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Fred McGriff on Hall vote: "It's going to be interesting"

5

January

Tampa’s Fred McGriff doesn’t really know what to expect when results of the Hall of Fame balloting are announced Wednesday afternoon.

The former Ray is on the ballot for the first time, and has candidacy has been a popular topic of discussion among Hall voters given his credentials (493 homers) and reputation for playing clean.

“It’s going to be interesting,’’ McGriff said Tuesday afternoon. “A lot of people have been asking me, “What do you think, are you going to get in?” (Wednesday) it will come to a head.’ ‘’

A player needs 75 percent of the vote of be elected, and at least 5 percent to stay on the ballot, which he can for up to 15 years. Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson and Jack Morris are among the top returnees on this ballot; Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez and McGriff lead the newcomers.

Here, for example, is what espn.com's Jayson Stark wrote about McGriff:

I'll be honest. I have no idea if Fred McGriff is going to get 6 percent of the votes on Wednesday or 60. But watch his vote total closely -- because it's going to tell us a lot about how voters now look at what used to be magic Hall of Fame numbers.

McGriff didn't hit 500 homers, but he missed by only seven. He didn't rack up 2,500 hits, but he missed by only 10. He slugged over .500 (.509), drove in 1,550 runs and fell just short of a .900 career OPS (.887). And if you don't think those are Hall of Fame numbers, answer me this:

How many players in history have displayed those numbers on any Hall ballot and not gotten elected?

The answer is zero. None.

So the big rationale not to vote for McGriff, obviously, is that those stats don't mean what they used to mean -- that they might have made you a dominant slugger once but they didn't in McGriff's era. Or something like that.

But as I pointed out in this blog a few weeks ago, McGriff WAS a dominator before the steroids era really kicked in, in 1993. In the five seasons before that, he won two home run titles, and he was the only player in baseball who finished in the top four in his league in homers, home run ratio and OPS in all five seasons.

After that, McGriff's numbers looked almost exactly the same for the next decade as they'd looked before (.283/.393/.531 from 1988 to 1992, versus .290/.373/.506 from 1993 to 2002) -- as sure an indication he was clean as you'll get without a drug test. So was it HIS fault that a 35-homer, 104-RBI season was league-leader material in 1992, but made a guy Just Another Slugger in 2001? It shouldn't be. Should it?

So McGriff's candidacy raises this monumental Hall of Fame issue:

Are voters going to have to adjust their standards to account for what constitutes Hall of Fame numbers in the post-steroids era? Of course. But does it make sense to penalize the great players who stayed clean during that era? Uh, not to me.

So I had no trouble casting a vote for Fred McGriff. I can't wait to see how many other voters do the same.

And this from Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News:

For a long time during his career with the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Rays, Cubs and Dodgers, McGriff was the last guy you would want to see batting in the ninth inning with a game on the line. Hit 30 or more homers 10 times, including seven straight seasons, and had a .992 fielding percentage at first.

And this from Joe Posnanski of SI.com, who didn't vote for McGriff:

McGriff has a powerful Hall of Fame case. He hit 493 home runs. He put up a 134 OPS+, which is excellent. He hit 30-plus homers 10 times -- twice led the league -- and he drove in 100-plus runs eight times. He would not be anywhere close to the worst player in the Hall of Fame.

But McGriff's argument is sort of the opposite of Mattingly's: At no point was Fred McGriff one of the best players in baseball. He only once managed 30 Win Shares, which is sort of the MVP cutoff point, and he wasn't an especially good defensive first baseman, and he could not run and so on. To me, if you are going to get to the Hall of Fame entirely on your bat, you need to hit at a historic pace -- like Edgar Martinez or Mark McGwire did. McGriff, I think, is a notch or two below Martinez and McGwire. I think he's probably a notch below his contemporary Will Clark, who did not get much Hall of Fame consideration.

But McGriff was really good, and I expect to re-examine his case for the next few years.

The complete ballot:

Roberto Alomar
Kevin Appier
Harold Baines
Bert Blyleven
Ellis Burks
Andre Dawson
Andres Galarraga
Pat Hentgen
Mike Jackson
Eric Karros
Ray Lankford
Barry Larkin
Edgar Martinez
Don Mattingly
Fred McGriff
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Dave Parker
Tim Raines
Shane Reynolds
David Segui
Lee Smith
Alan Trammell
Robin Ventura
Todd Zeile

[Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2010 12:15am]

    

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