If we can allow our brains to divorce themselves from the knowledge of steroids for a moment, we can acknowledge that Barry Bonds was one of – if not – the most feared hitters off all time.
According to wRC+, his 2002 season was the single greatest offensive year by a player ever – though he also owns the fourth (2001) and fifth (2004) rankings in that category, as well. But although most of his loudest offensive contributions came after the turn of the century, he was no scrub in the 90s, either.
By the end of the 1997 season, Bonds had a career .288/.408/.551 slash line, which was good for a 157 wRC+. He had also already crushed 374 home runs … which is probably why his walk rate was a fantastic 16.6%.
In fact, while we’re counting stats, Bonds holds the top three records for most intentional walks in a season (2004, 2002, and 2003) and has – by far – the most of all-time (688 IBBs). No one wanted to pitch to the guy, because when they did, he usually did some serious damage.
But of all the times Bonds was intentionally walked, none sticks out as much as the time they did it with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning:
That’s right, on May 28, 1998 the Arizona Diamondbacks walked Barry Bonds with the bases loaded – purposefully and knowingly allowing a run to score – in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and a two-run lead. And the best part is … it worked.
While Bonds’ walk brought the Giants within one run, the next batter, Brent Mayne, lined out to the right fielder to end the game. What an absolutely crazy, but gutsy, call. I can’t imagine the ego hit pitcher Gregg Olsen took, but hey, if it helps your team win that’s all that matters, right?
The D-backs manager, Buck Showalter, had this to say after the game: “You try to give your club the best opportunity to win a game. It might not have been good, but it was better than the option we had.”
Again, difficult decision to make … but probably the correct one.