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Free agent market starting to thin as spring training commences
John Sleezer/AP

John Sleezer/AP

The historically slow MLB offseason has come to an end and it’s finally time for Spring Training as most teams begin their first official full squad workouts and first games this week. Aside from big time trades involving pretty much any relevant player on the Miami Marlins, the free agent market has been picking up as of late as top free agents have been signing deals with teams, leaving just a few players left on the market.

Mark Gonzalez/Chicago Tribune

Mark Gonzalez/Chicago Tribune

Heading into this offseason, the biggest free agents were Jake Arrieta, Lorenzo Cain, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Yu Darvish. Just last week, the latter three were plucked off the market as they signed major money deals. Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, Eric Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144 million with the San Diego Padres, and J.D. Martinez signed a five-year, $110 Million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Darvish is arguably the most talented pitcher that was on the market this past offseason. The same can be said for Hosmer and Martinez as the most talented position players. So with the three most coveted players off the market, what does that mean for all the other free agents still out there?

The one player that I mentioned that has not been signed yet is Jake Arrieta, the best pitcher still available. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that there has been “dialogue” between Arrieta’s camp and the Philadelphia Phillies. Andy McPhail, who is the Phillies president of baseball operations, served in the same role with the Baltimore Orioles from 2007 to 2011. It’s worth noting that Arrieta was a member of the Orioles organization from 2007 to 2013 and was with the big league club from 2010 to 2013 so there is a sense of familiarity between the two parties. The Phillies have a young core consisting of Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola, a great farm system and they have already made a splash at 1B by signing former Cleveland Indians slugger Carlos Santana to a three-year $60 million contract. Other than Aaron Nola, the Phillies rotation is a bit iffy so signing Arrieta would make the Phillies a sneaky wild card contender in 2018.

Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Jeremy Hellickson are all serviceable starting pitchers still available on the market and are all great middle to back-end of the rotation guys. Greg Holland is probably the best relief pitcher available right now with other guys such as Trevor Rosenthal, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard available too.

All of the top tier position players have been snatched up already but there are still some good second tier guys available.

Jonathan Lucroy is still available and pretty much any team in the N.L. East can use a catcher. 1B Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda are still available and can be good DH options as both still have some pop in their bats. 2B Neil Walker is still available as well as 3B Mike Moustakas. Both are good middle of the order infielders and both are lengthy vets as well. Outfielders Jose Bautista, Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez are good power hitting outfielders still on the market.

With the pickings becoming slimmer by the day, there are still quality MLB-level players looking for homes as we enter Spring Training. My guess as to why this free agency was slow? Nobody wants to spend money before next season’s offseason which is going to be bananas. Players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Brian Dozier, David Price, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Pollack will all be hitting the market next offseason. Let’s just rejoice that the slow offseason has come to an end and actual baseball will be played in just a matter of days.

Ranking the 30 MLB Farm Systems

30. Kansas City Royals

Top 100 prospects: None

After winning the World Series back in 2015 and failing to make the postseason the last two seasons, the Royals are looking to rebuild and will do so without Lorenzo Cain and potentially Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. The tough part about this rebuild is that the Royals farm system is very thin with talent. Having no prospects inside the top 100, the top guy in the Royals system is 1B Nick Pratto. Pratto, a first round in the 2017 First-Year player draft, who hit .247 with four dingers and 34 RBI’s in 52 games of rookie ball

29. New York Mets

Top 100 prospects: None

Oddly enough, the Royals opponent in the 2015 World Series also has a very weak farm system as the New York Mets take a hit in their 2018 prospect rankings. Due to former top prospects Ahmed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Robert Gsellman and Brandon Nimmo all making it up to the big league squad, the Mets don’t have much left in the minors in terms of top talent. The only players worth noting in the farm system are a pair of starting pitchers. Southpaw David Peterson and righty Justin Dunn all show potential to be quality pitchers in the big leagues in the future.

28. Chicago Cubs

Top 100 prospects: None

The final team to have zero prospects in the top 100 are the 2016 World Series champs. While the Cubs have a bunch of young talent at the major league level, they could’ve had a much better farm system had they not traded top prospects such as Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez. At the end of 2017, eight of the Cubs’ top 10 prospects were pitchers.

27. Seattle Mariners

Top 100 prospects: OF Kyle Lewis (70)

Had the Mariners not traded Tyler O’Neill to the St. Louis Cardinals last July, he’d probably be the clear cut top prospect in their system, but they did and now Kyle Lewis is the M’s top prospect. The 2016 1st round selection played in 49 games last season, batting .257 with 7 homers and 31 RBI’s.

26. San Francisco Giants

Top 100 prospects: OF Heliot Ramos (63)

After the Giants traded Christian Arroyo to Tampa, the door has opened up for 18-year-old outfielder Heliot Ramos to become the franchise’s number one prospect. The Giants used their first round pick on Ramos in 2017 and he has only played in 35 games in rookie ball, batting .348 with six home runs and 27 RBI’s.

25. Arizona Diamondbacks

Top 100 prospects:RHP Jon Duplantier (73), 1B Pavin Smith (91)

The Diamondbacks are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2011 and are in good hands with Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and Zack Greinke leading the way at the big league level. In terms of the minors, the Diamondbacks have two prospects inside the top 100. RHP Jon Duplantier was absolutely lights out last season in the minors with a record of 12-3, an ERA of 1.39 and striking out 165. 1B Pavin Smith who was the D-Backs first round selection in 2017, hit .318 and knocked in 27 RBI’s in the D-Backs short season “A” squad.

24. Boston Red Sox

Top 100 prospects: 3B Michael Chavis (79), LHP Jay Groome(85)

Like the Diamondbacks, the Red Sox are very talented at the major league level but at the minor league level, they have a very little abundance of talent. With two players landing in the Top 100, the Red Sox could’ve had many more had they not traded away a lot of their top prospects like Anderson Espinoza. 3B Michael Chavis is on the cusp of making the big leagues as he was a non-roster invite to spring training and rightfully so. He finished the year hitting .282 with 31 dingers and 94 RBI’s. LHP Jay Groome struggled last season with a 5.69 ERA but has a very high ceiling.

23. Baltimore Orioles

Top 100 prospects: OF Austin Hays (23), 3B Ryan Mountcastle(98)

The Orioles are in a tough, tough spot. Not that great of a farm system and the big league team is just mediocre. With that said, OF Austin Hays is a stud. After hitting .329 with 32 homers and 95 RBI’s, Hays earned a call-up to the majors and played in 20 games, finishing the year with a .217 average, one home run and eight RBI’s. Aside from having one of the best last names in baseball, 3B Ryan Mountcastle is a very solid hitter. Mountcastle smashed 18 home runs, 62 RBI’s and hit for .287 last season.

22. Texas Rangers

Top 100 prospects: OF Leody Taveras (34), OF Willie Calhoun (53)

The Rangers, just like the Orioles, have an okay big league club and an okay minor league system. The Rangers though, have two potential cornerstone outfielders in Leody Taveras and Willie Calhoun to pair with NomarMazara and DelinoDeShields. The 19 year old Taveras swiped 20 bags last season while hitting .247 in “A” ball. Calhoun hit an even .300 while smacking 31 home runs and 93 RBI’s. His performance last season earned him a call-up to the Rangers where he hit .265 with one home run and 4 RBI’s.

21. Milwaukee Brewers

Top 100 prospects: 2B Keston Hiuras (56), RHP Corbin Burnes (69), RHP Brandon Woodruff (96)

The Brewers would’ve been higher on this list had they not traded top prospect outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison to the Miami Marlins in a deal for Christian Yelich. However, they still have some solid pieces in the system with a pair of righty’s and a quality 2nd baseman landing in the top 100. Keston Hiurais a great contact hitter and posted a .371 BA with 4 home runs and 33 RBI’s in his first professional season. Right-handed pitcher Corbin Burnes has great control on his pitches. With an ERA of 1.67, the 23-year-old righty can be a nice piece for a Brewers team lacking pitching talent in the rotation. RHP Brandon Woodruff got his feet wet in the majors this year with a record of 2-3 record with a 4.81 ERA.

20. Miami Marlins

Top 100 prospects: OF Lewis Brinson (27), OF Monte Harrison (71)

The Miami Marlins farm system got a huge boost thanks to the trades of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna that netted outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison from the Brewers and RHP Sandy Alcantara from the Cardinals. Brinson is ready to make a splash in the majors after playing in 21 games with the Brewers last season, where he hit a very bad .106 in the majors but hit .331 in triple-A. Monte Harrison is a very athletic fielder who makes great contact on the ball as he hit .272 last season.

19. Cleveland Indians

Top 100 prospects: C Francisco Mejia (11), RHP Triston McKenzie (24)

Tim Warner/Getty Images

Tim Warner/Getty Images

Although the Cleveland Indians only have two prospects landing in the top 100, those two prospects are very, very talented as both are inside the top 25. Catcher Francisco Mejia is a great defensive catcher with a great arm behind the plate and a solid bat as well. Mejia hit for .297 last season in the minors and earned a call-up to the bigs where he hit .154 in 11 games for the Tribe. McKenzie had a decent year in high A ball where he went 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA. Other than their two standout prospects, the Indians don’t have very much talent inside the minors.

18. Colorado Rockies

Top 100 prospects: SS/2B Brendan Rodgers (15), IF Ryan McMahon (41), RHP Riley Pint (100)

(Photo by Bill Mitchell)

(Photo by Bill Mitchell)

The Rockies could potentially have a problem at the shortstop position, a good problem at that. Brendan Rodgers was an absolute machine last season, hitting .336 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI’s, the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft could get the call-up to the bigs this season. That is, if Trevor Story struggles or goes down with injury. After taking a small step back in his sophomore season, Story could potentially be on a tight leash if he struggles this year. It also doesn’t help that the Rockies have absolute studs all over the field so having one of the two shortstops changing position won’t help much. The only question the Rockies have is at 1B where Ryan McMahon is currently atop the depth chart after playing in only 17 games and having 19 AB’s.

17. Pittsburgh Pirates

Top 100 prospects: RHP Mitch Keller (16), OF Austin Meadows (45), RHP Shane Baz (67)

After dealing away star players Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, it’s very clear that the Pirates are in total rebuild mode. But the returns on those two players weren’t that appealing, not even landing any prospects inside the top 100. It would’ve helped their ranking if the Pirates could’ve got some good prospects in return but they still got a decent return. RHP Mitch Keller can bring the heat and has strong command, leading to his 116 K’s last season and OF Austin Meadows will be called up this season after spending most of the year in AAA last season, hitting .250.

16. Washington Nationals

Top 100 prospects: OF Victor Robles (6), OF Juan Soto (29), SS Carter Kieboom (90)

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

If Bryce Harper decides to bolt the nation’s capital after this season for a new team, the Nationals certainly have the players to replace him. OF Victor Robles is one of the best prospects in all of baseball and OF Juan Soto is a nice talent as well. Robles, who finished out his season with the big league club, playing in 13 games with 24 AB’s. Prior to getting the call, the speedy Robles hit for a .300 average and stole 27 bags. Soto is also a nice contact hitter, finishing out the year with a .351 average.

15. Houston Astros

Top 100 prospects: RHP Forrest Whitley (9), OF Kyle Tucker (17), RHP J.B. Bukauskas (76)

(Julio Cortez / AP)

(Julio Cortez / AP)

While having a talented big league roster, the reigning World Series champions’ farm system is not too shabby either, having two prospects land inside the top 20. RHP Forrest Whitley is on track to be called up next season, maybe even this season as he is zooming through the minor league system, playing in three different levels last season. OF Kyle Tucker could be called up at around the same time Whitley gets the call as both finished the year at the AA level.

14. Los Angeles Dodgers

Top 100 prospects: RHP Walker Buehler (13), OF Alex Verdugo (33), C Kiebert Ruiz (52)

The Dodgers have always had a very talented farm system with young players like Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger in the minor league system within the last five seasons. RHP Walker Buehler is a top 15 prospect in the MLB after having an impressive 2017 season that got him called up to L.A. OF Alex Verdugo had a nice season in AAA ball, hitting for a .314 average with 62 RBI’s. His performance also got him called up later in the year.

13. Toronto Blue Jays

Top 100 prospects: OF Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3), SS/2B Bo Bichette (14), OF Anthony Alford (47)

The Athletic

The Athletic

If Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is anything like his Hall of Fame father was, the Blue Jays have the same on their hands. Guerrero Jr. is just 18 years old and is already destroying high-A ball pitching, hitting .333, with six home runs and 31 RBI’s in only 168 AB’s. Another Blue Jays prospect with a former All-Star dad is Bo Bichette. His father Dante was a four time All-Star in the 90’s for the Colorado Rockies. Bo is also in the high A level with a .323 average with 23 RBI’s in 164 AB’s.

12. Minnesota Twins

Top 100 prospects: SS Royce Lewis (20), RHP Fernando Romero (68) , RHP Stephen Gonsalves (78), SS/2B Nick Gordon (80)

The Twins shocked everyone last season as they went from the worst record in baseball in 2016, to earning the second A.L. wild card spot in 2017. Their last place status in 2016 gave them the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, which they used to select SS Royce Lewis. Lewis hit for a respectable .279 average with 27 RBI’s in his first professional season. They also have a pair of righties in Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves who will be key pieces if the Twins want to continue this run of success.

11. Detroit Tigers

Top 100 prospects: RHP Franklin Perez (39), RHP Matt Manning (55), RHP Alex Faedo (59), RHP Beau Burrows (77)

The Tigers aren’t a good baseball team. Plain and simple. Who will be the face of the team once Miguel Cabrera leaves? The talent on the Tigers is very scarce but they have some decent right-handed arms in the system. Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows all have good potential to be very serviceable major league pitchers.

10. Oakland Athletics

Top 100 prospects: LHP A.J. Puk (32), LHP Jesus Luzardo (60), SS/2B Franklin Barreto (66), SS/OF Jorge Mateo (72)

The Oakland A's are on the rise and have some nice, young talent at the big league level and even more down in the minors. Southpaw A.J. Puk is not quite ready for the bigs just yet as he is only in high A ball but within the next two seasons, expect to see Puk donning an Oakland uniform soon. SS/2B Franklin Barreto still has potential to be a great middle infielder as he was one of the top prospects last season and SS/OF Jorge Mateo is a nice piece acquired in the Sonny Gray deal from the Yankees.

Jae C. Hong/AP

Jae C. Hong/AP

9. Los Angeles Angels

Top 100 prospects: RHP/OF Shohei Ohtani (1), OF Jo Adell (62), SS Kevin Maitan (87), OF Jahmai Jones (93)

The Angels are in a great spot in 2018. After acquiring Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, the Angels are ready to win now and still have a quality farm system led by the top prospect in all of baseball, the Japanese Babe Ruth, Shohei Ohtani. He's a wild card. Will he play the outfield? Will he be a pitcher? Will he DH on days he isn’t pitching? Who knows but Ohtani’s talent in both positions make him the top prospect in all of baseball. Aside from Ohtani, the Angels have quality prospects in outfielders Jo Adell and Jahmai Jones and a nice SS in Kevin Maitan.

8. St. Louis Cardinals

Top 100 prospects: RHP Alex Reyes (18), RHP Jack Flaherty (38), C Carson Kelly (46), OF Tyler O’Neill (94

After trade rumors for Giancarlo Stanton swirled around involving names like righties Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals ended up getting another outfielder from the Miami Marlins in All-Star Marcell Ozuna for RHP Sandy Alcantara. Keeping Reyes and Flaherty were huge for the Redbirds as they got to hold onto potential aces of their staff. Reyes is an interesting case though; he went down with an elbow injury in spring training and missed the year after Tommy John surgery. If catcher Yadier Molina sticks out the rest of his contract (which ends in 2020) and continues to put up All-Star numbers, Carson Kelly will pretty much be stuck behind Yadi for the rest of his career. Kelly can also play a little bit of third base, which the Cardinals are pretty thin at so expect to see Kelly get some reps there.

7. Philadelphia Phillies

Top 100 prospects: RHP Sixto Sanchez (26), 2B Scott Kingery (35), SS J.P. Crawford (37), RHP Adonis Medina (86), Mickey Moniak (88), Adam Haseley (95)

After six straight losing seasons, the Phillies could actually break through this season. With young stars in 1B/OF Rhys Hoskins, OF Nick Williams, RHP Aaron Nola and INF J.P. Crawford, the Phillies could have something brewing for years to come. Add that talent to what they have in the minors and the Phillies could potentially have a new core on their hands. Sixto Sanchez is moving his way up quickly through the minors, Scott Kingery could get called up this season and Mickey Moniak is a former 1st overall selection.

(Julio Cortez / AP)

(Julio Cortez / AP)

6. Cincinnati Reds

Top 100 prospects: 3B Nick Senzel (7), RHP Hunter Greene (21), OF Taylor Trammell (43), OF Jesse Winker (82), RHP Tyler Mahle (84)

The Reds have a pretty decent team offensively but their main problem is pitching. That is probably why they went with RHP Hunter Greene in the 2017 draft at 2nd overall. The main guy to watch is Nick Senzel who could be called up this season. Last year, Senzel hit .321 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. Taylor Trammell is a very speedy outfielder who stole 41 bases last season at the A level. Jesse Winker got a bit of MLB action last year as well as Tyler Mahle.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. New York Yankees

Top 100 prospects: INF Gleyber Torres (5), OF Estevan Florial (44), LHP Justus Sheffield (48), 3B Miguel Andujar (65), RHP Albert Abreu (74), RHP Chance Adams (75)

The Yankees are in the best possible spot a baseball team could be in: a young team that is ready to win now with an abundance of minor league talent. We all know about Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Luis Severino, the very talented bullpen and their new star, Giancarlo Stanton, but that’s for a later date. Here, we’re focusing on the “baby bombers” and there is much to be focusing on.

INF Gleyber Torres, the Yankees top prospect, missed most of last season after Tommy John surgery but could reach the majors this season. Not too far behind him is Estevan Florial, who is currently in the AA level and still has a bit of ways to go. Miguel Andujar donned the pinstripes for a bit this season and has a ton of pop, and lefty Justus Sheffield and righty Chance Adams can all make an impact on the Yankees this season. With all of young this talent in the organization, we could see another Yankees dynasty in the works.

4. Tampa Bay Rays

Top 100 prospects: RHP Brent Honeywell (12), SS/2B Willy Adames (22), 1B/LHP Brendan McKay (25), OF Jesus Sanchez (57), OF/1B Jake Bauers (64), 3B/SS Christian Arroyo (81)

Expect the Tampa Bay Rays to take a step back this season from their 80-82 record last season after trading away Evan Longoria to the Giants. While they still have Chris Archer, he is not immune to trade talks as he’s been for the past few years. Lucky for them, they have a real solid farm system full of talented prospects. RHP Brent Honeywell could start the year with the Rays after impressing last season at the AAA level going 12-8 and striking out 152 with a WHIP of 1.30. Middle infielder Willy Adames could also start his season in Tampa as last season he hit .277 with 62 RBI’s in AAA. Brendan McKay is in a Shohei Otani situation where he can play both the field and pitch as well.

3. Chicago White Sox

Top 100 prospects: OF Eloy Jimenez (4), RHP Michael Kopech (10), OF Luis Robert (28), RHP Alec Hansen (54), RHP Dylan Cease (61), RHP Dane Dunning (92), OF Blake Rutherford (99)

Denis Poroy / Getty Images

Denis Poroy / Getty Images

The White Sox have a really balanced blend of top prospects in their system with three outfielders and four pitchers landing inside the top 100. Leading the way is outfielder Eloy Jimenez, acquired from the cross-town Cubs in the Jose Quintana deal. Jimenez has the potential to be a really good hitter in the big leagues as he finished last season hitting .312 with 19 home runs and 65 RBI’s. RHP Michael Kopech came along in the Yoan Moncada deal and could make an impact with the White Sox this upcoming season. Luis Robert is a newly acquired piece from Cuba who has insane potential.

Jeff Morris

Jeff Morris

2. Atlanta Braves

Top 100 prospects: OF Ronald Acuna (2), RHP Kyle Wright (30), RHP Mike Soroka (31), LHP Luiz Gohara (49), RHP Ian Anderson (51), LHP Koby Allard (58), LHP Max Fried (83), 3B Austin Riley (97)

The Atlanta Braves has the most prospects landing inside the top 100 with eight. Their best prospect, Ronald Acuna, could possibly be the most well-rounded prospect in all of baseball. After hitting .325 with 21 home runs, 82 RBI’s and 44 SB last season, Acuna could make his debut with the Braves this season after impressing in AAA. There’s a bit of a fall off after Acuna with Kyle Wright landing at number 30 and Mike Soroka at 31. It’s pretty clear that the Braves will be building around Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Acuna.

(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune

(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune

1. San Diego Padres

Top 100 prospects: SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (8), LHP Mackensie Gore (19), 2B/SS Luis Urias (36), RHP Cal Quantrill (40), RHP Michael Baez (42), LHP Adrian Morejon (50), RHP Anderson Espinoza (89)

While the Braves may have had more prospects inside the top 100, the Padres had the most inside the top 50 with six of their seven best prospects earning that acclaim. SS Fernando Tatis Jr. is the top guy in the system but isn't expected to make an impact with the Padres until 2019. Mackensie Gore is another player who will make his impact felt in San Diego later on, expected in 2020.

You could see middle infielder Luis Urias playing at Petco Park this season after impressing in AA by hitting .296. RHP Cal Quantrill, son of former pitcher Paul Quantrill, is expected in 2019, same with RHP Michael Baez and left Adrian Morejon. Basically, the San Diego Padres will not be good this season, they’ll get a top 5 pick and they are about two years away from being two years away from being a potential contender in the National League.

The Greatest Hall of Famer that never was
(PHOTO: Jack Gruber/USA TODAY Sports)

(PHOTO: Jack Gruber/USA TODAY Sports)

The baseball Hall of Fame will elect its 2018 class this Wednesday afternoon. Among those expected: 612 home run hitter Jim Thome, 601-save closer Trevor Hoffman, and former MVPs Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones.

But the greatest player of all-time will likely be withheld from the Hall of Fame in his sixth year of eligibility.

Yes, I’m talking about Barry Lamar Bonds.

While Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, former players suspected of using steroids, received their calls to Cooperstown in recent years, the all-time home run king is still isolated from his rightful throne. Bonds has never failed a drug test, despite years of suspicion, and beat four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice relating to the government investigation of BALCO, the Bay Area lab that employed Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson. Bonds admitted to unknowingly using “the cream” and “the clear”, described to him as nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a pain-relieving palm for arthritis, but even if the substances were indeed steroids, Major League Baseball did not ban them at the time.

And if they were steroids, what does it matter? The culture in MLB at the time overlooked, and in all honesty accepted, performance enhancing drug use in a majority of its players. Baseball twice had chances to put its stamp on doping: in 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo banning steroids but not implementing a testing policy, and again years later when Bud Selig did the same thing.

MLB front offices benefitted from the steroid era tenfold. As Sammy Sosa was clubbing home runs onto Waveland Avenue, the Cubs were filling Wrigley Field to the gills, generating a hefty profit off the Dominican slugger. As soon as Sammy was no longer welcome, he was cast aside and ostracized from the organization. Even after the franchise has shifted owners and won a World Series, the new owners expect Sammy - the grey ghost himself - to roll over and admit what he did, as if he owes the Ricketts anything.

Even beat writers contributed to the matter. In Roger Clemens’ biography The Rocket that Fell to Earth, Jeff Pearlman claimed that the soon-to-be inducted Piazza, who admitted to briefly using Androstenedione early in his career, would tell reporters off the record that he used PEDs.

It’s impossible to know who was, and wasn’t, on the juice during that era. Everyone from Ken Caminiti to Bret Boone to Manny Ramirez have been accused of, suspended for or have been speculated of juicing at one point. But one thing is for certain: even before the speculation, Barry Bonds was a Hall of Fame baseball player.

Before the big home run boom of 1998, Bonds was arguably the best player in the game. His impressive combination of power, speed, contact and vision is the stuff of legend, and quite honestly we haven’t seen a player like him since (Mike Trout stans be damned). Just peep his stats from 1986, when he entered the league with the Pittsburgh Pirates, to 1998:

• 411 home runs
• 403 doubles
• 63 triples
• 445 stolen bases
• 1,364 runs scored
• 1,216 RBI
• 3,679 total bases
• .966 OPS (164 OPS+)

If he ended his career after that, with 8,100 career plate appearances under his belt, Bonds is in the pantheon of the elite. He’s already in the 400-400 club, and would have finished with a top-10 hypothetical OPS. Ken Griffey Junior's numbers during this era pale in comparison to Bonds’ as well.

Starting from 1993, when Bonds joined the San Francisco Giants, to 1998, the last year both players were at full-strength:

Taking out Griffey’s 1995 season, where he missed close to three months with a severe wrist injury, it’s clear Bonds posted better numbers than Junior in that time span. Griffey was a home run machine in that era, hitting more than 40 bombs in each season but ’95, including the strike-shortened season of 1994, but Bonds was a better hitter for average, and got on base at a more consistent rate. His K/BB ratio compared to Griffey was unreal, as their totals were a complete flip-flop from one another. In 1993 and 1996, Griffey walked more times than Bonds struck out. From 96-98, Bonds took a base on balls at least 130 times. Griffey never walked more than 96 times in a year during that period. Bonds was also better on the basepaths, averaging 32 steals during his age 28-33 seasons. Griffey’s highest stolen base total during that stretch was 20.

It is easier with the naked eye to believe Ken Griffey never use PEDs, even after his body broke down in Cincinnati and he was a shell of his former self. He more than deserves a place in the Hall of Fame,as his near-unanimous induction a few years ago indicated. But so does Bonds, who even before the suspicion, left his mark on Major League Baseball.

Oh, and if we’re talking about keeping the integrity of the game in tact, consider this:

  • The book The Baseball Hall of Shame’s Warped Record Book includes an account of Babe Ruth injecting himself with an extract from sheep testicles.
  • According to writer Zev Chafets, Mickey Mantle’s fade in his 1961 home run race with Roger Maris was attributed to a botched injection of a chemical cocktail including steroids, amphetamines, and other substances. Mantle also allegedly used a corked bat in the 1960s.
  • In his autobiography I Had a Hammer, Hank Aaron, increasingly frustrated by his lack of performance at the plate, admitted to taking an amphetamine before a game in 1968.
  • Mike Schmidt admitted to writer Murray Chass in 2006 to using amphetamines “a couple of times”, and in his book Clearing the Bases, he said amphetamines were “widely available in major-league clubhouses” and it is far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse.
  • Goose Gossage admitted to using illegal amphetamines during his playing career.
  • Manager Bobby Cox was accused of beating his wife and calling her a bitch, continuing a pattern of violence that allegedly includes a black eye and a broken wrist.
  • Ty Cobb was a known racist, accused of beating up black men simply because they were black and handy. He once notoriously stabbed a black waiter in Cleveland, and according to Hall of Famer Tris Speaker, he brutally pistol-whipped black men just for sharing a sidewalk with him.
  • Gaylord Perry regularly used an illegal spitball to get an edge on opposing batters.

Every one of these men have been elected into Cooperstown, including Cox after the fact. If these men are deserving of such an honor, why are we so adamant that Bonds isn’t?