Bonds vs. Ruth

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Baseball slugger Barry Bonds, who moved into third place on the all-time home run list after surpassing his godfather Willie Mays earlier this week by smacking his 661st tater, has never been known for his charm. He continues to display the tenacity and intensity (some people would read: arrogance) in chasing the all-time Major League home run title. From a story in today's Cincinnati Enquirer:

Bonds picked an argument with [Babe] Ruth as recently as July, saying that if he surpassed Mays, the only other number he cared about was the Bambino's 714.

"Because as a left-handed hitter, I wiped him out. That's it," the Giants left fielder said nine months ago. "And in the baseball world, Babe Ruth is everything, right? I got his slugging percentage and I'll take his home runs and that's it. Don't talk about him anymore."

As a fan of Ruth, I still dig Bonds' attitude, which helps explain his incredible career more than any drug supplement ever could. He's absolutely right that Ruth is baseball–the Babe personified and dominated the game like no other player before or since–and Bonds' desire to surpass the Sultan of Swat reflects a champion's mindset (as does Bonds' continued interest in winning a World Series title). Of course, if and when Bonds passes Ruth on the home run list, he won't have diminished Ruth's stature (the only thing that does that–and it's not inconsequential–is the fact that Ruth played his entire career during segregation and hence was not facing the absolute best competition of his day).

The Enquirer story includes this interesting comparison between the two, which to my mind minimizes what's inevitably described as the "dark cloud" hovering over Bonds due to allegations of steroid use:

They have so much in common: a compact left-handed swing, a cartoonish knack for long and/or dramatic home runs and a personality that, for better or worse, commanded as much attention as their play.

They are similar in home runs (Ruth 714 to Bonds' 661), walks (2,062 to 2,079), strikeouts (1,330 to 1,389) and doubles (506 to 540).

They even have about the same size and weight. Each is listed at 6-foot-2, with Ruth at 215 and Bonds at 228, although Ruth's body late in his career looked like a sack of potatoes and Bonds' looks like a steel mill.

NEXT: And When Did He Know It?

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  1. Bonds plays during expansion, which somewhat mitigates the fact that the Babe played during segregation. There were very few ways to make a living as an athlete in the 20’s and 30’s. Playing ball or prizefighting were about it. Now with football, basketball and all sorts of other sports, baseball doesn’t have the near-monopoly on top athletes that it once did.

    The Babe also frequently played hungover, if not still boozed up. Bonds’ chemical intake has been an enhancement, not a detriment, to his performance.

    I’ll be annoyed if Bonds ever passes Henry Aaron, because he is a real gentleman.

    Kevin

  2. I hate the whole ‘expansion dilutes talent’ excuse. If you look at American population growth versus expansion rate of sports teams, it’s quite close. That’s before you take into account international players. Sure baseball doesn’t get all the best athletes anymore, but I think it probably gets the same proportion as back in Babe’s day. There wasn’t the incentive for people to try as hard to get into the majors because outside the Babe and maybe a couple other stars, there was almost no money. Most ballplayers had second jobs. Now the league minimum is more than just about anyone on the H&R boards makes.

  3. Expansion is a tired argument to explain modern baseball versus older baseball arguments. Expansion happened: blacks and latinos are all over the sport, the financial incentives to play are bigger than ever, and the population did what? tripled? quintupled? what?

    Ruth was a great ballplayer. Bonds is a great ballplayer. Who is better? I don’t care. Such arguments are like the “Which supermodel would you sleep with?” bullshit. Put down the stats book, get out of the dormroom, do some laundry, and find a woman. Maybe you’ll get lucky and have something real to take up your mental free time.

  4. Then you fall in love, get married, and you can go back to spending your free time arguing with your friends about baseball and supermodels.

  5. “Barry knows baseball.” Man, that don’t sound anywhere near as cool as “Bo knows baseball.” Does Barry even know football? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

  6. Barry may not know football, but if he gets any bigger I’d bet on Al Davis drafting hoim in the late rounds.

  7. A little hard to imagine anyone getting choked up when or if Bonds ever gives a ‘farewell to baseball’ speech.

    But who knows. Joe DiMaggio had become an publicly adored figure by the end of his life, though I recently listened to two 70-year olds in my family agree fervently that DiMaggio was one of the biggest pricks who ever put on a baseball glove.

  8. There’s no denying that Barry Bonds is an incredibly talented ballplayer, way out in the right tail of the bell curve. But Babe Ruth’s talents led his teams to eight World Series champsionships, and Barry Bonds hasn’t done shit. Barry Bonds, for all his talk, is all about Barry Bonds, not about winning it all. He doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Ruth, let alone Aaron.

    In the 1918 WS, Babe Ruth pitched a complete 14-inning game and won, 2-1, with an era of 0.64. Let’s see Barry Bonds do that.

  9. The “Babe” is so much more than home runs.
    Bonds is only home runs at this point.
    Time will decide.

  10. But can Barry pitch like Ruth?

  11. Or eat 10 hot dogs in one sitting?

  12. Or cheat on his wife while the press applauds?

  13. Granted, Barry Bonds is a damned good ballplayer, but at the same time, he’s just such a dick.

  14. I dislike Bonds (Dodger fan), but he’s a hell of a ball player. He’s more than just homers. He’s led the league in batting, was a 30-30 machine in his younger years, has a great eye and more. Granted he’s not as fast as he used to be and his defense has decline, but he’s still a thrill to watch bat. That said, I wish they would disallow body armor for batter, it just lets them hang over the plate. Bonds is one of the prime benefactors of this trend.

  15. Ruth still beats Aaron, Mays and Bonds in homers per season, even including his pitching days (and less games a season).

  16. Ruth changed the game, introducing power hitting pretty much by himself. The first seasonal home run record he set, if I remember correctly, was 19.

    Saying Bonds can hit as well as Ruth is like saying you can splatter paint as well as Jackson Pollack. Maybe you can, but your achievment still isn’t as impressive.

  17. Bo,

    Barry knows how to avoid shortening his career by 3/4.

  18. Babe and Bonds are not to be compared.
    Players must be compared with contempories.

    Ruth hit one of every seven homeruns hit in his league.
    If that were done today, he would have 300 / season.

    Ruth holds the pitching record of the longest game.
    He pitched 14 straight innings of ?? hours, and won.

    Bonds wouldn’t, if he could, be allowed to pitch today.

    Maris caused a stir breaking Ruth’s thirty year old record,
    then McGuire caused a stir breaking Maris’ longer record.
    NOt such a big stir breaking a record of a few years.

  19. just recognize the skills and give bonds his props! i mean come on?? he is ridiculous…noone has ever been so feared of at the plate..u almost know pitchers are gonna walk him..he controls pitchers…bonds is the best ever hands down…don’t hate congratulate and just be happy you are here to witness such a great player…!!!cheers

  20. there both in different eras so you can;t compare them but bonds is a gerk

  21. Bonds is on drugs, period!! no way he had that power when he broke into the league. mixed with the juice ball and waterdowned pitching, you get BARRY BONDS!! he is a great hitter but he is at the stature that he is now because of these factors.

  22. Bonds is on drugs, period!! no way he had that power when he broke into the league. mixed with the juice ball and waterdowned pitching, you get BARRY BONDS!! he is a great hitter but he is at the stature that he is now because of these factors.

  23. Bonds is on drugs, period!! no way he had that power when he broke into the league. mixed with the juice ball and waterdowned pitching, you get BARRY BONDS!! he is a great hitter but he is at the stature that he is now because of these factors.

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