One of the most consistent run producers and clutch performers of his era, Fred McGriff was finally inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame this past weekend.
It’s been almost two decades since McGriff collected the last of his 2,490 career hits, 493 home runs, and 1,550 RBI. The “Crime Dog” wasn’t the flashiest first basemen, but he was a vital component to contending teams for most of his 19 seasons spent in the big leagues.
erhaps McGriff would have drawn more attention had he stayed with the team that drafted him—the New York Yankees. Instead, he played in the relatively small markets of Toronto, San Diego, and Atlanta for the majority of his career.
Fred McGriff was awesome from day 1
McGriff was a great player, quite literally right off the bat. He hit 20 home runs as a rookie for the Blue Jays, and then proceeded to hit at least 30 home runs each season for the next seven seasons, leading the American League in 1989 and then the National League in 1992. He was the first player since the dead-ball era to achieve that feat.
Between 1989 and 1994, spanning two leagues and three teams, no one in Major League Baseball hit more home runs than Fred McGriff.
Teammates changed. Scenery changed. Fred McGriff remained constant, never hitting fewer than 31 homers or driving in less than 88 runs in a season.
He was just as formidable in the postseason, batting in the middle of the lineup of those great Braves teams. During Atlanta’s 1995 run to the World Series championship, McGriff had 19 hits in 14 games, including four homers, nine RBI, and 14 runs scored.
Fred McGriff reached the postseason five times in his career and appeared in 10 series. His batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, were all higher in the playoffs than in the regular season.
During his peak seasons, he averaged .289/.543/.936 over 147 games with 35 home runs and 98 RBI, while scoring 91 runs. Last season, Paul Goldschmidt was the only first baseman to reach those marks.
McGriff’s numbers would probably be even better if not for the strike in 1994. That season, McGriff was batting .318 with 34 home runs and 94 RBI in only 113 games.
McGriff’s clean greatness overshadowed by PED era
Even as home runs started to fly out of the parks during the “steroid-era” of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he moved into his mid-30s, Fred McGriff was still keeping pace. Between the ages of 35–38, he slashed .291/.512/.891, averaging 30 home runs, 104 RBI, and 73 runs.
Again, Goldschmidt would be the only current first baseman to put up those kinds of numbers in all of baseball.
He and fellow MLBbro Gary Sheffield are the only players to hit 30 or more home runs for five different teams.
McGriff smiled a lot, but didn’t say very much. He never hit 40 home runs in a season. The best seasons of his career were overshadowed by trades and one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled.
Perennial MVP candidate
But we need to put some respect on the name of the man who helped sell thousands upon thousands of videos for Tom Emansky and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times.
Crime Dog wasn’t built like a comic book character. Perhaps he was the Batman in an era of supermen. But no one can overlook McGriff now. He’s enshrined where many of those peers whose numbers were artificially enhanced cannot find a way past the gatekeepers. This is not a moral judgment of those who allegedly or admittedly inflated their bodies and their stats. It is a recognition of a man who put up numbers that would make him great in any era.
Fred McGriff has been a Hall of Famer. It just took longer than it should have for that to be made official.
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