Hall of Fame Debate - Fred McGriff

One of our serial topics involves Hall of Fame legitimacy among players that are not highly regarded as automatic bids. Starting with McGriff, we're going to offer a pro and con perspective to the player's Hall worthiness. The best debates occur when the opposing sides are truly opposite opinions in thought. Such is the case with Fred McGriff. I'll present the "pro" side of McGriff's candidacy and my colleague will provide the "con" side.

Pro McGriff HOF (Mc)

Fred McGriff was a picture of consistency during his MLB career. He spent 10 seasons in both the American League and National League while hitting exactly .284 in each league. He had a quiet dominance about him, always helping his team, but not having jump out numbers. Although they played different positions, he reminds me of Dave Winfield with respect to consistency and year after year production. He topped 30 homers in 10 seasons and 100 RBI in 8 seasons (90 RBI in an additional 4 seasons).

Of the hitters to amass 15 seasons of 20 or more homeruns, every single player but one (A-Rod) is in the HOF except McGriff. In fact of all the players with more homers than McGriff, all are in the HOF, are not yet Hall eligible, or are severely stained with a PED stigma. Same is virtually true of McGriff's RBI numbers which total 1550. The only player with more that is Hall eligible or not tainted by PEDs is Harold Baines (who may end up in a debate similar to this one eventually).

Here comes the obligatory argument. McGriff was overshadowed by players that have been subsequently shown to have used PEDs or the case against them is overwhelming. So the question, which can only be answered individually, involves whether or not McGriff's numbers should be given more weight than the likes of those tainted players? I've resigned myself to the fact that the PED boys will eventually get in. If that's the case, I feel McGriff should be put in for his consistent body of work without a shred of implication involving PEDs.

Finally, if nothing else, he should make the Hall for those rockin' Tom Emansky training videos!!

Con (OCP)

It's hard not to like McGriff.  Like any good player, he worked hard and made his teammates better.  Plus, as far as nicknames go, it doesn't get much better than the Crime Dog but (and you knew this was coming) the Hall of Fame is reserved for greatness and in my opinion, McGriff doesn't pass the 'eye' test.

Watching Fred McGriff, I would say that he benefited from the talent around him as much as anyone but in the end, he was never really the best player on his own team, in his own league or at his own position. Yes, he was overshadowed by a few of the known PED users later in his career but he was also overshadowed by a lot of clean players in his leagues, at his position and on his own teams.  My main argument in support of this statement: he only started in two all-star games in his career and boasts only one top five MVP finish (and he wasn't the highest finisher on his own team in that year).

Early on, McGriff was overshadowed by teammates Kelly Gruber, Joe Carter and George Bell as well as some all-star first basemen like Jack Clark, Will Clark and Eddie Murray. Later, in San Diego, it was teammates Tony Gwynn and Gary Sheffield that were regarded as more important.  And finally, during McGriff's tenure in Atlanta, it was the pitching staff and guys like Chipper Jones, Ron Gant, Andruw Jones and David Justice that are largely credited for the success of those great Braves teams.

In the mid to late nineties when steroids became prevalent, McGriff was in his mid thirties and his numbers were already on the decline.  I would argue that it wasn't steroids that took the luster away from McGriff in his mid thirties, it was age and the emergence of some great first basemen... guys like Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and Andres Gallaraga.  From 1995 until 2003 (his last relevant season), McGriff averaged 25 HR and a .285 batting average. Those are nice numbers but not Hall worthy.  Plus, it's no secret McGriff wasn't a great defensive player- no Gold Gloves and very limited range at first.  I think that his defensive ineptness definitely hurts his case.  He was regarded by many as a well above average hitter who was limited in the field and I think that's why he ended up a journeyman, considered somewhat expendable. But even the detractors, like me, have to admit that McGriff played well beyond expectations over the course of a consistent career and that's really why it's a good debate. Honestly, I'd like to see McGriff get in, as a man, but as a player, over the course of 19 seasons, he was a beacon of consistently good with very few glimpses of great and I'm not sure that's enough.


  1. One area where McGriff also gets overlooked is his position. With his numbers, as say a 2B or 3B, he'd be a lock Hall of Famer.

    I hear what you're saying about him not being dominant, and that's why he's on the fence. He was also not a great defensive 1B. To me, though, I feel like he had some of the intangibles that Jim Rice had. People feared McGriff and what he could do, there was an intimidation about him.

    What does everyone else think? Weigh in with your comments about Crime Dog's legitimacy.

  2. I think Crime Dog's career compares closely to Tony Perez. Never the best player on his team or in the league. Not great defensively, but always known as a clutch hitter. My one knock against him is he was traded a lot. Not a sign of a great player. I could never figure out why he was traded so much. Power hitting first baseman who are left-handed are always a hot commodity. I always liked McGriff and you guys made good arguments both ways, but I say he was not a hall of famer, but I think he eventually gets in.

  3. To clear up an error in the "con" argument, McGriff and Carter weren't teammates--they were actually traded for each other (McGriff to SD, Carter to TOR). And I don't think it's fair to say he was ever overshadowed by Kelly Gruber. McGriff was the star of those Blue Jay teams from '88 to '90; it's just that he was so young that a guy like George Bell had more name recognition. Compare McGriff's OPS from '88-'90 to Bell's or Gruber's. No contest. Imagine what the Padres' GM would have said if the Blue Jays had offered Tony Fernandez and either Kelly Gruber or George Bell for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. People who knew baseball knew how special McGriff was, even if it took fans a while to catch up. Was he sometimes outshined on a team by another player? Yes, but there were so many "fluke" offensive stars in the '90s--guys who looked like future Hall-of-Famers for a few years but then faded away. The era was littered with guys who burned like a rocket for a while and then tapered off quickly --and of course a lot of this has to do with the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs. Fred maximized his NATURAL talent over a long span and helped his team win the best he could.

    The steroid era has desensitized us to stats. There was a time when 493 home runs was eye-popping. Like, you'd look at Lou Gehrig's 493 or Stan Musial's 475 in their career stats and say, "Wow." Now we yawn, because we're so accustomed to hearing how such-and-such has just hit his 500th or even 600th. And you hardly even react. If Sosa had discovered a mega-steroid that would have allowed him to reach 1000 career home runs, a typical reaction might have been: "Hmmm, a thousand, that's a lot. But his home run total was down from 94 last year to just 57 this year, so he sort of limped his way past the 1000 threshold." I'm exaggerating, but that's how the steroid era has tainted our perception of home run totals and what constitutes an impressive statistical feat.

    493 CLEAN home runs--with a .284 career average and over 1500 RBI--should get you in the Hall. Period.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.

    I think the point I was trying to make with McGriff and Carter was that people don't associate the early 90's Blue Jays with Fred McGriff. They remember those teams because of Joe Carter and George Bell and a lot of other players. They don't associate the Braves of the 90's with Fred McGriff... McGriff was an important part of every team he played for but he was always third man on the totem pole. Right or wrong, he was overshadowed.

    I think that a player's career is sort of defined by how he is treated in his final years... his swan song. If he retires and no one knows, the media pundits have no story... his legacy is never truly defined. It sounds stupid but you have to go out with a bang otherwise no one remembers how good you were. For a guy like McGriff, who never really settled in anywhere, it's tough to ride off into the sunset as the hero. Are there less deserving players in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely... if I had a vote, I would have to do some serious soul searching. Generally, I think that the Hall of Fame has been watered down a bit over the years. Does Fred McGriff fall into that category? And is it a bad thing that the Hall has become watered down? There has always been this preconceived notion that there is a "Hall Within the Hall," for first ballot entries... a guy like Fred McGriff certainly doesn't make the grade at that level but as Tom mentioned, all of the players with more HR than McGriff fall into one of three categories: in the Hall, tainted by the stigma of PED's or not yet eligible. Same is virtually true for his RBI total (1550). This debate is about as close as it gets.


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