One of the most consistent run producers and clutch performers of his era, Fred McGriff was finally inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame this past weekend.
It’s been almost two decades since McGriff collected the last of his 2,490 career hits, 493 home runs, and 1,550 RBI. The “Crime Dog” wasn’t the flashiest first basemen, but he was a vital component to contending teams for most of his 19 seasons spent in the big leagues.
Perhaps McGriff would have drawn more attention had he stayed with the team that drafted him, the New York Yankees, instead he played in the relatively small markets of Toronto, San Diego, and Atlanta for the majority of his career.
Fred McGriff Was Awesome From Day 1
McGriff was a great player, quite literally off the bat. He hit 20 home runs as a rookie for the Blue Jays, and then proceeded to hit at least 30 home runs each season for the next seven seasons, leading the American League in 1989 and then the National League in 1992. He was the first player since the dead-ball era to complete that feat.
Between 1989 and 1994, spanning two leagues and three teams, no one in Major League Baseball hit more home runs than Fred McGriff.
Teammates changed. Scenery changed. Fred McGriff remained constant, never hitting fewer than 31 homers or driving in less than 88 runs.
He was just as formidable in the postseason, batting in the middle of the lineup of those great Braves teams. During Atlanta’s 1995 run to the World Series championship, McGriff had 19 hits in 14 games, including four homers, nine RBI, and 14 runs scored.
Fred McGriff reached the postseason five times in his career and appeared in 10 series. His batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS were all higher in the playoffs than in the regular season.
During his peak seasons, he averaged .289/.543/.936 over 147 games with 35 home runs and 98 RBI, while scoring 91 runs. Last season, Paul Goldschmidt was the only first baseman to reach those marks.
His numbers would likely be even better, if not for the strike in 1994. That season, McGriff was batting .318 with 34 home runs and 94 RBI in only 113 games.
McGriff’s Clean Excellence Overshadowed By PED Era
Even as home runs started to fly out of the parks during the “steroid-era” of the late 90s and early 2000s, and he moved into his mid-30s, Fred McGriff was still keeping pace.
Between the ages of 35-38 he slashed .291/.512/.891, averaging 30 home runs, 104 RBI, and 73 runs.
Again, Goldschmidt would be the only current first baseman to put up those kinds of numbers in all of baseball.
He and fellow MLBbro Gary Sheffield are the only players to hit 30 or more home runs for five different teams.
Fred McGriff smiled a lot, but didn’t say very much. He never hit 40 home runs in a season. The best seasons of his career were overshadowed by trades and one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled.
Fred McGriff: Perennial MVP Candidate
But we need to be putting some respect on the name of the man who helped sell thousands upon thousands of videos for Tom Emansky and who finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times.
Crime Dog wasn’t built like a comic book character. Perhaps he was the Batman in an era of supermen. No one can overlook McGriff now. He’s enshrined in the place where many of those peers whose numbers were artificially enhanced cannot find a way past the gatekeepers.
This is not a moral judgement of those who allegedly or admittedly inflated their bodies and their stats. It is a recognition of man who put up numbers that would make him great in any era.
Fred McGriff has been a Hall of Famer. It just took longer than it should have for that to be made official.
On December 4th, MLB’s Contemporary Era Committee will come together during the Winter Meetings to vote on which players will make it into Cooperstown. This group is comprised of some MLBbro legends who probably should have been inducted a long time ago. Barry Bonds, Albert Belle and Fred McGriff aka “The Crime Dog.” The voting is for players who didn’t make it in during their ten-year run on the ballot and those who started their careers after 1980.
The biggest name on this ballot is MLB’s Home Run King, who failed to make it in. In January, the single-season record-holder for homers (73) only got 66 percent of the required 75 percent vote needed to make it to Cooperstown, affectionately ending his run on the ballot. But with Monday’s news, Bonds, Belle and McGriff have new life. Although the prognostications are still pretty bleak, there is a chance that Bonds gets his just due.
Barry Bonds is one of two players in MLB history to hit 300+ career homers and steal 400+ bases.
When former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz got his call to the Hall in his first year of eligibility, it caused Bonds’ former manager and 2022 World Series champion Dusty Baker to speak out about it.
“Same way Jeff Kent didn’t get in. Same way Pete Rose didn’t get in. Same way Roger Clemens didn’t get in.
“The voters supposedly like guys of high character, guys with no marks or suspicions about their reputation — or maybe it’s how you treated the media.”
“MLB is more partial to Boston and New York and the East Coast teams; we always have to see what New York or Boston is going to do before we can determine what time we’re going to be on TV.”
Baker is saying East Coast bias played a role in Bonds failing to get the necessary Hall of Fame votes over the past decade. Some believe that Bonds will never have his name called because of the controversy surrounding his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. That’s been the sticking point with Bonds not getting in from 2013-2022.
ESPN MLB analyst Jeff Passan called it a failure that Bonds didn’t get in. Passan was also quick to set the record straight when Yankees slugger Aaron Judge broke the AL home run record this past season. He proclaimed that Bonds’ single-season record is valid and still the official mark.
Another year has passed with Barry Bonds not being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Standing at the plate, gripping his bat tightly and staring with incredible intensity…menacing even, Albert Belle was possibly the most fearsome hitter in the American League for a decade.
The numbers don’t lie. The five-time Silver Slugger award winner finished in the top five of the AL most valuable player voting in five out of six seasons from 1992 to 1998.
As a full-time left fielder and designated hitter for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles, Belle averaged 37 home runs and 120 RBIs per season with 95 runs scored. His .295 career batting average, 381 home runs, and 1239 RBIs should be enough to put him among the all-time greats, but voters have never given Belle strong consideration.
His strained relationship with the media, the Indians, off-field troubles, and his essential disappearance from the game after the 1993 season have overshadowed the excellence of the only player to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season.
As MLB evolves and metrics change the way the game is packaged, the Black baseball player continues to fight its way back into baseball’s bloodstream. In reflection, we can fully appreciate just how great some of these overlooked Black and Brown Hall of Famers were.
Crime Dog Fred McGriff, he was a true professional his entire career, but he never received more than 40 percent in any of his ten years on the ballot.
McGriff hit 493 homers in his MLB career. Clean homers. But baseball’s HOF voting committee doesn’t deem the vaunted slugger worthy of HOF induction. His career has been described as “subtle” and “very good” but not “elite”. He might end up with more homers than any PED-free player to never make Cooperstown.
McGriff was just never a transcending personality. He was tall and his bat was thundering, but few folks put the words “great” and “Fred McGriff” in the same sentence. Some say McGriff was overshadowed by the prolific stars of his era. Others hoping to get the call via this route include Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Curt Schilling.