Barry Bonds’ HR Record Tainted by Elbow ‘Armor’?

How true is this? Could it be?

Photo taken from edited by InsideSportsGEek

By Michael Witte

NEW YORK (Commentary) Beyond his alleged steroid use, Barry Bonds is guilty of the use of something that confers extraordinarily unfair mechanical advantage: the “armor” that he wears on his right elbow. Amid the press frenzy over Bonds’ unnatural bulk, the true role of the object on his right arm has simply gone unnoticed.

This is unfortunate, because by my estimate, Bonds’ front arm “armor” may have contributed no fewer than 75 to 100 home runs to his already steroid-questionable total.
Bonds tied Henry Aaron’s home run record of 755 on Saturday night and will go for the new standard this week back at home in San Francisco.

As a student of baseball – and currently a mechanics consultant to a major league baseball team — I believe I have insight into the Bonds “achievement.” I have studied his swing countless times on video and examined the mechanical gear closely through photographs.

For years, sportswriters remarked that his massive “protective” gear – unequaled in all of baseball — permits Bonds to lean over the plate without fear of being hit by a pitch. Thus situated, Bonds can handle the outside pitch (where most pitchers live) unusually well. This is unfair advantage enough, but no longer controversial. However, it is only one of at least seven (largely unexplored) advantages conferred by the apparatus.

The other six:

1) The apparatus is hinged at the elbow. It is a literal “hitting machine” that allows Bonds to release his front arm on the same plane during every swing. It largely accounts for the seemingly magical consistency of every Bonds stroke.

2) The apparatus locks at the elbow when the lead arm is fully elongated because of a small flap at the top of the bottom section that fits into a groove in the bottom of the top section. The locked arm forms a rigid front arm fulcrum that allows extraordinary, maximally efficient explosion of the levers of Bonds’ wrists. Bonds hands are quicker than those of average hitters because of his mechanical “assistant.”

3) When Bonds swings, the weight of the apparatus helps to seal his inner upper arm to his torso at impact. Thus “connected,” he automatically hits the ball with the weight of his entire body – not just his arms – as average hitters (“extending”) tend to do.

4) Bonds has performed less well in Home Run Derbies than one might expect because he has no excuse to wear a “protector” facing a batting practice pitcher. As he tires, his front arm elbow tends to lift and he swings under the ball, producing towering pop flies or topspin liners that stay in the park. When the apparatus is worn, its weight keeps his elbow down and he drives the ball with backspin.

5) Bonds enjoys quicker access to the inside pitch than average hitters because his “assistant” – counter-intuitively – allows him to turn more rapidly. Everyone understands that skaters accelerate their spins by pulling their arms into their torsos, closer to their axes of rotation. When Bonds is confronted with an inside pitch, he spins like a skater because his upper front arm is “assistant”-sealed tightly against the side of his chest.

6) At impact, Bonds has additional mass (the weight of his “assistant”) not available to the average hitter. The combined weight of “assistant” and bat is probably equal to the weight of the lumber wielded by Babe Ruth but with more manageable weight distribution.

At the moment, Bonds’ apparatus enjoys “grandfathered” status. Similar devices are presently denied to average major leaguers, who must present evidence of injury before receiving an exemption.

Bonds has worn some sort of front arm protection since 1992. In ’94, a one-piece forearm guard was replaced by a jointed, two piece elbow model. In ‘95 it got bigger and a small “cap” on the elbow was replaced by a “flap” that overlapped the upper piece and locked the two pieces together when the arm was elongated. In ’96, the “apparatus” grew even larger and so did the “flap.”

It seems to have remained relatively the same until — interestingly— 2001, the year of his record 73 home runs, when an advanced model appeared made (apparently) of a new material. It had softer edges and a groove for the flap to slip into automatically at full arm elongation. More important, the upper half of the machine was sculpted to conform more comfortably to the contours of Bonds’ upper arm. Since 2001, the apparatus seems to have remained relatively unchanged.

Several years back, baseball was rightfully scandalized by the revelation that Sammy Sosa had “corked” his bat. The advantages conferred by the Bonds “hitting machine,” however, far exceed anything supplied by cork. Ultimately, it appears the Bonds “achievement” must be regarded as partly the product of “double duplicity” — steroidal and mechanical.



About Anthony Lasala

When i'm not playing sports video games, you might spot me playing Yu Gi Oh 5DS on Xbox Live.


  1. Isaac

    Bond’s elbow brace is not grandfathered in. He had to present a medical reason just like everyone else.

  2. Ben

    And actually there’s no scientific reason that corking a bat could help you hit the ball farther. It’s like if you corked a night stick. Bats are designed so that the barrel can be whipped through the hitting zone. Taking a chunk out of the middle of the barrel would hinder this action. The only advantage a corked bat may give you is a mental one, whereby knowing that your bat is corked and believing that it will help you will cause you to hit better.

    Also, you’re a moron.

  3. Tuomas

    Dumb question but what does “corking a bat” mean?

    (Oh and excellent read. I hope this piece of sports detective work gets the attention of other vocal aficionados of baseball.)

    • Anthony Lasala

      Corked bat is a modified baseball bat that have about 1/2in diameter hole on the center top and goes down 6in deep.

  4. Tom

    Ummm – 100 pounds of extra lean muscle mass will allow him to do all those things too – the arm brace is very minor in the grand scheme of everything.

  5. oj simpson

    i blame it on the batting gloves or maybe his hand an eye cordination.

  6. hey

    It’s not illegal to have a protective device so he’s taking advantage of everything thing he can like a true competitor. Also not to be a jerk, but you might have just written the worst sports article I’ve ever read. Congratulations

  7. Noah

    Bahahaha. So if his “apparatus” helps him keep his elbow down, why is it that proper rotational mechanics(which he has perfected) consist of an upward elbow angle? You sir, are a tool. Yes, Bonds did stick more needles in his ass than needed to run an acupuncture clinic, but his swing is still one of the most perfect of all time, and his elbow guard does not effect his swing whatsoever. Even though it could be a fluke(or complete exaggerated bullshit) that he hasn’t performed as well in Home Run Derbys, if it did have anything to do with his elbow guard, it would be that it would feel unnatural not to have it on his arm. It’s like taking a couple of ounces off your bat and then expecting you to go out and hit exactly like you did before without having much time to adjust.

    I didn’t think there were conspiracy theorists in the game of baseball. Superstition and thinking there is curses and what not is one thing, but this is just retarded.

  8. Nick Huffman

    Ok I don’t think you get it bonds had a injury server to his profession he had. One chips that cause the elbow to grind, click and be sswollen that “extension” would be dangerous. So he did what any other hitter would do he put on a guard to keep it from getting worse over time. And as for the whole it gives him consistsncy thing well I would be pretty consistent to of over my life time I hit 1000 home runs and was the nephew to one of the power hitting greats of the prior generation, this article is bull shit and you know it I think it is funny to watch all these jack ass’s trying to take away a record from a man who “alegidly” used roids and as for the mass let’s do a lil math he weighed 190 pounds when he left pitsberg and in 2001 he weighed 210 pound, so over the corse of two year he put on 20 pounds… Wait that makes bonds… HUMAN you dumb ass you look at the reports his team said he was always the first one there and the last one out of the weight room so I guess that my h with time age and a good diet may be impossible for the average guy but a pro atheat that is a fucking cake walk. So once again you my freind and all the other Ppl who think he is a cheat why don’t you investagate a lil more next time

    P.s deion sander bandana was the reason he ran a 4.4 backward ALERT THE PRESS hahahahah

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