The Case for Cooperstown: Fred McGriff
With the release of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, Waiver Wire writer Greg Kaplan will explore the candidacy of numerous names on the ballot. Points for and against induction will be presented, and we’re forcing him to make a decision at the end of each post to decide if that player should be placed alongside the immortals that have played baseball throughout history.
Year(s) on ballot – 4th (received 23.9% of vote last year)
Credentials – 19 years in MLB (parts of five seasons spent each with the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Devil Rays), career .284/.377/.509, 493HRs, 1,550RBI, 2,490 hits, five-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger
The Case For:
Throughout his career, Fred McGriff hit a lot of home runs. His career total of 493 is still good enough for a tie for 26th with Lou Gehrig. Even more impressive, McGriff got to 493 in his career without once hitting more than 39 home runs in a single season. 10 seasons, McGriff finished with 30+ home runs, twice leading the league (’89 with Toronto and ’92 with San Diego). McGriff also turned his elite power into eight seasons compiling 100+ RBIs.
The Case Against:
You’re probably asking yourself, “Greg, dude, that case for was really short. What’s your beef with The Crime Dog?”
Well, intelligent reader of mine, I have nothing against Fred McGriff. In fact, he was the first player in my early childhood that put fear into the heart of the young Mets fan that I was. However, in hindsight, yes, McGriff was a threat in the middle of the line-up and someone who could hit a ball out of any ballpark. But, he was never elite, and that’s the most important qualification in terms of Hall of Fame credentials.
For example: six times in McGriff’s career did he finish in the top 10 of the MVP voting for that season. Sounds pretty impressive, right? However, did you know that only once in those six years, Fred McGriff was the highest vote getter on his own team. Take a look:
1989: George Bell (TOR) finished 4th, McGriff finished 6th
1990: Kelly Gruber (TOR) finished 4th, McGriff finished 10th
1991: McGriff (SDP) finished 10th, Tony Gwynn finished 16th
1992: Gary Sheffield (SDP) finished 3rd, McGriff finished T-6th
1993: David Justice (ATL) finished 3rd, McGriff finished 4th (his highest finish in his career, and another Atlanta teammate Ron Gant would finish 5th in the voting)
1994: Greg Maddux (ATL) finished 5th, McGriff 8th
Something else that underlines the notion that McGriff was a very good player but not elite was that during this stretch from ’89-’94, easily the most successful run in McGriff’s career, he played for three different teams. Twice, McGriff was traded in-season, once from Toronto to San Diego (for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, mind you), then from San Diego to Atlanta. Also during this stretch, McGriff made only two All-Star appearances.
All of this is backed up by McGriff sporting a career WAR of only 48.2. By no means is that a poor number, especially for a player that managed to extend his playing career to the age of 40. But, only twice in his career did McGriff sport a single-season WAR over 6 (1988-89). Only one other time in his career did McGriff even reach 5 (1990).
Simply put, Fred McGriff was never on the same level with the elite players during his era. He played for a long time, was very good late into his career and amassed large home run totals because of the years he played in the league. However, hitting a lot of home runs doesn’t get you into the Hall of Fame.
He never got to that “next level” that is required to reach Cooperstown. It’s that simple.