Bill James invented an objective series of questions looking at a players hall of fame credentials from different angles by asking a series of questions. This series questions starts off with the hardest one. Was this player ever considered the greatest in baseball. Not necessarily the MVP award but recognized people as the greatest of their time, much like Mike Trout is now. I could argue in 1973 some people considered Bobby Bonds the greatest at that time.
In 1973 he scored 100 runs for the fifth straight year. He led the league with 131 runs which was a lot at the time. He also drove in a lot of runs for a player who hit leadoff so much. His batting average wasn’t great, but he got on base a lot with walks. He was an excellent power hitter often having a slugging average over .500. Also, in 1973 he hit 39 homeruns and stole 43 bases almost becoming the first player to have a 40-40 season. This got him a lot of publicity. Even though he finished 3rd in the MVP voting, he was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated baseball issue. Often this went to one of the best players. He also won a gold glove, which was one of the few ways we had to rate fielders at the time.
However, I remembered Reggie Jackson won the MVP award that year. Also, Pete Rose was the MVP in the National League and also was a leadoff hitter who played left field. He was consistent player for years. Bonds did score more runs and definitely had more RBIs. They both batted leadoff. Jackson was having a series of great years and had more power relative to his league. He also hit for a higher average to help him get on base more. Looking at it closer I don’t think you can say Bonds was the best player at the time. However, he was in the argument which is something to consider.
I did a study of players leadoff statistics. One thing I notice was that Bobby Bonds from 1969 thru 1973 scored 100 runs every year. One thing I noticed was he usually had more runs than what I expected from his other statistics. He was a great base stealer, with a high percentage, but from what I saw he scored more runs then expected, even though I knew he had some very good hitters behind him. I think part of the answer was Bonds had it all going on scoring runs and the combined to give him more runs then normal. Good for him as it helped the team.
Bonds only played 14 years. His last two years weren’t that good. That hurts him in my ratings and hurt his hall of fame chances as his career numbers don’t look that great. He was a great player in his prime and deserves more of the hall of fame voters love.