By NICK LECO
July 16, 2008
If there was a sports Hall of Fame for best nicknames, Frederick Stanley McGriff would certainly be a first-ballot inductee. Coined “The Crime Dog,” after TV’s fictional police canine, by ESPN‘s Chris Berman, McGriff became synonymous with his nickname and it stuck. But a good nickname is not the only reason baseball fans remember McGriff. He was also a very good player - good enough to be mentioned as a possible Hall of Famer once he becomes eligible in 2009. This week, we’ll take a look at his resume for Cooperstown:
FRED McGRIFF - CAREER STATISTICS
Home Runs: 493
Teams: Blue Jays (1986-1990), Padres (1991-1993), Braves (1993-1997), Devil Rays (1998-2001, 2004), Cubs (2001-2002), Dodgers (2003).
From 1988-2002, a stretch of 15 years, McGriff was one of the most consistent and dependable sluggers in the game. During that period, McGriff hit more than 30 home runs in 10 different seasons, including seven in a row (1988-1994). McGriff became the first person to lead both leagues in home runs, achieving the feat in 1989 (American League) and 1992 (National League). His career total of 493 home runs ranks 25th all-time. McGriff topped 100 RBI eight times in his career. From 1988 to 1994, he had the third highest OPS among all major leaguers, behind only Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas.
During his career McGriff was selected for five All-Star Games - winning the All-Star Game MVP award in 1994 - and won three Silver Slugger awards. He was in the top ten in MVP voting six times - his highest finish being fourth - and received votes in two other years. McGriff also enjoyed a distinguished postseason career. He appeared in the playoffs on five different occasions and was an integral part of the Braves team that won the World Series in 1995. Overall, he batted a solid .303 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 50 postseason games.
Of the 24 players ahead of McGriff on the all-time home list, all are either in the Hall of Fame or likely will be, other than a handful whose Cooperstown worthiness has been called into question because of alleged performing-enhancing drug use. At 493, McGriff is tied with Lou Gehrig on the all-time list and hit more career homeruns than Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski and Cal Ripken, all Hall of Famers. When compared to the other 18 former Major League first baseman already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, McGriff ranks in the top ten in years, games, hits, runs, doubles, home runs and RBI.
McGriff’s career most resembles those of Stargell and Willie McCovey, both of whom were enshrined in their first year of eligibility. Here’s a look at their stats:
Games AB Hits Runs HR RBI AVG
McCovey 2588 8197 2211 1229 521 1555 .270
Stargell 2360 7927 2232 1195 475 1540 .282
McGriff 2460 8757 2490 1349 493 1550 .284
As you can see, McGriff tops Stargell and McCovey in several key categories.
The biggest hit to McGriff’s Hall of Fame resume is his failure to reach 500 home runs, which is a bit unfair. Like the 3,000-hit mark, the 500-home run plateau has always been considered an automatic bid to the Hall of Fame. Granted, the 500-home run mark has lost some its luster due to the steroid era, but except for Mark McGwire and the huge asterisk that looms over his head - as well as Rafael Palmeiro and possibly Sammy Sosa when they are eligible - no one with more than 500 home runs has been denied entrance into the Hall of Fame. It is possible that a measly seven home runs could keep McGriff out of Cooperstown.
McGriff was never considered one of the top three players in the league during his career, which indicates that he may have been just a very good player rather than a great player. As stated before, he never finished higher than fourth in his league’s MVP voting. In fact, it can be argued that he was never even one of the top three at his position during his era. A case can be made that contemporaries Thomas, Jeff Bagwell and Jim Thome all enjoyed better careers than McGriff.
McGriff was never known for excellent defense despite a high fielding percentage, and he never won a Gold Glove award. Other than home runs, McGriff did not rank particularly high on the all-time list in any other significant categories. Though he ranks a respectable 40th all-time in RBI, he’s just 100th in runs, 94th in doubles and 89th in hits. The one category he does rank in the top ten in is strikeouts, with 1,882 (eighth).
McGriff may fall into the Dwight Evans trap. “Dewey” failed to garner enough votes in to remain on the ballot in his first year of eligibility and thus wasn’t considered in future years, even though, I think, he is a borderline Hall of Famer. If McGriff can get enough votes in 2009 to qualify for future years, I think he will eventually get in. It may take him a while, but 493 home runs is a lot to overlook and eventually McGriff will get more credit for doing it without taking performance enhancing drugs. He was a model of consistency and excellence for many years. Pretty much every year, you could pencil McGriff in for 30 homers and 90 to 100 RBI. McGriff is by no means a lock or a first-ballot Hall of Famer, nor should he be, but his solid overall track record Cooperstown someday.
Nick Leco’s Cooperstown Bound? column runs every Wednesday here on National Pastime.
Photo by The Associated Press
Be sure to check out our previous Cooperstown Bound? columns: Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Omar Vizquel, Don Mattingly, Curt Schilling, Andre Dawson, Kenny Lofton.