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As he turns 56 years old Friday, it's a perfect day to reflect on the legendary career of former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. As MLB's all-time home run leader, no hitter has dominated professional baseball the way Bonds did.
The question of whether he deserves a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame remains one of the sport's more divisive questions. On ESPN's "Get Up," MLB analyst Jeff Passan gave an impassioned take on why he believes that Bonds' career is worthy of enshrinement.
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"Every year that Barry Bonds was eligible and I had a vote, I voted for him," Passan said (H/T 247Sports). "And in fact, what the Hall of Fame did a few years ago in putting out a statement, essentially impugning performance-enhancing drug users and saying, ‘We don't want them in our hallowed grounds,' when in fact, there already are performance-enhancing drug users in the Hall of Fame, made me stop voting. I did not want to participate in the hypocrisy. I did not want to go along with what I felt like was a rigged system.
"Barry Bonds is arguably the greatest hitter of all-time. If he's not the greatest, he's one of the two or three greatest. And because he is so good, no matter what he did, to me, he is a Hall of Famer."
The slugger won seven NL MVP awards and earned eight gold glove honors over his 22 years in MLB, but suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs has put a black cloud over his career in the eyes of a certain sect of Hall of Fame voters and baseball fans alike.
Bonds never registered a positive test, but his status as MLB's all-time home run and walks leader, as well as producing the highest Wins Above Replacement of any player in baseball history since Babe Ruth make him the face of the "Steroid Era."
As Passan noted, the hypocrisy of the Hall of Fame has been common knowledge for a long time. Players like Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Ivan Rodriguez all have been inducted over the past decade, despite rumored steroid use in their careers.
Yet Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens continue to come up short, despite resumes that stand far above many currently occupying the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.
The fear Bonds struck into the hearts of pitchers and managers across baseball never has been equaled in modern baseball history. Even before Bonds allegedly began using steroids, he already had won all of his gold gloves and three of his MVP awards.
It's time everybody. Put Bonds in the Hall of Fame and acknowledge that baseball wasn't perfect, but that greatness of that caliber nevertheless deserves recognition.
On Barry Bonds' birthday, Jeff Passan makes impassioned Hall of Fame plea originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area