Both of these player’s records and careers can be questioned; Ruth played at a time, one hundred years ago, when players were bricklayers and roofers during the off-season. He also didn’t play against the best competition, as Latinos and African-Americans were not allowed to play. Bonds, of course, has to be questioned because of steroid usage. So, lets compare these two legends and see who was better. We will start off looking at why they were great and then delve into the drawbacks for both players.
Ruth was on a level all on his own when he played; Baseballs were not supposed to be hit like Ruth hit them. Ruth lapped the field when it came to hitting home runs. He was the first player to hit 30, 40, 50 and then an astounding 60 homers in a season. Ruth became the all-time leader in career home runs when he hit just his 138th. By the time Ruth got to his 700th Home Run, nobody had hit even half of that.
But Ruth was a tremendous athlete, no matter how many hot dogs and beers he ate and drank. That made him even more impressive!
And don’t forget before his career as the premier power hitter in baseball, Ruth was the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. He went 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA and had as many shutouts as Pedro Martinez (17). He still holds a World Series pitching record with eighteen consecutive scoreless innings.
Maybe his greatest accomplishment in baseball was helping to make the game popular again after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Ruth was one of the most iconic figures in American sports, and along with Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey, they ruled the 1920’s as the most famous men in America.
Bonds, unlike Ruth, was an enigma. He didn’t have a charismatic personality and often seemed to rub people the wrong way. Now here, that will not be held against him. We will judge him only on his ability to play the game. Bonds during his time was the best player in baseball–a complete player. He is maybe the best defensive left fielder ever (eight Gold Gloves), and owner of 514 career steals. And of course, he could hit.
Bonds won three MVP’s before the PED accusations, and he should have won at least a couple of more. Now remember Bonds is tied for the most MVP’s ever won with nine other players, all Hall of Famers. Again, three of those were earned before the PEDS.
Bonds never reached 3,OOO hits, he ended with 2,935; but look at his walks, nobody ever had more walks. Bonds is by far the all-time leader in walks; his 2,258 free passes put a comfortable 368-walk margin between him and Rickey Henderson in second, even though Rickey played for three more years. Being selective at the plate no doubt kept him from 3,000 hits.
The Case against Ruth
The biggest strikes against Ruth are the fact that pitchers were not as big and didn’t throw as hard as they do today. He did not play against the best players. African-American players were not allowed to play and neither were Latinos. Now there is a documented history of Ruth playing sixteen games against African-American players, and he batted close to .500, but that is still not playing them day in and day out. Also, players did not work out the way they do today because most had to have jobs in the off-season and another significant factor would be no pitcher ever threw him a slider.
The Case against Barry Bonds
You all know where this is headed, STEROIDS! Bonds also played in the expansion era where you had guys pitching in the Major Leagues that would have never made a big-league team before. Really though the Steroids issue is what most of this comes down to and make no mistake that is a significant problem.
Bonds before the PEDS was the best player in baseball. Ruth did not have to play the best competition and there just may be a case to be made that because of that we are not sure if Ruth was the best when he played, but I will assume he was. It was not Ruth’s fault he didn’t face the best minority players, but nonetheless, he didn’t. Ruth was the best pitcher and player in his day, but I believe Bonds was a complete player on the field outside of pitching. In the end, though the PEDS make this a hard case for Bonds to make because we don’t know what his career would have been like if not for the PED use. I do know this he would not have hit over 70 Home Runs in a season without some pharmaceutical help. I am going to side with the Great Bambino here. Both players have significant drawbacks but how can you overlook a man that was the best Pitcher and Hitter in the game? I go with Babe Ruth!