Griffey vs. Bonds
OK, look, I have no idea when this baseball season will begin. I have started to have a really bad feeling about things as the owners already try various PR stunts in order to make the players look bad and win the battle of perception. This suggests to me either the owners are out of ideas (which is bad) or they feel like they can win a long, protracted battle by getting people to forget that they are the ones who locked out the players and instead blame the greedy players for all this (which is worse).
It never ceases to amaze me how hard these people make it to be a baseball fan.
But we baseball fans, we few, we merry few, we band of brothers and sisters, soldier on because we do love this game. We love it even as various forces try repeatedly to make it less fun.
So let’s talk about something fun: Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Barry Bonds.
Now, let’s establish a few guidelines: We’re not talking about PEDs here. We’re not talking about injuries here. There’s nothing fun about any of that.
No, we’re talking about Ken Griffey Jr. at his joyful best from 1989, as a 19-year-old phenom, to 2001, as a 31-year-old playing ball in his hometown of Cincinnati, where his dad made his bones. That’s 13 seasons of Ken Griffey.
And we’re talking about Barry Bonds from 1986, when he was a 21-year-old brash centerfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, to 1998, when he was 33 and playing in his hometown of San Francisco where his dad made his bones. That’s 13 seasons of Barry Bonds.
Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Barry Bonds.
Let’s start with a whole bunch of numbers and attributes.
Griffey (1989-2001): .296/.379/.566, 362 doubles, 35 triples, 460 homers, 175 steals, 64 caught stealing (73% SB), 1220 runs, 1,335 RBIs, 146 OPS+, 1 MVP, 10 Gold Gloves, 8 All-Star Game starts, coolest player in the game, sweetest swing perhaps in the history of the game.
Bonds (1986-1998): .290/.411/.556, 403 doubles, 63 triples, 411 home runs, 445 steals, 130 caught stealing (77% SB), 1,364 runs, 1,216 RBIs, 164 OPS+, 3 MVPs, 8 Gold Gloves, 7 All-Star game starts, best combo of power and speed in the game since his godfather Willie Mays, attitude turned off a lot of people.
OK, I’m not putting WAR in there yet — we’ll get to it at some point — because I think WAR in this case makes a copout too easy. If you have an understanding of how WAR works, you will instinctively know which player had more wins above replacement. But we’re not looking here for which player WAR calculates being more valuable. Not exactly.
What we’re looking for is: Which player would you rather have on your team?