Tampa native Fred McGriff is once again in consideration for the National Baseball Hall of Fame heading into the 2023 balloting season. This time, however, the first baseman's career will be reflected upon by his peers.
McGriff, nicknamed "Crime Dog" due to a Chris Berman play on his last name, was one of the most potent hitters without PED stigma in an era surrounded by fields of gray. McGriff's 2490 hits, 493 home runs, and 1550 RBI, among the top performers of his era through a traditional lens. Furthermore, his case is only bolstered by his .284/.377/.509 slash. Among players to debut in the Majors since the end of the Second World War, Fred McGriff is one of only two first basemen to post 490 home runs, 2490 hits, 1500 RBI, and at least an .880 OPS. The only other player to do so is Rafael Palmeiro, a member of the 3,000 hit club who'd be a lock if not for a 2005 suspension for performance enhancing B-12 Vitamin. Palmeiro will also be considered by this same committee.
Perhaps the biggest knock on McGriff is his lack of an eye-popping number amidst the biggest explosion of offense in baseball history. Every member of the 500-homerun club, with the exception of suspected PED users and two players who were active in the 2022 season, is currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame. In the 1994 strike-shortened season, McGriff was in arguably his best Major League season for the Atlanta Braves and had hit 34 home runs in just 113 games. With a full season, McGriff would've collected the seven additional home runs necessary for inclusion.
McGriff's case across 19 seasons with the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Rays, Cubs, and Dodgers goes beyond his baseball reference page, with many players citing McGriff as the spark in Atlanta that led them to their division championship over the Giants in 1993. The day that the Braves acquired McGriff in a July blockbuster, a press box caught fire at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. That night, the Braves busted out of a slump and went on a hot streak the rest of the season, led by a Fred McGriff homer. The team went 50-17 the rest of the way with McGriff in the heart of the lineup, hitting to an OPS over 1.000 as the Braves barely squeaked into the playoffs. "McGriff sure lit a fire under us," quipped Hall of Fame teammate Tom Glavine, looking back on the incident. McGriff's postseason heroics were key to a 1995 Braves World Championship.
While only one of McGriff's five All-Star selections came as a Devil Ray, he was still a potent bat with the ballclub. The pride of Jefferson High School off West Cypress hit .291/.380/.484 across two stints with his hometown team. His 99 home runs were the most by a Rays first baseman until Carlos Pena took over the leaderboard in the 2009 season. McGriff ranks seventh in franchise history in home runs.
Fred McGriff has as many home runs as Lou Gehrig, a higher OPS than Gil Hodges, and more hits than Frank Thomas. He stacks up rather nicely amongst the game's premier first basemen. As the committee members are set to ponder which three players they're going to give their vote to, it becomes easy to speculate how voting will pan out. The committee bodies have voted in an ample amount of players recently, ranging from overdue candidates such as Ted Simmons to surefire bets like Lee Smith to players that have left fans and experts alike scratching their heads, à la Harold Baines. While the committees are too fickle to adequately project, McGriff seems like an ideal candidate for election.
Other players on the ballot include Palmiero, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Albert Belle, Dale Murphy, Barry Bonds, and Don Mattingly. The committee will convene at the Winter Meetings just under a month from now, on December 4th. An eligible player must appear on a minimum of 12 of the 16 ballots to join the players selected on the BBWAA ballot in January.
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