By Anthony Rhoads
I used to hate Barry Bonds.
The hatred began in 1991 when the Atlanta Braves went from worst to first and won the National League West Division.
They met the Pittsburgh Pirates in the N.L. Championship Series and beat Bonds and the Pirates 4 games to 3 to advance to the World Series.
The following year, the Braves and Pirates met again in the championship series and again, the Braves beat the Pirates 4 games to 3.
In 1993, Bonds finally appeared to get the best of the Braves in his first season with the San Francisco Giants.
San Francisco led the division for most of the season, but the Braves steadily gained ground. By the time the season ended, the Braves again thwarted Bonds' chances at post-season glory. The Giants and Braves engaged in an epic struggle that summer and the Braves finally prevailed in what has to be considered as one of the best division races of all time.
The Giants finished the 1993 season at 103-59 but it wasn't good enough to win the division as the Braves edged them out by just one game to win the division crown.
I was certainly glad to see the Braves win the division again but I delighted in the fact that they denied Bonds a chance to go to the postseason.
I sure did hate Bonds but it really wasn't personal. As a loyal Atlanta Braves fan, I wanted to see them win and Bonds was one of the main guys who stood in their way.
The hatred I had for Bonds was also mixed in with a lot of respect for him as a baseball player.
He is, without a doubt, the best baseball player of this era and is one of the best baseball players of all time.
What can you say about Bonds, who is a shoo-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame? He's a six-time N.L. MVP, he holds the single-season home run title (73 in 2001), he's won eight Gold Gloves, he has one batting title (.370 in 2002), he has two home run titles (1993 and 2001), he's led the league in slugging percentage six times and last week, he passed Willie Mays for third place on the all-time home run list.
Before his career is over, Bonds will surely pass Babe Ruth's 714-home run mark and he could even break Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs.
One of the most remarkable things about his career stats is the number of walks he's drawn. Only Rickey Henderson has more walks in a career than Bonds.
Bonds has led the league in walks nine times, including the 2002 season when he walked 198 times.
That speaks volumes. No one wants to pitch to Bonds and even with all the intentional walks he's drawn, he's put up astronomical numbers.
As as the years have passed and with Bonds in the middle of his chase for the all-time home run record, I've even started to root for him a little bit.
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his columns appear on Wednesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.