After a significant waiting period, which included topping out at approximately 40% on the BBWAA ballot over his first ten Hall of Fame tries, justice has been served for the Crime Dog. Josh Rawitch, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, announced the results of the Contemporary Era Committee that convened at this year's Winter Meetings, resulting in McGriff's inclusion.
Despite facing statistically deep competition, including Roger Clemens (4,672 Ks), Barry Bonds (762 home runs), and Rafael Palmeiro (3,020 hits), McGriff was the only player whose path to the 2023 ceremony was through a veteran's committee. This ends an arduous journey for McGriff, long considered one of the best players to not be enshrined in the institution.
McGriff hit 493 home runs in his career, tied with fellow Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig on the all-time list, finishing seven shy of 500. 500 has long been considered the standard. Without the 1994 player strike, McGriff had already hit 34 home runs at the time of the strike for the Atlanta Braves. The accumulation of his power prowess aside, McGriff slugged. 509 across stints with the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
McGriff was among the best players of his generation, sporting a .284/.377/.509 lifetime slash line. That's good for a 134 career OPS+, or 34% better at the plate than the league average, during the biggest offensive explosion in MLB history. Among players with a 130 OPS+ or higher across at least 9,000 plate appearances that aren't tied to performance enhancing drugs, there are 46 previously selected Hall of Famers (Todd Helton, Fred McGriff) and two players that played in 2022 (Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols). Overall, McGriff collected 2,490 hits across 19 MLB seasons, but his run production was the key to his career. McGriff drove in over 1,500 runs in his Major League career.
Current Washington Nationals radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes, who covered the Rays during both of McGriff's tenures with the ballclub, cited his excellence in run-scoring opportunities as a reason for his inclusion in the museum. "The guy answered the bell. You look at his career and you see how many 100-RBI seasons that he had," Slowes told MLB.com. "Maybe he didn’t have a ton of 40-home run seasons, but he had a lot of 30-home run seasons. He was very consistent."
McGriff was one of the best hitters in his prime, with the Braves catching fire (figuratively and literally, seeing as a press box at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was set ablaze the day of the deal) down the stretch in 1993 after his acquisition. McGriff hit .310 with 19 home runs in 68 games to chase down the Giants in one of MLB's most epic divisional battles. Beyond that, he had been in the top-five in OPS every single year from 1987 to 1994. Despite being dealt to the Padres right before the Blue Jays went back-to-back, McGriff was the cornerstone of a World Series offense in 1995, including a legendary home run off of Orel Hershiser in Game 1.
McGriff was the face of the Rays in their inaugural season in 1998, a homecoming of sorts, as McGriff was one of the most-known products of the early 1980s Tampa scene that developed other top MLB stars such as Padres teammate Gary Sheffied, Dwight Gooden, Tino Martinez, and Luis Gonzalez. McGriff's contract was purchased by the Rays following the 1997 expansion draft, and he batted cleanup on Opening Day. He was dealt to Chicago in July of 2001 but returned to the Rays in 2004 for his last stint in the majors.
As a Ray, McGriff hit .291/.380/.484 with 99 home runs. His 99 home runs were the most in franchise history by a first baseman until Carlos Pena took over the leaderboard in 2009. McGriff currently ranks seventh in franchise history in homeruns.
McGriff finished with the support of all 16 committee voters, needing at least 12 votes for selection. The voting body consisted of former teammates Greg Maddux and Ken Williams, as well as Hall of Famers Alan Trammell, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas, Jack Morris, and Ryne Sandberg. Susan Slusser, Steve Hirdt, Derrick Hall, Arte Moreno, Kim NG, Dave St. Peter, Lavelle Neal, Paul Beeston, and Theo Epstein comprised the committee. Don Mattingly finished second with eight total votes, while Curt Schilling tallied seven and Dale Murphy six.
McGriff will be inducted on July 23rd in Cooperstown. It remains to be seen if anybody will join him, but long-time St. Louis Cardinal Scott Rolen seems to be trending in the right direction toward the 2023 Hall of Fame class. Those selected via the writer's process will be announced on January 24th.
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