Fred McGriff's case for the Hall of Fame is based on voters rewarding his consistency and recognizing his reputation for producing big numbers without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
But after falling far short of election in results announced Wednesday — only Andre Dawson was voted in; Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar just missed — McGriff was left to wonder if that will be enough.
"It seems like people are thinking less about the steroids issue now," McGriff, 46, said. "It's like they came to the conclusion that the Steroids Era was all good, and it's over with now."
McGriff was named on only 21.5 percent (116) of the 539 ballots returned, far from the 75 percent (405) needed for election. Perhaps more telling, he received 12 fewer votes than Mark McGwire, whose is widely considered to have benefited from chemical enhancement. (McGwire's total went up 10 from last year.)
McGriff's case may improve with time, and with other Steroids Era products such as Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds joining the ballot in future years, it will remain an interesting study. McGriff will remain on the ballot for 14 more years as long as he gets at least 5 percent of the vote each time.
The Tampa native and former Ray, who hit 493 homers in a 19-year career, was realistic about his chances for election his first year on the ballot. "I knew it would be tough," he said.
Seeing Alomar, whom many expected to sail in, finish eight votes shy reinforced that.
Overall, McGriff said he was surprised that Blyleven, who missed by five votes, didn't make it.
And knowing it took Dawson until his ninth year on the ballot (he started with 45 percent in his first year), and Jim Rice (29.8 percent) until his 15th and final year before that, provided some solace.
"Those guys were great players and they put up some great numbers," McGriff said. "It's out of your control. I've been blessed to play 19 years, and I had a great time. All you can do is keep going. And keep campaigning."
Only two players have been elected by the writers (under the current system adopted in 1967) after getting a lower percentage than McGriff in their first year of eligibility: Duke Snider, who started with 17 percent in 1970 and was elected in 1980, and Don Drysdale, who got 21 percent in 1975 and was elected in 1984.
Dawson, an all-around star who played 21 seasons with the Expos, Cubs, Red Sox and Marlins, said he learned to temper his optimism each year. "If you're a Hall of Famer, eventually you're going to get in no matter how long it takes," Dawson, 55, said.
It was the first time in the voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America that two candidates missed by fewer than 10 votes. (There were five ballots returned blank.)
With his vote total increasing from 338 to 400 this year, Blyleven, 58, who had a 287-250 record and 3,701 strikeouts, would appear likely to be elected next year.