In yesterday’s column I championed Tim Raines for inclusion in the Hall of Fame in HOF: Tim Raines. Today, I’ll take a look at a player who in no way resembled the fleet of foot Raines, but that doesn’t mean that Fred McGriff doesn’t deserve some serious consideration for addition to the hallowed halls of the shrine in Cooperstown.
Consistency vs. Greatness
Yes he played in the era of the lively ball, expansion, and steroids, but Mr. McGriff was never even remotely attached to the muscle bounds freaks that dominated his era. Despite this fact, McGriff still posted some pretty special numbers over the years, though as you might gather from the title of this section, he never really took his game to the level of greatness. Here is what I mean.
* McGriff hit 493 homers in his career, good enough for a 26th place all-time tie with the incomparable Lou Gehrig.
* McGriff finished in the top-5 in his league in home runs seven times pacing his league twice (1989 and 1992).
* From 1988-1994 he hit at least 31 homers each season, and 10 times in his career he hit at least 30 bombs.
* Eight times he knocked in at least 100 runs, and four other times he was in the 90′s.
* Overall he knocked in 1,550 runs, the 41st best mark ever.
* McGriff finished with 958 extra base hits in his career, good enough for 42nd all-time (his 441 doubles rank 99th).
* McGriff produced a Runs Created mark of 1,704 – good for 45th all-time.
That’s a pretty darn impressive run of effectiveness. At the same time there is some downside as well.
First off, McGriff hit “only” .284 in his career with four season of at least .300. Solid numbers to be sure, but far from outstanding.
Second, though he hit all those homers he never reached 40 homers in a season. Heck, even a guy like Adrian Beltre did that once.
Third, despite all the RBI, he never once reached even 110 RBI in a season.
Fourth, never fleet of foot, McGriff scored 100 runs only twice and he never swiped more than eight bags in a season.
Fifth, and this is where the argument against McGriff is most acute, the man was named to only five All-Star teams. There were certainly a virtual pantheon of terrific first baseman chosen instead of McGriff through the years, but the fact of the matter is that McGriff was rarely, if ever, considered to be the best first baseman in his league. Moreover, McGriff had only one top-5 finish in the MVP voting (he was fourth in 1993).
A man that McGriff is often compared to is Willie McCovey because both men swung left-handed and played first base. How do McGriff’s career numbers stack up against the Giants’ great? Quite well actually.
McGriff: .284-493-1,550-1,349-72 with a .886 OPS
McCovey: .270-521-1,555-1,229-26 with a .889 OPS
Based solely on numbers, there is little difference between the two. Of course this leaves aside the real test which is comparing a players’ numbers to those men that played in the same era against the same level of competition. Without getting into an overly technical comparison in that respect, let me spell it out for you very clearly. McCovey was more highly thought of than McGriff during his career, not to mention that he produced his numbers in an era when pitchers had a much higher degree of success than they did during the majority of McGriff’s career.
Those people that voted for Jim Rice will also likely vote for McGriff. It’s not that it would be a horrible inclusion to the Hall, after all his totals in a myriad of categories do place him in a position to be considered one of the best, it’s just that for those of us who watched McGriff, did any of us ever think we were in the presence of greatness when we saw him sock a homer? As a voter the decision has to be made – do you reward consistency in which case McGriff is a lock, or do you sit back and say that the Hall of Fame is a place for greatness, and by that standard Fred McGriff can knock on the door though no one will ever answer.
By Ray Flowers