Every year there are hundreds upon hundreds of articles written about the latest MLB Hall of Fame vote and it seems like all of them are about what the Hall of Fame got wrong; this is one of those articles.
Fred McGriff, also known as ‘Crime Dog’, has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for 7 years and has never garnered more than 23.9% of the vote (2012). With only 3 years remaining on the ballot, it seems safe to say that he will never be enshrined in Cooperstown; but should he be?
First, let’s look at some of McGriff’s career numbers: he boasted a slash line of .284/.377/.509, with 2,490 hits, 493 home runs, 1,550 RBI and 441 doubles. Impressive numbers. In his 50 career playoff games, Crime Dog was even better, hitting .303/.385/.532 with 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 11 doubles. He also was the cleanup hitter for the 1995 World Series winning Atlanta Braves.
McGriff was one of the most feared hitters in baseball in the late ‘80s, early 90’s. He led the Majors in intentional walks in 1991 (26) and was given a free base 23 times the following season. On top of that, he had a phenomenal eye. From his age 25-28 seasons he drew 90+ walks and repeated that performance at age 36.
With all of these incredible numbers, why is he not in the Hall of Fame? Well, it really comes down to three things: 1) the infamous 1994 strike shortened season, 2) despite being clean, he played during the ‘Steroid Era’ and 3) the Hall of Fame’s atrocious voting rules and crowded ballot (an article for another day).
1994 was a dark year for baseball fans. The players went on strike after 114 games and there was no World Series to be played. This played a huge role in deciding McGriff’s Hall of Fame fate. As previously stated, McGriff hit 493 career home runs. After playing in 113 of the Braves’ games that season, he hit a whopping 34 homers and drove in 94 runs. If the season had played out in its entirety, McGriff would have been on pace for 49 homers, pushing him past the magic number of 500 career home runs. Hitting 500 home runs basically guarantees a hitter that he will make the Hall of Fame unless he is tied to steroids, which McGriff was not.
Now I’ve heard the argument before, “You don’t know how he would have played the rest of the season. He could go through a long slump, plus, he could have gotten hurt and ruined his career.” True, but let’s take a closer look at those claims.
In the last 10 games before the strike, McGriff hit 7 home runs and had an astounding .421/.476/.1.026 slash line. He was getting better and had a real chance at hitting 50+ home runs.
As for the injury claim, McGriff was one of the most durable players in baseball history. From 1987-2002, McGriff averaged 146 games per year. He was only placed on the Disabled List once in his career and that was his age 39 season. Therefore, you can toss the injury probability right out of the window.
In recent years we are seeing very few people who played during the ‘Steroid Era’ garner Hall of Fame votes. Clean players like Larry Walker and Jeff Kent would be Hall of Famers if they played during any other era, yet they have never received 20% of the vote. The reason is that their numbers don’t stick out in the record books, ironic considering players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa will never sniff the Hall of Fame because their numbers stuck out too much (due to PED use).
Had McGriff played in a different era he would already be in the Hall of Fame. From 1988-1994 he lead the Majors with 242 Home Runs. Second place was Barry Bonds, the greatest home run hitter of all-time, at 218. For 7 seasons, McGriff was easily the best, most consistent power hitter in the game. How is that not Hall of Fame worthy?
To top it all off, McGriff’s numbers dwarf those of Tony Perez, Frank Chance and Orlando Cepeda, all Hall of Famers, and are identical to Willie McCovey, a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1986.
Not voting Fred McGriff into the Hall of Fame? That’s a crime, dog.