TORONTO — As Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice step off the stage today in Cooperstown, N.Y., following their induction into the Hall of Fame, Rays special adviser Fred McGriff steps into the spotlight.
McGriff goes on the ballot starting with the next election, and the Tampa native, who played 3½ seasons for the Rays and returned briefly in 2004 to finish his 19-year career, presents an interesting case.
His basic numbers are pretty good — 493 homers, 1,550 RBIs, a .284 average. Further research by Rays VP Rick Vaughn makes them look even better, noting that all eligible players with similar triple crown category numbers are in and that McGriff compares very favorably with other first baseman in the Hall, as well as those in his era. (go to blogs.tampabay.com/rays for more).
And there's this:
"I take a lot of pride knowing I worked hard to play the game for 18 or so years," McGriff said. "I know I can take to my grave I didn't do steroids, performance-enhancing drugs, whatever you want to say. I played the game the correct way."
That being said, the question then becomes how much better McGriff's numbers should look given that so many of his contemporaries have either admitted, been accused of or caught cheating.
McGriff is cautious to provide the answer. "To say my numbers should be judged better because some of those guys are considered having used steroids, I don't know if that's the right wording," he said.
Rather, he'd prefer to be judged on his consistency, on his reputation among his peers, and his work ethic, and not on the flaws of others.
But, he allowed, if some of the acknowledged users got elected and he didn't, "then that's a different story."
McGriff probably isn't a first-ballot choice, meaning he's likely to spend at least several years on the ballot for Hall voters — 10-year plus members of the Baseball Writers Association of America — to fully evaluate his candidacy.
"For a 10-15 period," he said, "I was right up there with supposedly the great ballplayers."
Former Rays GM Chuck LaMar said there should be little debate. "Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer in my mind," he said. "And there's no question he did it the right way."