so good at the time, that in 2004, when he drew 232 walks, he hit 45 homers and struck out just 41 times, an amazing accomplishment for someone who saw nothing good to hit for long stretches, especially in RBI situations.

Bonds played until 2007 and his list of accomplishments is amazing. He won seven NL MVP awards, eight Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers and had 14 All-Star game selections. He holds the career record for homers with 762, walks with 2,558 and his 688 intentional walks are more than double anyone else. He drove in the fourth most runs all-time with 1996, finished third with 2227 runs scored and only Pete Rose had more times on base. Bonds is not only the only member of the 400/400 club, he is the only member of the 500/500 club, finishing with 514 stolen bases. He also holds the single season record for slugging percentage(.863 in 2001) and on base percentage, a staggering .609 mark in 2004 when he won the NL batting title and drew walks in more than one-third of his plate appearances.

While with the Pirates, Bonds finished with a .275 average, 176 homers and 556 RBI’s in 1010 games. He also stole 251 bases and scored 672 runs. He has the eighth highest slugging percentage in team history(.503), 13th highest OBP(.380). Bonds also ranks fourth in homers, trailing only Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente and he is seventh in stolen bases. His brother Bobby Bonds Jr, played 11 seasons of minor league ball without making it to the majors.

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.
  • dcn3569

    Its too bad that most of those numbers are tainted!!

    • joegoodman29

      Only as tainted as Clemens, ARod, Sosa. Only thing is that Bonds was never found guilty. His best asset is that HIS guy had a price to keep silent- regardless of jail time. You should check out Game of Shadows sometime if you already haven’t. Bonds is still one of my all time favs…

    • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

      Not with the Pirates though. He was still a Hall of Fame jerk though.