Back in February, Ed Valentine and I got into a debate over who was better Ă˘â‚¬â€ť Babe Ruth or The G-POPE Barry Bonds. In a four-part series with the help of WhatIfSports.com, Bugs & Cranks hopes to add new perspective to the debateĂ˘â‚¬Â¦.
The idea is to switch these two all-time greats in time Ă˘â‚¬â€ť what if Bonds quantum leaped into RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s place on the Red Sox and Yankees teams of the 1910Ă˘â‚¬â„˘s-1930Ă˘â‚¬â„˘s? what if Ruth replaced Bonds on the Pirates and Giants of the past 21 years?
Led by Barry Bonds and Lou Gehrig, the 1926 Yankees post their first 90+ win season since 1923. Bonds leads the Majors in OBP, but doesn’t match the numbers Ruth had in 1926. And while the Bonds-led 1926 Yankees win one more game than Ruth’s 1926 Yanks did, the Bonds team again finishes second. (The Ruth version won the pennant and lost the World Series to the Cardinals in 7 games.)
|1926 Yankees w/ Ruth||91|
|1926 Yankees w/ Bonds||92||+1|
|1998 Giants w/ Bonds||89|
|1998 Giants w/ Ruth||90||+1|
In 1998, Babe Ruth has another epic offensive season for the San Francisco Giants. While Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa quietly become the third and fourth players to hit more than 60 home runs, Ruth breaks the century mark for the third time in his career, falling just short of breaking his own record of 106 home runs in a season. He does easily break his own single-season RBI mark with 248 Ă˘â‚¬â€ť an average of more than 1.5 RBI per game. Ruth also flirts with .400 on his way to his fifth Triple Crown. At the close of RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s 13th season, he has 651 career home runs Ă˘â‚¬â€ť Hank AaronĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s career record of 755 homers seems certain to fall in the next season or two.
The Barry Bonds version of the 1998 Giants missed the NL Wild Card by a single game. RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s 1998 Giants win that one extra game and Babe Ruth heads to the postseason for the first time in his career.
|Bonds, 1926 Yankees||.309||16||106||17||.459||.517|
|Bonds, 1998 Giants||.303||37||122||28||.438||.609|
|Ruth, 1998 Giants||.389||102||248||0||.550||.991|
|Ruth, 1926 Yankees||.372||47||150||0||.516||.737|
In the NLDS, Ruth and the Giants defeat the Braves in 4 games. In the NLCS, RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Giants take two of the first three games from the Padres. Game 4 and 5 are both in San Francisco, but the Padres take both games. The Giants win Game 6 on the road to force a deciding Game 7, but the Padres prevail 6-2. Inspired by defeating Ruth, the Padres defeat the Yankees in the World Series, winning another Game 7 at Yankee Stadium.
|Ruth, 1998 Giants||11||.429||8||20||.556||1.024|
|Ruth, 1926 Yankees||7||.300||4||5||.548||.900|
In 1999, a season after falling one game short of his first World Series, Babe Ruth continues his assault on the record books. In September, Ruth hits his 105th home run of the season to break Hank AaronĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s career record of 755 home runs. Ruth adds 7 more long balls to break his own single-season mark with 112 homers. Ruth also nearly equals the RBI record he set the previous year. The BabeĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s .371 average is second behind Larry WalkerĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s .379, costing Ruth another Triple Crown. And finally, RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s huge offensive numbers make a big difference in the standings. The 1999 Giants with Bonds finished 10 games out of the Wild Card. RuthĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s 1999 Giants win 13 more games and for the first time the Babe plays for a division champion.
|Bonds, 1927 Yankees||.291||18||118||21||.414||.477|
|Bonds, 1999 Giants||.262||34||83||15||.389||.617|
|Ruth, 1999 Giants||.371||112||246||1||.519||.990|
|Ruth, 1927 Yankees||.356||60||164||7||.486||.772|
Playing with one of baseballĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s most storied lineups, Barry Bonds is the second-best hitter on the 1927 Yankees. Bonds hits 34 home runs, second only to teammate Lou Gehrig. With Bonds instead of Ruth, the 1927 Yankees actually win three more games. After so many near misses, Barry Bonds goes to his first World Series in his 14th season.
|1927 Yankees w/ Ruth||110|
|1927 Yankees w/ Bonds||113||+3|
|1999 Giants w/ Bonds||86|
|1999 Giants w/ Ruth||99||+13|
Ruth’s 1999 Giants face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS for the second straight year. The Braves jump out to a 2-1 series lead, but the Giants force a deciding Game 5 in Atlanta. Ruth leads the Giants to a 7-3 win and into a NLCS matchup with Houston. The Giants again struggle early in the NLCS and face a 3 games to 1 deficit. Ruth and the Giants fight back to even the series. In Game 7, the Giant bats are silenced, and Houston coasts to a 7-1 victory. Like the Padres the previous year, the Astros ride the momentum of beating Ruth into the World Series. Houston falls behind 3-1 to the Yankees, but win the next three, including the last two at Yankee Stadium.
Ruth’s 1927 Yankees swept the Pirates in the World Series by winning one-run games in Game 1 and Game 4, and with big wins in the middle games. With Barry Bonds instead, the Yankees got off to a similar start with 5-3 and 18-4 wins in the first two games. The Pirates make it a series though by winning Game 3 (6-5), and then forcing the Series back to New York with another win in Game 5. The Pirates outslug the Yankees 9-7 to force a deciding Game 7. Bonds and the Yankees put up another 7 runs in the final game, but the Pirates score 14 to win their third World Series.
|Bonds, 1927 Yankees||7||.174||2||4||.259||.435|
|Ruth, 1999 Giants||12||.317||7||11||.517||.829|
|Ruth, 1927 Yankees||4||.400||2||7||.444||.800|
In 1928, Barry Bonds and the Yankees try to defend their first pennant. Bonds responds by leading the Majors in home runs — tying his career high with 36 — and RBI. He narrowly misses the Triple Crown, finishing with the AL’s fourth-best batting average. Despite Bonds putting up offensive numbers that are close to what Ruth had done in 1928, the Bonds-led 1928 Yankees win 7 fewer games and finish 6 games back.
|1928 Yankees w/ Ruth||101|
|1928 Yankees w/ Bonds||94||-7|
|2000 Giants w/ Bonds||97|
|2000 Giants w/ Ruth||97||–|
In 2000, San Francisco’s Babe Ruth still leads the bigs in home runs and RBI, but his numbers are down considerably from his best years. The 2000 Giants win the exact same number of games with Ruth as they did with Bonds, also winning the NL West crown just as they had with Bonds.
|Bonds, 1928 Yankees||.364||36||143||.448||.634|
|Bonds, 2000 Giants||.306||49||106||.440||.688|
|Ruth, 2000 Giants||.311||69||170||.495||.762|
|Ruth, 1928 Yankees||.323||54||142||.463||.709|
The Barry Bonds version of the 2000 Giants won Game One of the NLDS before losing three straight. Babe Ruth’s 2000 Giants were swept in 3 games, losing 11-5, 17-2, and 6-1.
|Ruth, 2000 Giants||3||.200||1||3||.385||.600|
|Bonds, 2000 Giants||4||.176||0||1||.300||.353|
|Ruth, 1928 Yankees||4||.625||3||4||.625||.647|
In 1929, Barry Bonds set a new career high of 42 home runs, leading the AL and one back of Chuck Klein for best in the Majors. He also had the league’s second-best RBI total, and he had the best OBP in baseball. The numbers Bonds posts with the 1929 Yankees are very similar to what Babe Ruth put up with the same team, but the Bonds-led 1929 Yankees win 97 games, 9 more than the Ruth version had. Despite the second-best win total in the decade Bonds has spent in the Bronx, the Yankees still finish behind the 104-win Philadelphia Athletics.
|1929 Yankees w/ Ruth||88|
|1929 Yankees w/ Bonds||97||+9|
|2001 Giants w/ Bonds||90|
|2001 Giants w/ Ruth||91||+1|
In June of 2001, Babe Ruth breaks Sadaharu Oh’s international career home run record. In September, he hits his 900th career home run. The Babe again leads the Majors in home runs (73) and RBI (174), but Larry Walker again costs Ruth the Triple Crown — by batting an average that’s just .0004 higher than Ruth’s. When Bonds hit 73 home runs for the same 2001 Giants, they were eliminated from the playoffs with two days left in the season. Ruth’s 2001 Giants win one more game than the Bonds version had, and that one extra victory gives them their third straight division title.
|Bonds, 1929 Yankees||.322||42||152||.515||.662|
|Bonds, 2001 Giants||.328||73||137||.515||.863|
|Ruth, 2001 Giants||.350||73||174||.438||.783|
|Ruth, 1929 Yankees||.345||46||154||.430||.697|
Ruth’s 2001 Giants win their first round series in 4 games. In the NLCS, though, Ruth and the Giants are no match for the Cardinals. For the second year in a row, the Babe gets swept out of the postseason.
|Ruth, 2001 Giants||8||.250||2||7||.324||.531|
In 2002, many doubt that Ruth can regain his 100 home run form in his 17th season despite his 905 career home runs. By the end of the year he is making a run at the 1000 mark. He finishes the year 8 short, but his 87 home runs are his best total since 1999. He nearly drives in 200 runs, and easily wins the batting title to complete his sixth Triple Crown. With Barry Bonds, the 2002 Giants had won the Wild Card by 2.5 games. Ruth’s 2002 Giants win 12 more games to win the NL West.
|Bonds, 1930 Yankees||.414||47||167||.624||.802|
|Bonds, 2002 Giants||.370||46||110||.582||.799|
|Ruth, 2002 Giants||.376||87||197||.504||.899|
|Ruth, 1930 Yankees||.359||49||153||.493||.732|
In 1930, Barry Bonds does something for the New York Yankees that Babe Ruth never did in any era — Bonds hits .414 for a full season to win his first batting title. He reaches a new career high for home runs with 47 to lead the AL. Only teammate Lou Gehrig costs Bonds his first Triple Crown. Bonds also shatters the single-season OBP record and leads the Majors in SLG. With Ruth, the 1930 Yankees finished 16 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics. Thanks to Bonds having a career year in his 17th season, his version of the 1930 Yankees win 18 more games and their second pennant.
|1930 Yankees w/ Ruth||86|
|1930 Yankees w/ Bonds||104||+18|
|2002 Giants w/ Bonds||95|
|2002 Giants w/ Ruth||107||+12|
Ruth and the Giants do the usual in the NLDS and take care of the Braves in 4 games. The going gets a lot tougher in the NLCS against the Diamondbacks. Arizona goes into San Francisco and wins the first two games of the series. Talk of Ruth never doing enough to get his team to the World Series is at an all-time high, and another sweep seems imminent. Ruth and the Giants respond and win two close, low-scoring games to even the series. Then the Giant bats return and they win the last two games 15-10 and 9-8. Finally in his first World Series game, Ruth sees his Giants get shut out at home by Seattle. There’s not much offense in Game 2 either, a 4-2 Mariners victory. The Giants fight back on the road, and even the Series with back-to-back shutouts (8-0. 3-0). The Mariners win Game 5 by a 6-1 margin, but the final two games are back in San Francisco. The home field advantage is not enough, as the Giants fall 5-3 in Game 6. Despite having Ruth, the Giants manage to score more than 3 runs in only one game in the series.
In the 1930 World Series, Bonds and the Yankees get blown out on the road in the first game, but come back and win Game 2, 5-4. Back at Yankee Stadium, the home team loses a slugfest, 11-9, to fall behind 2-1 in the Series. The Yankees pitching carries them to victories in the next two games (3-2, 5-2). Trying to bring the Yankees faithful their first World Championship on the road, New York’s pitching cracks, giving up 8 runs. But Bonds and the rest of the lineup pick them up and slug their way to a 10-8 victory, and their first world title.
|Bonds, 1930 Yankees||6||.250||3||5||.586||.875|
|Bonds, 2002 Giants||12||.289||8||14||.579||.911|
|Ruth, 2002 Giants||16||.333||3||5||.449||.579|
Next Time on the final Bonds vs. Ruth….
The Last Five Seasons…. Obviously Ruth will get more than 1000 home runs for his career — but how much more? Ruth won one last World Series in 1934, will Bonds be able to win one or more? Will Ruth be indicted? Can Bonds take the Boston Braves all the way? Will Ruth make it back to the World Series and finally get a ring? Will there be one last big surprise?