If you’re anti-Barry Bonds now, how can your position about him change over time?


The San Francisco Chronicle is running a one-on-one of local writers with Hall of Fame votes. Bruce Jenkins takes the pro-Barry Bonds argument, Ann Killion the anti-Bonds. These arguments aren’t rhetorical, though, as they reflect their own votes.

Each side makes a now-familiar case so I won’t rehash them, but Killion’s does add something I’ve seen an awful lot of lately — Bob Ryan had it in the column linked this morning too — and which I find curious: the “I won’t vote for Bonds now, but I may change my mind later” thing:

Just as my views about Bonds have changed over the past decade, they could change again over the next 15 years that his name remains on the ballot. While I’m not one to withhold my vote based on whether I think someone is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a process I’ve always found inane, I am willing to keep my mind open as the years pass.

The steroid story, as we’ve learned in 2012, is not a closed chapter. It continues to play out and in 15 years, with baseball under a new commissioner and with the perspective of time, the story and its fallout may look different. I could change my mind and check the box next to Barry Bonds.

But I can’t do it right now.

I don’t follow this, at least with respect to Bonds.  While we may have doubts about some players, there are no doubts about Bonds and steroids. He did it. He clearly did it. To suggest otherwise is pretty unreasonable, really. There is no truly relevant information about Barry Bonds playing career or PED use that is going to come out. Waiting will get you nowhere in this respect.

So, it seems, the only possible thing Killion and others who make this argument could be waiting for is for people (i.e. people like herself) to become less dogmatic about PEDs in baseball in the future. To give that “perspective” she’s admitting is possible. Which is a strange position to be taking: “PEDs in baseball is a horrible, horrible thing, so horrible that I can’t abide honoring a person who did them, but maybe in a few years I will be proven wrong about that and I will then change my mind.”

It seems like the only possible basis one’s position could change here is if they discover that Bonds’ transgressions were no different than the transgressions of hundreds of other ballplayers. Which is something we pro-Bonds people are arguing now, but which folks like Killion dimiss out of hand as beside the point. But she’s willing to buy that later?

There may be borderline cases out there for whom this treatment makes sense. McGwire, maybe. Palmeiro, perhaps. But it seems to me that if you’re anti-Bonds now, intellectual consistency demands that you be against him later.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.