The first official baseball event of the year is one of the most exciting: the announcement of who is going into the Hall of Fame.
This year, Ken Griffey, Jr. should make it easily on the first ballot; and really, his selection should be unanimous.
In my view, the following should also be voted in:
- Tim Raines (one of the finest leadoff hitters of all-time who also came back from lupus, his is a very inspiring story);
- Curt Schilling—I wasn’t really in favor, but when I looked at his numbers (1.13 career WHIP, 3,116 strikeouts including nine seasons with over 180 and three with over 300, anchoring two World Champions, all despite struggling with injuries throughout his career), I realized he should be in;
- Mike Piazza—one of the best hitting catchers of all time, and there has been no evidence to connect him with PED use;
- Jeff Bagwell—yes, he had injuries, but he was still a very solid hitter (448 homers and a career .948 OPS);
- Alan Trammell—if Ozzie Smith is in the Hall of Fame, then Trammell should be, too.
What about Trevor Hoffman? Personally, I’m not big on guys who pitch one inning at a time getting into the Hall of Fame—I was against adding Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage, for the record. But I realize I’m in the minority, and with 602 career saves, he will get in eventually.
But there is another name that should be in, and it is shameful that he has not yet, despite this being his sixth year of eligibility: Fred McGriff.
Why isn’t the former Blue Jay-Padre-Brave-Ray-Cub-Dodger already in the Hall? Apparently because he didn’t have 500 career home runs or 3,000 career hits (two unofficial markers for HOF eligibility), and he never had more than 40 in a season.
So then, what is the case for “Crime Dog?”
His remarkable consistency:
- ten seasons with 30 or more home runs (by comparison, HOFers Jimmie Foxx had 12, Lou Gehrig, Eddie Matthews, and Mike Schmidt each had nine, while Babe Ruth had eight);
- eight seasons with 100 RBI, and four additional seasons with at least 90;
- a five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, and he received MVP votes in eight seasons;
- durability: 10 seasons with at least 150 games, and four more with at least 140;
- a career triple-slash of .284/.377/.509 with a career 52.4 WAR and .886 OPS.
He also smashed 493 home runs (just seven short of 500) with 1,550 career RBI (ahead of HOFers Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Williams), with 2,490 career hits.
As Opposed To…
Now, let’s compare Fred McGriff to someone already in the Hall of Fame, Tony Perez. For his career, Perez slashed .279/.341/.463 with an .804 OPS, with 379 home runs—all less than McGriff.
Where was Perez better? Just in two areas: he had 1,652 RBI and 53.9 WAR. But then again, Perez played for the “Big Red Machine” with a notoriously potent offense, and appeared in 300 more games than McGriff with over 700 more career at-bats. Plus, 190 of Perez’ career RBI were accumulated from 1981-86, when he was a part-time player, so he had a few years to pad his statistics.
Yet, didn’t Perez reach a pinnacle that McGriff never did—hitting 40 home runs in a season? Yes, he did. Once—in 1970, when he hit exactly that many. And the year before that, he smashed 37 home runs.
But here’s the question: in how many other seasons did Perez hit at least 30 home runs? Answer: zero.
Granted, Perez’ inclusion into the Hall was controversial at the time. He may very well have been a solid ball player, and no one, certainly not me, is suggesting otherwise. He was also well respected by his teammates. But even though he did not cross that threshold from good to great (i.e., Hall of Famer), there was enough pressure from fans and former teammates to get him selected.
So then, is it weak to compare McGriff to Perez to build up his case for the Hall? No; because Perez did make it. Also, like I mentioned earlier, McGriff’s numbers compare very favorably when contrasted to other Hall of Famers. Yes, he did not have as many out-of-this-world seasons as others; but ten seasons of 30 or more home runs and 14 seasons of 90-plus RBI have to count for something.
And lest I forget, he helped lead the 1995 Atlanta Braves to the World Series.
I close by asking: should the fact that he was a mere seven home runs short of the magic 500 disqualify him from the Hall of Fame? Because really, that’s what it boils down to.
Fred McGriff belongs in the Hall of Fame. Period.