Fred McGriff may one day be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But the past 10 years have shown his impressive career may have been underappreciated.
When this year’s Hall of Fame balloting results were announced Tuesday night, McGriff learned he had been included on just 39.8 of the ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. This was the 10th and final season of ballot eligibility for the former first baseman, who had never previously received more than 23.9 percent of the votes.
Though McGriff never came close to reaching the 75 percent threshold necessary to gain enshrinement, he’ll stand as a strong candidate when he becomes eligible to be elected by the Modern Game Era committee. Alan Trammell, Harold Baines, Jack Morris and Lee Smith have been elected via this process within the past two years.
As McGriff earned six consecutive top 10 finishes in MVP Award voting from 1989-94, he hit 14 more home runs than any other Major Leaguer and produced an fWAR that was better than everybody not named Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr. or Cal Ripken Jr. Six seasons of success do not equate to a Hall of Fame career, but these six specific years provide a glimpse of the lofty perch upon which McGriff stood before the inflated numbers produced by Bonds and others that prompted baseball to institute testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
McGriff finished his 19-year career with a .284 batting average, a .377 on-base percentage, a .509 slugging percentage and 493 home runs (tied with Lou Gehrig for No. 28). The five-time All-Star first baseman might have reached the 500-homer plateau had portions of the 1994 and ’95 seasons not been erased by a work stoppage.
While the homer total stands as a significant variable within this evaluation, it’s still noteworthy that McGriff is just one of 16 players to hit .280 with a .375 OBP, .500 SLG and at least 490 home runs. The 15 others are Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, Mel Ott, Gary Sheffield, Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Mickey Mantle, Frank Thomas, Jimmy Foxx, Manny Ramirez, Ted Williams, Gehrig and Bonds. McGriff broke into the Majors with the Blue Jays in 1986 and experienced his first full season two years later.
From 1988-97, he hit the third-most homers in the Majors (trailing only Bonds and Mark McGwire) and ranked eighth with a 43.2 fWAR. The seven players who ranked ahead of him within this 10-season span included six Hall of Famers — Griffey, Ripken, Barry Larkin, Thomas, Henderson and Wade Boggs — and Bonds.