On January 9, 2013, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be announcing the names of any players that were selected for enshrinement by the BBWAA. Presently, only one player that has ever worn the uniform of the Rays or the earlier Devil Rays is currently in the Hall – Wade Boggs. This year, there are several players on the ballot who have also worn the Devil Rays uniform, allowing for the possibility that another Tampa player may be enshrined.
Of the returning players on the ballot, only Fred McGriff was a member of the Rays franchise. Presently in his fourth year on the ballot, he received his highest voting percentage last year, garnering 23.9% of the vote in 2012. Over his career, McGriff produced a batting line of .284/.377/.509 with 493 home runs, 1550 RBIs, and 2490 hits. A five time All-Star selection who won the All-Star Game MVP award in 1994, and a three time Silver Slugger, McGriff also finished in the top ten in the MVP award for six consecutive years between 1989 and 1994.
McGriff, however, seems to be a victim of timing. He was a solid power hitter just before and during the steroid era. Although he led the league in home runs twice in 1989 and in 1992, he never hit more than 37 home runs in any one season. He also just missed a career total of 500 home runs, a number that generally means automatic induction, aside from those suspected to be PED users. In fact, even though the voters have shied away from voting for those who were known or suspected PED users, their inflated numbers have made McGriff’s statistical contributions appear diminished. Had he played a decade earlier, McGriff may have been a Hall of Fame player, but unfortunately, he is likely to find himself on the outside again this year.
There are also two new players on the ballot with ties to the Rays: Roberto Hernandez and Julio Franco. Hernandez made the second of his two career All-Star Games in 1999 as a member of the Devil Rays, and even garnered a vote for the Cy Young award that year. For his career, Hernandez had a record of 67-71 with a 3.45 ERA and 326 saves. While he was a good closer for most of his career, Hernandez never led the league in saves, and was generally considered a solid player. While being a solid pitcher was enough to keep Hernandez in the league for 17 years, the two total votes he received for the Cy Young Award may be more than he receives on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Franco’s career in Tampa consisted of exactly one at bat. On September 22, 1999, Franco entered the game as a pinch hitter for first baseman Steve Cox, and struck out after a five pitch at bat. This was the only major league at bat Franco had from 1998 through 2000. Yet, even though his brief time in Tampa was less than inspiring, he had a 30 year professional career, playing for eight major league teams, as well as playing in Mexico, Korea, and Japan.
A three time All-Star and a five time winner of the Silver Slugger award, Franco produced a major league batting line of .298/.365/.417 with 173 home runs, 1194 RBIs, 281 stolen bases and 2586 hits. If his totals from Mexico, Japan, and Korea are added, Franco would have 3546 hits, with over 200 home runs and over 300 steals, numbers that would have given Franco a strong case for induction. However, his numbers in foreign leagues don’t count towards what voters see on the ballot. While Franco would likely make the Hall of Very Good, he likely will not be enshrined into the Hall of Fame, and may find himself off the ballot after this year.
In time, another player with ties to the Rays organization may end up making the Hall, joining Boggs in that elite fraternity. However, it is unlikely to happen this year.