When the first pitch of the 2006 season was thrown, Bonds had 708 career home runs, only six shy of Babe Ruth and 47 behind the original home run king, "Hammering" Hank Aaron. Every baseball fan (including myself) thought he would catch Ruth's second-place standing three weeks into the season. Those three weeks came and went, and Bonds had not hit a single home run. This left me with the most puzzling look on my face, wondering "how is this even possible?"
Then it hit me like a 95 MPH fastball that‘s too far inside, he's slumping. In my opinion, he is going through that requisite that is met by 98 percent of all professional athletes. The other two percent can be summed up with three names: Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Willie Mays. One could argue that Bonds is a part of that two percent but remember there was a time where he was just another great player who wasn‘t getting intentionally walked every other at-bat.. The biggest difference there is "great" and "elite."
Yes, believe it or not, there is a difference between great and elite. Great is something that is larger than life, but to an extent. Things that are great also have plenty of room for improvement. Elite on the other hand, is the definition of the best while being regarded as the finest or most distinguished. Bonds is on that cusp, edging closer and closer to his rightful place with Gretzky, Jordan and his godfather, Mays.
But remember, the negatives also come with positives.
In his last 31 at-bats, Bonds found his groove and hit four home runs to bring his home run total 712. What is even more impressive is that the homers he hit were either to center field or left field. So much for those cute, little shifts defenses put on every time he comes to bat. As a matter of fact, when I play MVP Baseball on X-Box, and defenses put that little shift on, I drive the ball to the opposite field, its that simple. Bonds' hands are quick enough to turn on that ball and drop it into left field. And to add to that fact, he has smashed the heck out of the ball with a reconstructed knee and bone chips in his elbow.
Wait, maybe he is elite?
He does have seven career MVP awards, along with his numerous batting titles and gold gloves. His records could also be brought into play. There are his 2,311 walks, 607 of them intentional are both MLB records. And lets not forget, Bonds was the first player ever in the history of Major League Baseball to collect 400 home runs and 400 stolen bases. The feat alone speaks for itself. However, the fact that this accomplishment will never get repeated makes it more valuable. The stolen base is a lost art form and is rarely seen, except in the case of wild pitches and passed balls. And who else, in this steroid stricken era, will hit 400 bombs with just the pure strength of his hips, legs and wrists? The only likely player able to do this without the help of the "juice," is St. Louis slugger and 2005 National League MVP, Albert Pujols.
Whatever the verdict is for number 25, he will undoubtedly pass Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list and will be become the all-time leader of bleacher busters by a left-handed hitter, it's just a matter of patience for us baseball junkies. Slumps take time to resuscitate, its like what our mothers would always tell us, "if we keep poking at our wounds they will never heal." I know that all of you out there are dying to see him catch Ruth and Aaron, but realize this, you've waited 712 home runs for this, what's a little bit more going to hurt?
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