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It’s a Crime, Dog

January 13, 2019

Hugh Atkins

It’s time for my annual rant about Fred McGriff and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball’s Crime Dog is on the ballot for the tenth and final year, and according to the website Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker, he will not receive the required 75 percent of votes necessary for enshrinement. While that may not be an actual crime, it definitely is a shame.

As of the time of this post, McGriff is listed on 60 of 169 ballots, putting him at 35 percent. So, even if he received a vote on each of the 243 remaining ballots, he still would be six votes shy of the 309 needed for 75 percent.

© T.C.G.

I admit that, as an Atlanta Braves fan, McGriff holds a special place in my heart. On July 20, 1993, the Braves were 53-41, nine games behind the San Francisco Giants in the National League West. The Braves needed help and they got it in a trade with the San Diego Padres that brought McGriff to Atlanta, and the impact was immediate.

A fire broke out in the press box of Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium that night, delaying the start of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Once the action started, the Braves fell behind 5-0, but McGriff tied the score with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Braves went on to win 8-5. After McGriff’s arrival, the Braves won 51 of their remaining 68 games and won the NL West title, finishing one game ahead of the Giants.

My loyalty to the Braves aside, McGriff’s career numbers clearly merit induction into the Hall of Fame. He hit 493 home runs, drove in 1,550 runs, and finished with a .284 batting average. McGriff was the first player to lead each league in home runs, and he hit 30 or more homers for five different teams; he hit over 30 home runs in a season 10 times and 20 or more in a season 15 times.

McGriff’s 1,550 runs batted in are more than many players already in the Hall of Fame, including Willie Stargell (1,540), Mickey Mantle (1,509), Billy Williams (1,475), Ed Mathews (1,453), Jim Rice (1.451), Orlando Cepeda (1,365), and Duke Snider (1,333). McGriff’s 493 home runs tie him with Lou Gehrig and are more than Stan Musial (475), Stargell (475), Dave Winfield (465), Carl Yastrzemski (452), Williams (426), and Snider (407).

Stargell had a .282 batting average to go along with his 475 homers and 1,540 RBIs; McGriff topped all those numbers. Stargell made it into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. If Stargell was such an obvious choice, then it seems to me that McGriff should have made it into the Hall, and it shouldn’t have taken 10 years for it to happen.

Braves infielders Mark Lemke (left) and Jeff Blauser (right) during the press box fire at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on July 20, 1993.

The only explanation I can offer for McGriff’s low vote totals is that the writers seem to think that 493 home runs and the rest of his offensive numbers aren’t as impressive as they used to be. Well, the reason the measly 493 homers that McGriff and Gehrig hit aren’t what they used to be is due to the players who used performance-enhancing drugs. Some writers will not vote for players associated with PEDs, but some of those same voters also must be penalizing players like McGriff.

Barry Bonds, the personification of the steroids era, sits at 72.2 percent with 122 votes, so he needs to get 187 more votes, or 76.9 percent, on the remaining ballots. That seems unlikely, but he still is going to get a lot closer than McGriff, and with three more years on the ballot, Bonds just might make it in the next year or two.

Of the 169 ballots reported, 83 writers voted for Bonds and did not vote for McGriff; Peter Gammons was one of them. Twenty-one writers voted for McGriff, but left Bonds off their ballots; Terrence Moore and David O’Brien, writers with close association with the Braves, were among them. Thirty-nine writers voted for both Bonds and McGriff; Bob Nightingale of USA Today was one of them. Twenty-six writers voted for neither Bonds nor McGriff. Of the four anonymous writers among the 169, three voted for neither Bonds nor McGriff while one voted for both.

The good news for McGriff is that the Today’s Era Committee just put Harold Baines in the Hall of Fame. While I could fill at least another entire post on whether Baines deserves to be in the Hall, I don’t see how the Today’s Era Committee could pass on McGriff, but stranger things have happened. Like a player of Fred McGriff’s quality and character not making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame after 10 ballots.

(All statistics are from baseball-reference.com, and all game details are from retrosheet.org.)

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Wallace permalink
    January 14, 2019 3:31 pm

    Agreed 100%. I’m a Reds fan. He used to destroy the Reds regardless of which NL team he was with. When contending clubs needed a middle-of-the-order bat, he was the guy chosen, time and time again. For ten years I have watched HoF voters minimize his place in the game. It’s a damn shame.

    Liked by 1 person

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