By In Baseball, Hall of Fame

A thought on McGriff

Had a fun time conversation on MLB Now with Brian Kenny. I guess my pal Bill James was there too though he didn’t get in on the conversation until the very end … it was Brian and me. I like arguing with him. He’s smart and passionate, and we have some good bouts.

This time, he hit me with something a bit surprising. He made the argument that the steroid guys — by hitting SO many home runs — have hurt the Hall of Fame chances of Fred McGriff because now his 493 home runs don’t look nearly as impressive.

I guess I’ve heard this argument before, but I probably didn’t pay much attention to it because I felt a little caught off-guard. He wanted me to respond, and I had to think of something to say. Something about what he was saying struck me wrong. Is McGriff getting overlooked because we are no longer impressed by 493 career home runs? I suppose it’s possible, but at that moment, I felt the exact opposite was much more likely.

So, off the cuff, I said the exact opposite. I said that, rather than hurt guys like McGriff (and Jim Rice and Andre Dawson), the PED-infused home run numbers have HELPED those guys. Why? Because the voting constituency is desperately eager to find steroid-clean candidates they can feel good about. Jim Rice was a power hitter with 382 career home runs, and in 1999, he was getting less than 30 percent of the vote. Then, as the steroid story unfolded, Rice’s numbers rapidly rose until he was elected. Jim Rice was a hero that voters could believe in.

Fred McGriff, I said, is a favorite candidate of quite a few voters precisely BECAUSE he is presumed clean. Brian powerfully disagreed with me — even using the line I once used on Mad Dog Russo, “I disagree with everything you just said” — and I listened for a bit after my segment was up and heard Jon Heyman also disagree. Jon is a big McGriff guy. I get that. McGriff was a terrific player. And I certainly could be wrong.

But I will say after pondering: I think I’m right.

Fred McGriff has 52.4 career WAR according to Baseball Reference, which places him ninth among first basemen not in the Hall of Fame. Now, this list does include Mark McGwire, who admitted using PEDs, Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive, and Jeff Bagwell, who has had to shake the unsubstantiated whispers. So let’s not talk about them for a moment.

The list also includes Keith Hernandez, Will Clark, and John Olerud. All three of them have at least four more wins in their careers. I think you could make a non-sabermetric argument that all three were at least as good and arguably better players than McGriff. And yet none of them have done nearly as well in the Hall of Fame voting. Keith Hernandez stayed on the ballot for nine years but never broke 11 percent. Will Clark fell off the ballot after one year. John Olerud got four votes.

But there’s more. By WAR, Norm Cash had essentially the same career value as McGriff. He played in a dreadful hitting era, which dampened his numbers, but he was a fine player who had one legendary season and a few more very good ones. He got six votes his one year on the ballot.

What about Carlos Delgado? He hit about as many homers as McGriff (493 to 473) with a 40 more doubles, a higher on-base and slugging percentage and OPS+. He fell off the ballot after one year.

McGriff has been treated better than all that. There were a couple of years — when the ballot was overstuffed with candidates — that he fell a bit in the voting. Maybe that’s what Brian and Jon mean. But he has spent most of his time in the 20 to 24% range, which is just where he was this year. That’s not bad for a borderline Hall of Famer. It’s better than Dale Murphy did, better than Vada Pinson, better than Don Mattingly, better than Kenny Boyer, way better than Reggie Smith or Dwight Evans or Lou Whitaker or Bobby Grich or Jim Edmonds or Bobby Bonds or Graig Nettles or a whole bunch of other good baseball players.

Those are also, I might add, higher percentages than Rafael Palmeiro or Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Gary Sheffield received, even though all of them have many more home runs. They are connected to steroids. He is not. That is the point. He’s getting support they did not get.

There is a sense among some that McGriff preceded the steroid era, that he is from a time gone by. His career began before, yes, but he played all the way through the era. He hit more than half of his career home runs from 1994 to 2004. I make this point not to connect him to the time but to point out what people seem unwilling to accept: The steroid era was CONDUCIVE TO HOME RUNS, even beyond the PEDs. The balls were jumpier, the bats were harder, the strike zone was smaller, the ballparks had shorter fences and some new ones were at altitude, the hitters got to wear armor. The game was wildly tilted toward the hitter then, and McGriff was able to take advantage of that. This isn’t to diminish McGriff’s home run total but to try and put it in context. He spent the bulk of his career in a prolific offensive era, for PED and non-PED users alike.

McGriff was a fantastic player, an absolute borderline Hall of Famer. But he is that: A borderline Hall of Famer. Brian and John want 493 homers to mean something again, and I get that. But I would argue that as a number, it means too much, not because steroid guys hit a bunch of homers but because the game was so angled toward the home run hitter.

Look: Frank Howard whacked 382 home runs in dead-end ballparks in the worst hitting era of the last 90 or so years. From 1967 to 1971 — the worst time for hitters — Frank Howard hit more homers than anybody, including Henry Aaron.

What does it mean? Baseball Reference has a little conversion chart that’s fun to use. Let’s convert Howard’s career numbers to, say, the run context in 1999 in Tampa Bay — when a 35-year old McGriff hit .310 with 32 home runs. Do you know how it comes out?

Suddenly Howard’s career slash line is: .318/.403/..579 with 477 career home runs. What do you know? That would have made him one of the greatest players in baseball history.

Frank Howard got six votes his one year on the ballot.

I don’t think Fred McGriff is getting overlooked at all.

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76 Responses to A thought on McGriff

  1. I’m a big McGriff fan, but I agree with you. There’s no way Rice gets in without the “well, those were 382 REAL homers”. Tom Verducci made it clear that a big reason they supported Dawson was because he was clean, as opposed to those dirty dirty PED users. From the time the steroid scandal broke, it has been used to prop up older players and denigrate modern ones. And I would be lying if I didn’t say part of the reason I’m partial to McGriff is because he put up some of those numbers before the steroid era.

    • oilcan23 says:

      I have a lot of trouble with the suggestion that the “PED Era” suddenly began in, say, 1995. (I don’t know what date people use.) Steroids were rampant in the NFL in the 1970s and 1980s — rest in peace, Lyle Alzado. And I’m supposed to believe no one in MLB was using them until 1995?

      The chances are exceptionally good that some of the Hall of Famers whose careers ended before 1995 were steroid users.

      • 1985 was Conseco’s rookie year and he was blatantly flashing his steroid body from Day 1. In fact, I went to see him and McGwire hit during batting practice at Angel Stadium in 1987. There was a much larger than usual crowd there for BP. After they hit a number of bombs, the crowd started up a “STERRR-OIIIDS!” chant. So, I find it silly that people think steroids appeared suddenly in 1994, or whatever. Yeah, maybe by then the number of users was pretty large, but it went on before that and was noticed at least by the late 80s by fans. Obviously steroids were around longer than that even. I do think usage prior to that was pretty limited, mainly because most players didn’t think it would help them and, in fact, thought it would hurt. The thinking at the time was that being “muscle bound” would hurt your ability to swing a bat and move around well enough.

        • Hack says:

          I had the same experience, same time frame with Canseco and the “STER-OIDS” chant at Fenway Park. Jose would laugh and snap his head back and forth is a spasic way. The fans knew. This revisionist idea that “No One Knew” is bull.

      • scott lucas says:

        It’s also ridiculous to believe the Steroid Era is over. Of the 12 players suspended over Bigenesis, I recall only 3 or 4 testing positive. Arod has undergone hundreds of negative tests, despite using in-season. MLB is deluded if it thinks it has a handle on PEDs.

        • oilcan23 says:

          I don’t think MLB is deluded. I think some fans (and writers) are.

          As if there’s a limited window covering the period in which athletes cheated to get an advantage.

      • largebill says:

        Agree. Didn’t Mantle miss time in early 60’s due to an infection or something after an injection of some experimental crap?

  2. mooks says:

    mcgriff was barely a better hitter than Edmonds

  3. Jake says:

    Has Fred McGriff become the Jack Morris of hitters? I wonder if he’ll be argued about every year until he drops off.

  4. Darrel says:

    Now Carlos Delgado. There is your overlooked hitter. Plus Olerud. Maybe an Anti-Canada conspiracy is in the works here. Is Trump on the HoF board?

  5. Mike says:

    Funny how McGriff is getting all this attention when:

    1) He wasn’t even the most feared hitter in the lineup during his prime (Chipper Jones was)

    2) He wasn’t even the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best player on his Braves’ teams (Maddux, C.Jones, Glavine, and Smoltz were all superior players and whom you feared). Not McGriff.

    3) McGriff doesn’t pass the eye ball test. Yeah he hit a good amount of home runs, but he didn’t impact the game a hall of famer should.

    • MikeN says:

      I don’t think people even consider Mcgriff and Jones to have been teammates.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree that McGriff does not belong in the HOF. But, to be fair, McGriff only spent 4 and a half years on the Braves. Most of his prime was with Toronto. And it’s sort of silly to say he doesn’t belong in the Hall because he wasn’t as good as someone else.

    • Captain Obvious says:

      Mike – are you serious? Chipper Jones wasn’t nearly as feared as McGriff! That’s laughable. Secondly, on a team with Maddux, nearly EVERYONE is going to come up short in comparison. It’s like saying “Lou Gehrig wasn’t even the best player on his own team! Babe Ruth was!” Well duh. On a Braves team that had 4 first-ballot HOFers (Chipper will certainly clear 80% of the vote his first time up), it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. But does that make McGriff any less of a HOFer? Of course. Unless, you think Bill Dickey is less of a HOFer because he played with Ruth, Gehrig, Hoyt, and a whole host of other HOFers.

      • Captain Obvious says:

        *of course NOT.

        Eddie Mathews wasn’t even the best player on his own team! Not even 2nd best! Henry and Spahn were much better…let’s keep Mathews out!

        • Admiral Crichton says:

          And they did, for four years!

          It took the writers a decade to say “After due consideration, this 9-time All-Star (12 if you count the double-game years) and the only third baseman in history with 400 home runs (actual total: 512) deserves to get 79% of our votes, on the fifth try.”

  6. Davan Mani says:

    McGriff played better defense, appeared in more World Series, and actually won one (Cash and Howard won one as well) then those guys you mentioned who are borderline. Better year-round consistency and played better competition.

  7. Jeremy Brown says:

    Will Clark was my favorite player growing up, and I can accept that he is not in the Hall of Fame, but whenever a player who was not better than him gets in, it makes me irrationally annoyed. I know that’s me being a dumb sports fan, but… no to the Crime Dog, unless we get the Thrill as well.

    • mwarneridx says:

      I think that’s pretty fair, actually, or at least much more so than the opposite type of argument (the Bottomley argument): ‘my guy is better than this HOFer so why isn’t he in?’ I feel much the same way with regard to Keith Hernandez.

    • Chris M says:

      As a Mets fan I still get irrationally angry when guys who were significantly worse than Edgardo Alfonzo get on the ballot, since he was never even on a ballot. So I totally understand.

      • Bill Caffrey says:

        Whoa. I always thought everyone that played for at least 10 seasons was put on the ballot (the great majority dropping off after one year on the ballot, of course). I did not know eligible players could be left off.

  8. Sweatmonster says:

    It’s doubtful McGriff was a better defensive first baseman than Keith Hernandez. It’s arguable no one has been a better defensive first baseman than Keith Hernandez. He played in two World Series and won both (82 & 87). For what it’s worth, I think both players belong in the Hall of Very, Very Good.

    • largebill says:

      How much difference in value is there between a very, very good fielding 1B and a great fielding 1B? Not really that much. May have been fun to watch Hernandez play 1B as aggressively as he did, but the actual value difference is negligible. At best a few runs a year.

    • Bill Caffrey says:

      Of course McGriff was not better defensively than Hernandez. Did someone say he was? Nobody thinks that. It’s not a debatable thing.

      • Sweatmonter says:

        I was responding to this comment:

        Davan Mani
        January 8, 2016 at 5:31 am
        McGriff played better defense, appeared in more World Series, and actually won one (Cash and Howard won one as well) then those guys you mentioned who are borderline. Better year-round consistency and played better competition.

        I assumed Hernandez was included as one of the borderline players.

  9. Ian says:

    I’ve asked this a few times but I’d like your take on what you want out of a HOFer. It seems like you’re looking at career WAR (which has problems but we always seem to think career WAR is fine), which hurts guys like McGriff and others (Nomar) while helping Tim Raines. Certainly, McGriff’s couting stats are probably HOF worthy.

    But shouldn’t a HOF player be a guy who had a lot of HOF seasons? I’m not sure what a HOF season is but I think 4 WAR+ is a good cut off. It’s a tough thing to reach. Torii Hunter had a wonderful career but managed to top 4 WAR only 4x but was over 3 WAR 13x. So it seems like a good demarcation point.

    Anyhow, McGriff had more 4 WAR seasons than Raines (7 to 6) in fewer seasons (18 to 21). Shouldn’t voters care more about seasons than career totals? If someone was using any stat other than WAR, you would accuse them of being compilers.

    • invitro says:

      Sure, seasons should count, but how good the seasons are should count, too. I’m not going to look it up, but I’d bet Raines’ >4 WAR seasons were better than McGriff’s. I think Raines was one of the top five players in baseball a couple of years, and I don’t think McGriff ever was. Feel free to correct me.

      • Ron says:

        I’m with invitro here. counting 4+ WAR seasons is a good measure of being very good (roughly all-star level), but misses truly great seasons – MVP-debate worthy. For those, I would think the cutoff is closer to 5-6+ WAR. Raines had 6 of those (BR WAR); McGriff had 4. And if you raise the bar to >5.5, Raines still has 6 seasons, while McGriff has only 2, both early in his career. I’m not a huge Raines supporter (I think he is a HOFer, but barely makes the cut for me), but his peak was way higher than the McGriff.

        • jalabar says:

          There was a solid five year period where Tim Raines was arguably the best player in the NL. There were hardly five years where McGriff was the best player on his own teams.

          • invitro says:

            This is true! Raines had the most WAR in the NL from 1983-1987. But we’re in real danger of cherry-picking here. Three AL players (Boggs, Henderson, and Ripken) are ahead of Raines. More importantly, this measure puts Raines in the best possible light: he’s not in the top six players for any other five-year period. For comparison, Trammell is in the top six three times for five-year periods.

            And Raines was not close to being the best player in the NL for any particular year. I was a bit off above; Raines never had a top-five WAR in MLB, but he was top ten twice. McGriff was once. And Raines played a really long time: parts of a whopping 23 seasons. He fell right down to replacement level at the very end, but never got below it (unlike Kobe Bryant).

            Raines does look like a HoFer to me, and McGriff doesn’t, but I don’t think it’s justified to have outrage over Raines not being in (or McGriff having the support he’s gotten, for that matter).

      • Ian says:

        Sure, unquestionably. Raines, at his peak, was a better player than McGriff. No doubt. But McGriff had more HOF seasons (if we consider 4 WAR an ok cut-off. I’m not sure but it seems about right). But the point is that I think we need to rely more on seasons than career totals. And maybe the higher peak, maybe you need fewer overall seasons. (Look at Johan Santana – 1 8 WAR season, 3 more 7 WAR seasons, 1 5 WAR season and 2 more 4 WAR seasons in just 12 years.)

        But I do think we should concentrate more on seasons than we are.

        • invitro says:

          Well, bb-ref has a built-in WAR seven-year peak (“WAR7”) that appears to measure something very close to what you want. Raines is #10 among LF’ers in this stat, the highest among non-HoF’ers not named Bonds or Rose (next-year candidate and roider extraordinaire Manny-B-Manny is second).
          McGriff is WAY below Raines… #33 among 1B-men, and behind Bagwell, McGwire, KHernandez, DCamilli, Olerud, Palmeiro, and the aforementioned Will Clark, and a hair ahead of Mattingly.

          I love WAR7 myself, and for HoF discussion I think that’s my starting point, with playoff and clutch performance added (which sadly no one else does, or else Schilling would be in first ballot with at least 95%).

          • Ian says:

            Right, but that’s just a compiler method – Raines 7 year peak was really high (it’s mostly 83-87, really). But he didn’t have 7 HOF caliber seasons.

  10. Jimbo says:

    If McGriff was not using steroids in an era where a lot of other players were then figures such as WAR will be deflated due to the fact that the performance of these hitters cause McGriff’s era adjustment to unfairly penalize him.

  11. Jason says:

    I am generally in agreement that McGriff is a low end borderline candidate, but I understand the argument that McGriff could have been robbed by the steroid era. At a time when all the other players’ numbers were shooting through the roof, his numbers beginning in ’95 and ’96 remained stagnant or regressed. Yes, it probably was a result of the natural aging process, but could it be that steroids among both hitters and pitchers had started becoming so prevalent at that time, that his numbers took a greater dip than would normally be expected? As Verducci points out in an article today, the Crime Dog was the top home run hitter from ’87-’93. If he hadn’t been surpassed in home run prowess or pitched to by all of these alleged steroid users, he may have continued to be one of the top home run hitters in all of baseball for a few more years. His counting stats would have been better, and his WAR may not have taken such a noticeable dip.

    I know the argument is a stretch and impossible to measure in any way. But what if from ’95 to ’03, McGriff lost an average of 2 WAR a year because such a large percentage of the rest of the competition was “cheating” and not because he was getting old. Suddenly, his hall of fame case looks very solid. If a significant percentage of players are juicing, then the standard of replacement player could be significantly raised in an artificial manner, diminishing the statistics of allegedly clean players.

    • I think the main thought process is that if McGriff could have managed 7 more HRs, he would have been elected. 500 HRs was the bench mark until you started getting the steroid guys, like McGwire and Sosa, appearing on the ballot. I do honestly think if he managed those 7 HRs, he would have been elected several years ago based on the prevailing thinking when he got on the ballot. Maybe looking back, we’d have disagreed with the choice, but I believe it would have happened.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      McGriff started falling off after the strike; his numbers were significantly worse after 1994. He was never the same hitter for some reason. Assuming that the steroid era started before 1995, it’s hard to see how the steroid era affected him. Yes, there were guys hitting more home runs, but McGriff’s performance simply declined in absolute terms relative to his own prior numbers, not just in comparison to other hitters.

  12. Don’t forget the effect that two expansions in five years had in dilluting the pitching. By 1998 there were 44-50 more pitching jobs (15% more) in the majors that had to be filled by erstwhile minor leaguers.

  13. ericanadian says:

    McGriff did what a first baseman was supposed to do. He hit for power and he hit a lot. Olerud and Clark had nowhere near the power that McGriff did and Hernandez’s case is largely built on defense. You slap you lousy fielders at the position for a reason.

    I think the argument is that McGriff’s WAR (Clark & Olerud’s WAR as well) was depressed because the replacement player was juiced. I see you listing a bunch of other factors that went into the hitting of the time, but when testing came in, home runs dropped immediately. It’s easy to see why people look at juicing as the primary culprit and if it was, not juicing means you were playing at a disadvantage. You convert Frank Howard’s stats, but what if Howard would’ve hit the exact same in the steroid era had he not juiced due to the juiced pitchers offsetting the positive factors of the era that were not PED related. That’s the argument for McGriff.

    • When Heyman makes the most sense, we're all in trouble... says:

      I agree. Comparing McGriff to Olerud, Clark, and Hernandez is nonsensical when put into context. It’s akin to comparing Kenny Lofton to Ken Griffey Jr simply because both played CF. They were entirely different players and shouldn’t be compared to each other. But Joe is (in)famous for these types of idiotic comparisons. Remember when he tried to compare Tim Raines to Tony Gwynn? It’s utter nonsense considering how different they were.

      I think that McGriff DID have a HOF career and should be voted in accordingly.

      • Nickolai says:

        Why are these idiotic and nonsensical comparisons? These guys played in roughly the same era, against roughly the same caliber of pitchers, same ballparks, etc. But because they amassed value in different ways as players, it’s stupid to compare them?

        Sure it would be easy if each HoF candidate has a nice group of perfectly comparable players out there, but in what world does that ever happen?

    • Bill Caffrey says:

      Yes, McGriff had the most power of those 4, but Clark actually had a higher career OPS+ 137 vs. 134. Hernandez and Olerud were just slightly behind McGriff at 128 and 129, respectively. Hernandez, Olerud and Clark all had higher career OBPs than McGriff, which is how their OPS+ numbers are so close despite hitting for less power than McGriff.

      Also, although they didn’t have the HR power that McGriff did, they weren’t slap hitters eithers. Hernandez, for example, hit almost as many doubles as McGriff despite 1600 fewer career PAs.

  14. Scott B says:

    Thurman Munson isn’t in the HoF and as a catcher (who are always at a huge disadvantage in accumulating WAR) played 10 full seasons and averaged 4.6 WAR each season including his last season where he died with 2 months remaining in the season. He produced like an all-star from the first game of his career until his death and has gotten zero consideration by the Hall. It is a crime.

    • invitro says:

      I think you have an excellent case and reasons. Catchers have a max WAR about 20% lower than other players, and I don’t think anyone disputes this. It seems that they might should get that 20% back in season and career comparisons. But I’m not sure. The correct response might be simply that catchers are thus 20% less valuable than other positions, in the same way that relievers are less valuable than starting pitchers.
      JoeP rather infamously (to readers of this blog) really undervalued catchers in his Poz100 list. Maybe he knows something we don’t.

      • invitro says:

        On second thought, my 20% number is clearly much too high for DH leagues, and probably too high for other leagues.

  15. Since you bring up Frank Howard, he and Dick Allen are my two favorites for being in the HOF. If anyone thinks that Jim Rice was fearsome, then what the heck is Frank Howard? 6′ 8″ tall with an angry scowl. I saw him hit a sinking line drive off the 393 sign at Angel stadium. It hit the wall a foot below the top, but the overspin caused it to climb the wall and go out. It was one of those “did that really just happen” moments.

    His slash line was .273/.352/.499 and he played in extreme pitchers parks in LA (Yeah, the old Sandy Koufax Dodger Stadium) and Washington RFK Stadium. And he played during a dead ball offensive era (1960-1973) So his OPS+ was 142 accounting for those (very) limiting factors.

    Oh, and he hit 44 HRS in 1968. He’s one of those guys in the 60s and 70s that needs to be reconsidered, along with Allen. That era is very underrepresented.

    • oilcan23 says:

      I’m a Red Sox fan, born in 1975, so I don’t remotely remember his 1978 season. And, let me tell you: the only thing I feared about Jim Rice was his uncanny ability to ground into a double play after Wade Boggs and/or Dwight Evans got on base in front of him.

    • invitro says:

      I think Dick Allen has been thoroughly considered. His stats are clearly good enough for the HoF, and just as clearly his team-killing skills, as famously noted by Bill James, have kept him out. To make a case for Allen requires maturely addressing what James and others have said about him, and making a case that they were wrong. I’m willing to listen, but I also believe that James is the greatest baseball historian alive, and anyone who tries to shrug off his opinions won’t get any respect from me.

  16. tmutchell says:

    I don’t think you can say that the PED era helped to make Fred McGriff’s numbers better and then quote WAR as a metric to support the contention. Without the gaudy numbers put up by the PED users, the “R” in WAR would have been considerably lower, and hence McGriff’s WAR would have been greater, and of course his rank among first basemen would have been higher.

    • jposnanski says:

      Just how much lower do you really believe the R would be WAR if baseball, say, had substantial drug testing in the 1990s? But be careful of your answer because if you believe EVERYONE used PEDs, well …

      • largebill says:

        I think a significant % used some form of PED’s or another. Whether that % was 20 or 45 or whatever is anyone guess. There is no denying that some players benefited.

  17. gyoung says:

    The reason McGriff suffers from the era is because in 1994 he was being recognized among the greatest power hitters OF ALL TIME. He had just completed his seventh straight 30-plus HR season. Only 8 other players were on that list in 1994: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mike Schmidt, Eddie Matthews, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ralph Kiner, and Hank Aaron. Now, look at the list of players with 8 consecutive seasons of 30-plus HR Notice only 7 pre-steroid era players are on that list, as Ralph Kiner “only” had seven consecutive seasons.

    Makes McGriff’s accomplishment in 1994 seem quaint. In 1995, McGriff had a down season — at age 31 — and hit 27 HR in Atlanta on a WS winning team.

    So, yes, as a power hitter McGriff suffers from the steroid era. Prior to 1995 he would have been on a very exclusive list. Now it’s a list he doesn’t even make.

  18. TP says:

    Can you imagine, if there were no steroid numbers by McGuire, Sosa, Bonds, etc., what kind of contracts Mcgrifff and guys like Snow could have had? In other words, their numbers paled in comparison to the roid guys, so how much money did they lose because of the steroid era. Contracts for Snow and Mcgriff would have made them many millions more. Shame the cheaters got paid.

    • oilcan23 says:

      Let’s see … If I’m reading his baseball-reference page correctly, McGriff hit free agency before the 1996 season, signing a 7-year deal for $5 million a year. McGwire and Bagwell and Frank Thomas were earning about $6 or $7 million a year back then.

      Seems like he was appropriately paid to me.

  19. Gesge says:

    I think Brian is right and Joe is wrong, and steroids, and their effect in cheapening home run numbers, are costing Fred McGriff votes. 493 homers doesn’t mean what it used to, not in the era where guys like Rafael Palmeiro could exceed that total.

    One thing that most people forget is that McGriff would almost certainly have exceeded 500 HR, and have a better chance of reaching the HOF due to that nice round number…except for the 1994 strike.

  20. invitro says:

    I’m curious about something. Does anyone value playoff performance AT ALL, and still not put Schilling in the HoF? The narrative is pretty much: well, Schilling was probably the best playoff pitcher of all time. But this really isn’t a big deal.

    I find this argument truly outrageous. It seems to me that “best playoff pitcher of all time” should guarantee a spot in the absolute innermost circle of the Hall of Fame. As in: if the HoF had only ten players, then Schilling should still be in it. (If Schilling really is the best of all time. I’m not certain he is, just going by memory and something JPos said.)

    I know that valuation of playoff vs regular-season stats is subjective, and I reserve the right to change my own weighting, but isn’t it downright ludicrous to place a weight of ZERO on playoff performance?

    • Ian says:

      Yeah, I think most of Schilling’s low percentage is probably voters thinking a PED connection instead of low win total.

      I don’t think he’s quite the lock that his WAR total says but I do think he should be in the HOF (of course, I’m a big hall guy and thought Morris should be in for the same reason).

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I thought Schilling didn’t get in because he’s a Republican. 🙂 There are no Republicans apparently in the Hall of Fame.

    • Dan says:

      Re Schilling greatest postseason pitcher of all time–he had a better record than Sandy Koufax but Koufax’s ERA was under 1. He had a 4-3 record which isn’t all that great but remember he was facing the best teams in the AL, no wild card teams or non-pennant winners in the bunch. His worst series he gave up 3 earned runs in 2 games. Schilling was good and won more games than Koufax in the postseason but I like that 0.95 ERA (worst was 1.50 for a series). In his seven starts, he gave up 1 earned run more than once and that was a game he gave up 2 earned runs in the 8th on a HR with his team leading 5-0. There may be another pitcher better than Koufax out there somewhere but I don’t think it is Schilling.

  21. John says:

    If Schilling is outed as a juicer after all the moral posturing he’s done, he will be crucified in the media for eternity. There is nothing writers hate more than hypocrisy, except perhaps hypocrites that make them look bad for buying into their baloney.

  22. John says:

    (For the record, I believe Schilling was/is clean, with regard to PEDs.)

  23. DjangoZ says:

    The balls were jumpier, the bats were harder?

    That’s just sloppy argument making.

  24. Murph398 says:

    Of course if you add McGriff’s 10 postseason homers, he clears 500. Those are real homeruns, hit in major-league competition. I wonder if anyone else who fell short of a major milestone like McGriff did passes it when you take into account postseason numbers…

  25. Bruce Nave says:

    The standard for first baseman, as hitters, is necessarily high. Usually, the top ten offensive players in baseball are mostly first basemen and outfielders. Joe’s basis point, which is that McGriff, Clark, Olerud, Delgado, etc., are equally qualified, is probably true. For some reason, I like Fred McGriff better than I like any of those other candidates. Maybe it was the Crime Dog nickname. Maybe it was the similarity score in one of Bill James’ late 80s abstracts that compared McGriff favorably to Willie McCovey.

    But most likely, it was his personal endorsement on the Tom Emanski School instructional baseball videos. Unforgettable.

    Perhaps McGriff is this generation’s Gil Hodges.

  26. Walt Coogan says:

    McGriff was certainly a much more substantial slugger than Hernandez, Clark, and Olerud. Those guys might have been better defensively (certainly, Hernandez and Olerud were much better defensive first basemen), but Atlanta ranked in the top four in major league baseball in Ground Ball Defensive Efficiency (the percentage of ground balls that a defense turns into outs, according to Baseball Prospectus) three times in five seasons with McGriff (1993, 1994, 1996), and the Braves never placed lower than tenth in Ground Ball Defensive Efficiency with him. So, clearly, his defense proved adequate at a minimum. Hernandez and Olerud were excellent hitters, but they could not carry and power a lineup the way that McGriff could. Clark did provide excellent power early in his career, and he indeed seemed to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory through his first six or seven seasons. But injuries diminished both his power and durability.

    Although voters and observers have overlooked McGriff less than Carlos Delgado, whose Hall of Fame candidacy may have been similarly valid, I do believe that without the steroidal practices of many of his contemporaries, McGriff would be in the Hall of Fame. He constituted a truly great slugger and offensive player in the peak phase of his career—he ranked in the top five in his league in OPS for seven straight seasons from 1988-1994 (once leading his league) and won home run titles in both leagues during that span. And he also displayed tremendous longevity, cracking at least 19 home runs for sixteen straight seasons from 1998-2002, at least 20 home runs in fifteen of those years, and at least 27 homers in thirteen of those seasons—reaching at least 30 home runs tens times. From ages thirty-five through thirty-eight, he smashed at least 27 homers and drove in over 100 runs—with an on-base percentage better than .350—each year. And the players’ strike of 1994-1995 likely robbed McGriff of two more 100-RBI seasons, an additional 30-home run campaign, and a season where he would have smashed at least 40-45 home runs.

    McGriff’s career “slash line” of .284 BA/.377 OBP/.509 SLG over nineteen seasons is outstanding. So too are his career totals of 493 home runs and 1,550 runs batted in, especially considering that McGriff easily would have topped 500 home runs without the strike. He also excelled in the postseason, batting .303 with a .385 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging average in 50 playoff games, tallying 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. McGriff homered twice in both of the World Series that he played in, and he homered in the only Game Seven that he ever played in (Game Seven of the 1996 National League Championship Series versus St. Louis). Postseason performances can be fickle because of the small sample sizes, but good or great postseason performances should certainly constitute a bonus, and at 50 games, McGriff’s playoff sample proved sizable enough.

    These credentials make for an easy, if not overwhelming, case for McGriff being worthy of Cooperstown. Indeed, I do believe that if not for the steroids use of so many of his contemporaries, McGriff would be in the Hall of Fame. The primary reason why he has never even come close in the balloting is because too many writers are under the fallacious idea that he was not an “elite” player. But again, McGriff ranked in the top five in his league in OPS for seven straight seasons, from ages twenty-four through thirty, while winning home run crowns in both leagues. When Atlanta traded for him in the summer of 1993, McGriff was one of the three most fearsome left-handed sluggers in all of baseball, along with Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. Indeed, McGriff proved to be a game changer for a team that had already played in the previous two World Series and that had subsequently added Greg Maddux. When McGriff arrived, Atlanta was 53-41 (.564), on pace to win 91 games. After he arrived, the Braves went 51-17 (.750), a 122-win pace per 162 games. (And McGriff played in all 68 contests, starting 66.) To be a game changer on such an already loaded and successful club—much like Rickey Henderson when he joined the 1989 Athletics—you really have to be elite.

    But then, after 1994 and after turning thirty-one, McGriff aged a little like a normal player while many of his steroids-fueled peers started posting surreal statistics, so writers and observers forgot how great McGriff had been and failed to recognized how good he remained. For instance, in 1999, McGriff batted .310 with a .405 on-base percentage, a .552 slugging average, 32 home runs, and 104 runs batted in for Tampa Bay. In a normal context and a level playing field, these numbers would have been spectacular. But in a year where a juiced Mark McGwire slugged over twice as many home runs as McGriff, hardly anyone paid attention to the Crime Dog.

    Two years later, in 2001, a thirty-seven-year old McGriff batted .306 with a .386 on-base percentage and a .544 slugging average, swatting 31 homers and driving in 106 runs. Again, in a normal context, these numbers would have rendered McGriff one of the best offensive players in the game, but in a year where Barry Bonds was swatting 73 home runs and Sammy Sosa was slugging 64, few people were paying attention to McGriff. The cheating and illegal drug use of his contemporaries unfairly diminished McGriff’s pedigree and the value of his statistics, and too many writers have failed to make the correction.

  27. Ed says:

    I just stumbled across this article and can stop myself from commenting.

    Anyone comparing john olerud and will Clark to Fred mcgriff needs to never talk about baseball again, and furthermore should rank really hard because their head is up their ass.

    McGriff’s numbers are better than both almost across the board, and his .284 average isn’t exactly shabby for a power hitter.

    This is the dumbest heaping pile of shit I’ve seen written on this subject yet.

    McGriff is overlooked, and for one reason: he was a quiet guy that was overshadowed by a bunch of roided up cheaters. And that is 100% it.

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