The media has made him out to be a bad guy and his teammates have said that he is not a leader, but there is no arguing that Barry Bonds is one of the greatest baseball players ever.

The San Francisco left fielder has won three MVP awards and eight Gold Glove awards. He has hit 560 home runs, eighth on the all-time list.

He is the only player to hit more than 400 homers and steal more than 400 bases in his career, and he will likely become the only player to top 500 in both categories as well.

Over his career, Bonds has averaged 40 homers, 109 RBIs, 120 runs, 121 walks and 34 steals per 162 games played. Most players would love to have that line as their best season, nevermind their average one.

At 37 years old, Bonds is finishing up the best season of his incredible career. A season that should earn him an unprecedented fourth MVP award.

Bonds is hitting .318 with 67 homers and 128 RBIs. He has drawn 159 walks and scored 116 runs. He has an on-base percentage, or OBP, of .499, a slugging percentage, or SLG, of .839 and an on-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS, of 1.338.

Bonds leads the majors ? by a large margin ? in homers, walks, OBP, SLG and OPS. He also has a chance to break the major league records Mark McGwire?s 70 HR record in 1998, 170 walk record by Babe Ruth in 1923 and .847 SLG record also by Ruth in 1920.

All of those numbers combine to make the season Bonds is putting together one of the best in the history of baseball.

Yet there are still people who think that Bonds might not be the Most Valuable Player in the National League this season.

Several other players are having outstanding seasons, but only Chicago?s Sammy Sosa and Arizona?s Luis Gonzalez are close enough to Bonds to even consider.

All three sluggers were in the top six in the NL in homers, RBIs, runs, walks, OBP, SLG and OPS after Tuesday?s games.

In order to satisfy those who think Bonds is not the MVP, we must answer several questions. Does he do all of his damage with the bases empty? Does he produce with the game on the line? Does he benefit from an extreme hitter?s park?

Bonds is better than both Sosa and Gonzalez in each category.

Gonzalez has been better than Sosa with runners in scoring position, so I will use him for this comparison. In 163 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Gonzalez has hit 15 homers, driven in 75 runs and drawn 38 walks while posting an OPS of 1.284.

Bonds has had 15 less plate appearances with runners in scoring position, but has only hit two less homers despite walking 24 more times. Bonds only has 56 RBIs, but he has compiled an astounding 1.553 OPS with runners on second or third.

Sosa has outhit Gonzalez in ?close and late? situations, but Bonds has done better than both of them. Bonds has drawn 29 walks, hit 10 homers and tallied 14 RBIs while recording a 1.371 OPS in 98 plate appearances late in tight ballgames.

Sosa has 12 fewer walks and 14 more at-bats in those situations than Bonds. However, he has three fewer home runs, has only driven in five more runs and has an OPS of just 1.082.

Bonds has benefited slightly from PacBell Park, but his 1.313 OPS away from home is far above the road marks of 1.156 for Sosa and 1.116 for Gonzalez.

One argument against Bonds is that he has not played every day. Bonds has played 143 games, compared to 151 for Gonzalez and 149 for Sosa.

However, Bonds still leads the league in runs created with 176, which is already the highest total since before baseball changed the schedule to 162 games. Gonzalez is second with 158 and Sosa has 155. Runs created was invented by baseball statistician Bill James and determines how many of a team?s runs have been created by each individual player. he formula basically takes a player?s number of times on base, extra bases gained and plate appearances and transforms them into one number.

Using his runs created total, you can find that Bonds has an offensive winning percentage of .911. This means that a lineup of nine Bondses, would ? with average pitching and defense ? win 91.1 percent of its games.

This would work out to a 147-15 record over a 162-game season. Sosa and Gonzalez?s OW percentage would produce 137-25 and 136-26 records, respectively. Bonds may not actually be 10 games better than Sosa or Gonzalez, but it is clear that he is the best offensive player in the league. And while he will not win any more Gold Gloves, he is still better than Sosa and Gonzalez with the leather.

In reality though, Bonds is not even competing with Sosa and Gonzalez for the National League MVP award. He is really competing with Ruth ? and maybe Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle ? for the best season in baseball history.

Whether you like him or not, Bonds is that good ?and he is the Most Valuable Player.

Jacobs can be reached at

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