By In Stuff

Ballot 15: Fred McGriff

f014a9df7c75491d2d6bc6584e92f082.jpgFred McGriff

Play 19 years with six teams

Four-time All-Star hit 493 home runs, twice led league, and received MVP votes in eight different seasons. 52.4 WAR, 19.6 WAA

Pro Argument: Model of consistency hit 30-plus homers in 10 different seasons.

Con argument: Appears to fall just short by various measures.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Just short for me.

Will get elected this year?: No.

Will ever get elected?: 25%

* * *

Everyone loves the Crime Dog. We love the nickname. We love the old Tom Emanski commercials he used to do. We love the cool follow through on his swing, the way he would swing so hard he needed to bring the bat OVER his head, like Rafael Nadal’s forehand. He was a fantastic player who hit exactly as many home runs as Lou Gehrig, he was a behemoth in the postseason, and his Baseball Reference Comps include four Hall of Famers (McCovey, Stargell, Thomas and Billy Williams), one soon-to-be Hall of Famer (Bagwell) and one likely Hall of Famer in a few years (Big Papi).

The point of these essays, if they have a point, has been to celebrate the players on the baseball ballot, every one of them. At times, I fear, I’ve gotten away from that point and started, instead, arguing their Hall of Fame cases. It’s just in my nature. And it’s fun to do. The trouble is — and you just can’t get past this no matter how tactfully or artfully you try to do it — that when you analyze the Hall of Fame case you inevitably end up picking the player apart. You end up pointing out the negatives of fantastic players — Andre Dawson didn’t walk enough, Jack Morris had a 3.90 ERA, Trevor Hoffman pitched only 1,089 innings, Sammy Sosa probably used steroids, etc.

And then, you end up belaboring the negatives of fantastic players.

And before long, you start making fantastic baseball players sound like mediocrities.

That stinks, and NOT doing that was the whole point of this thing … but, inevitably, the one thing most people really want to know is: Who did you vote for the Hall of Fame?

And then they want to know WHY you did or did not vote for this player or that one.

Let’s see if we can do that without saying one negative thing about Fred McGriff. Consider it an experiment.

* * *

Eddie Murray is not on Fred McGriff’s Baseball Reference comp list, but I always thought there was something similar about the two men: They were roughly contemporaries (Murray is 6 1/2 years older) and both freakishly consistent, especially as young men. Their final career rate numbers are similar too.

Murray: .287/.359/.476, 129 OPS+

McGriff: .284/.377/.509, 134 OPS+

Murray’s career was quite a bit longer — he got 2,643 more plate appearances, almost five seasons worth — and so he was able to put up more impressive raw numbers (500 homers, 3,000 hits, etc). Murray was also a better defensive player and base runner. At their very best, say best four or five seasons, Crime Dog and Steady Eddie have just about the same value.

What we have done, as Hall of Fame voters, is draw a line between them. Murray went in first ballot. McGriff hovers around 20% of the vote. This is what Hall of Fame voters do. We draw lines. We decide this player IS a Hall of Famer and this comparable player is NOT a Hall of Famer. We use various methods to draw these lines, some sensible, some not so much.

Some of the more famous drawn lines in recent memory:

Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter … Dan Quisenberry on ballot for one season.

Hall of Famer Jim Rice … Dwight Evans on ballot for three seasons

Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter … Luis Tiant topped out at 31%.

Hall of Famer Barry Larkin … Alan Trammell topped out at 41%.

Hall of Famer Tony Perez … Darrell Evans on ballot for one season.

Why were those lines drawn? I’m sure there were different reasons for different people, but I would say:

— Sutter got in because of his Cy Young award and because he popularized the split-fingered fastball.

— Rice got in because of his MVP award and reputation as a fearsome hitter.

— Hunter got in because of his Cy Young and because he was an ace for great teams and won 20 five years in a row.

— Larkin got in because he won an MVP award and was often called a future Hall of Famer while he played.

— Perez got in because he was beloved, an RBI machine, and an acknowledged leader of one of the greatest teams in baseball history.

You will feel however you feel about these things … this gets to the heart of underrated and overrated, why one band makes it big while another superior band  plays the bars, why one actor becomes a star while another with similar looks and talents and ambition waits tables, why one writer has some success while other better writers flail away. It’s the very heart of the thing your parents told you at some point: “Life’s not always fair.”

* * *

What about the line between Eddie Murray and Fred McGriff?

Behold  Eddie Murray’s glorious consistency:

In 1979, he hit .395 with 25 homers, 99 RBIs, 90 runs scored and a 4.9 WAR.

In 1980, he hit .300 with 32 homers, 116 RBIs, 100 runs scored and a 4.4 WAR.

1981 was a strike year, so the numbers don’t look similar. But he led league in HRs and RBI.

In 1982*, he hit .316 with 32 homers, 110 RBIs, 86 runs and a 5.2 WAR.

In 1983, he hit .306 with 33 homers, 111 RBIs, 116 runs and a 6.6 WAR.

In 1984, he hit .306 with 29 homers, 110 RBIs, 97 runs and a 7.1 WAR.

In 1985, he hit .297 with 31 homers, 124 RBIs, 111 runs and a 5.6 WAR.

Behold Fred McGriff’s glorious consistency:

In 1988, he hit 34 homers and had .376 OBP

In 1989, he hit 36 homers and had .399 OBP

In 1990, he hit 35 homers and had .400 OBP

In 1991, he hit 31 homers and had .396 OBP

In 1992, he hit 35 homers and had .394 OBP

In 1993, he hit 37 homers and had .375 OBP

In 1994, strike year, he hit 34 homers and had .389 OBP.

Seven straight years between 31 and 37 homers and OBP between .375 and .400.

So why draw the line between Murray and McGriff? Well, the truth is, Murray is not in the Hall of Fame because of his prime. There are many players, McGriff among them, who at their best were about as good as Murray. Will Clark at his best was Eddie Murray’s equal.  Dave Parker at his best was Eddie Murray’s equal … Don Mattingly at his best … Dale Murphy at his best … we could go on.

What made Murray a Hall of Famer was how LONG he managed to be at his best. This is what you see in career WAR:

Murray’s career WAR was  68.3.

Parker’s career WAR was 39.9.

Mattingly’s career WAR was 42.2.

Murphy’s career WAR was 46.2.

Clark’s career WAR was 56.2.

And McGriff’s career WAR was 52.4. Now, you might not like WAR as a statistic and so you can replace it with RBIs (Murray had 350 more than McGriff) or runs scored (Murray had 300 more) or hits (Murray had 750 more) or Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances or MVP vote shares or any number of other things. Murray was probably never the best player in baseball. But he was one of the best for an impossibly long time.

Of course, Murray might not be the best comparison — you might prefer talking about whether there should be a line between David Ortiz and McGriff. The real point is Fred McGriff was a wonderful baseball player, better than many players already in the Hall of Fame. I would be all for a Hall of Fame with him it. Then, I am all for a bigger Hall of Fame.

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134 Responses to Ballot 15: Fred McGriff

  1. Jere says:


    I believe there’s a typo in this sentence

    Well, the truth is, Murray is not in the Hall of Fame because of his prime.

    • Karl Weber says:

      Not a typo but a slight ambiguity. It would be clearer if it said, “The reason Murray is in the Hall of Fame is not how great he was in his prime years.”

    • Jere says:

      ok I get it…he is NOT in hall of fame because of his prime but he is the hall of fame because of the length of his career…I’m a little slow this morning…

    • Jeff says:

      It’s not a typo, just an ambiguous wording. Another way to say what Joe meant:

      Well, the truth is, his prime is not the reason Murray is in the Hall of Fame.

  2. Brian says:

    McGriff is probably #1 of players every writer wishes was just a little bit better (or lasted a little bit longer) to justify his case.

    • Brian says:

      Also I think he played for 5 teams. Padres, Jays, Braves, Cubs, Rays.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Yes, and McGriff tried to hang out and capture those elusive 7 HRs to get to 500… the old fashioned major milestone. Alas, he just ran out of time. But I wonder if he hit those 9 HRs with the Rays his last season, to make 500 HRs, whether that might have triggered more support.

      • Ericanadian says:

        One could argue the strike in ’94 is the difference maker. He was having one of the best seasons of his career that year and an extra 40 games at the rate he was going would’ve almost certainly gotten him to the 500 HR mark.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          The same argument about 1994 hurting career numbers applies greatly to Will Clark, too, who was also having a very nice year. It’s such a shame that the strike happened.

          • moviegoer74 says:

            It was a lockout, not a strike.

          • Chipmaker says:

            It was a strike, which the players committed because it was the last arrow in their quiver. The owners refused to pledge in good faith that they would not lock out the camps in 1995 spring training.

            Give back McGriff the balance of 1994 and the 18 games cropped from the beginning of the 1995 season and he surely would have hit seven or more home runs and, sitting at 500 or a few more, his Hall plaque would have been minted years ago. He is probably the player most screwed by history due to the 1994-95 strike. I cry no tears for this, he supported it and I still think it was the right thing to do (no matter how miserable), but it would be a pleasant thing if the voting writers were able to see past this tiny deficit and cast their votes in his favor. Ah well, someone has to be The Best Player Not In The Hall (eligible category).

          • invitro says:

            “Ah well, someone has to be The Best Player Not In The Hall (eligible category).” — Someone else has been hitting the LSD. But don’t take my word for it… according to Joe, McGriff is only the 15th best player on the ballot. That doesn’t even include the dozens of better eligible players like Grich, Trammell, Allen, Lofton, etc., etc… McGriff is probably somewhere around the 100th best player not in the HoF, and around the 7th best 1B.

          • Rob Smith says:

            I always go to Dick Allen and his 156 OPS+ when I think of the best player not in the HOF. .292/.378/.534 during a pitchers era that Joe describes as the second deadball era. Nobody was more feared in his day.

          • invitro says:

            I guess the biggest competition in the fear category would be Willie McCovey? Ol’ Dick probably would’ve gotten in the HoF long ago, if he hadn’t been such a clubhouse cancer (the most malignant such cancer of all time, if I’m recalling Bill James correctly).

      • KHAZAD says:

        @ moviegoer:
        It WAS a strike, you are misinformed. Selig locked the players out after the strike when he canceled the rest of the season. The players went on strike in mid August while under a CBA, the strategy being to force the owners to cave in on demands quickly in order to salvage the post season. The canceling of the season and ensuing lockout was the owners answer.

  3. Doug Rogers says:

    Typo in Murray’s 1979 BA?

  4. Rob Smith says:

    In thinking about McGriff, I always wondered why more HOF voters didn’t take a liking to him. His lifetime slash line is .284/.377/.509. .886 OPS, 134 OPS+, 493 HRs, 1550 RBIs, 2490 Hits. You like Walks? He Walks. Like Power? Got that. Like Counting Stats. Yep. And he did win a Championship and was considered the “key added piece” for the offensively challenged Braves of the mid 90s. We just got finished arguing over professional hitter Edgar Martinez. In some ways they’re kind of similar. According to BBR, Crime Dog wasn’t much of a 1st baseman. He might have done a lot better as a DH. He also didn’t have much speed to his game. The whole gig, like with Edgar, was hitting. So, why do people argue passionately about Edgar Martinez and not Fred McGriff? Edgar did have a higher batting average, and oh, those Walks. McGriff walked, but Edgar WALKED. So does it really come down to loving Walks so much that Edgar is considered a HOFer by many and we disregard the consistent power and run production of McGriff and consider him NOT a HOFer? I know people are going to pull out the WAR numbers, which aren’t close. But isn’t most of that difference attributable, again, to those Walks? And possibly McGriff also getting marked down MORE than Martinez did for his defense? Even though he actually played a defensive position, he loses points over a DH? OK. Argue away.

    • nightfly says:

      A DH doesn’t add defensive value, of course, but he also doesn’t take away defensive value… you can play a superior fielder instead. In McGriff’s case he wasn’t really a bad fielder (he started much more at first even in the AL), so this argument doesn’t apply as much to him vs. Edgar.

      Crime Dog really was a great player for a long time; he’s hurt primarily because the post-strike offensive explosion made his numbers look much less eye-popping.

      1989: 36 hr, .525 SLG, .924 OPS, 165 OPS+
      1999: 32 hr, .552 SLG, .957 OPS, 142 OPS+

      Just from the OPS+ you can see what happened among his peers. But in ’89, his slugging was second and he led the league in the other three categories; in ’99 he was outside of the top ten in all four.

      • shagster says:

        Nailed it. The steroid players DID take up other players line. Even when they’re not the subject. So. No. Sorry Barry. Clemens. Your choices, not ours.

        • Isaiah says:

          It’s not an issue of steroids. McGriff as a hitter had actually declined from 1989 to 1999. The offensive context changed generally.

          • kehnn13 says:

            I think you’re missing something. The 2 years that nightfly indicated show statistical improvement for McGriff. The problem is that the rest of the league improved to (which shagster attributes, at least partially, to steroids).

    • Zach says:

      Well, Edgar’s career BA is almost 30 points higher, his OBP is 40 points higher, and his SLG is a touch higher as well (and his career OPS+ is 13 points higher, and that probably undersells his superiority as a hitter because OPS+ overvalues slugging). McGriff was a very good hitter, but I think it’s reasonable to think that given that his only real contribution was with his bat, he’s not quite a Hall of Famer. Edgar was quite clearly a better hitter by at least a decent margin, and that makes the difference.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Zach: I appreciate your thoughtful post, but let me pose this Q: does the difference in all of the counting stats that McGriff is far superior to Edgar in get negated by Edgar’s superior slash line? Which set of stats implies a better hitter? Do superior counting stats = a better hitter or does a superior slash line = a better hitter?

        • Marshall Vance says:

          I think this comes down to your preference for peak or longevity. If you prefer peak, Edgar is your guy. If you prefer longevity, it’s McGriff.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Good point, Marshall.

          • nightfly says:

            And I think it’s fair to account for Edgar’s much later start. He stewed in AAA for years. Even if you don’t want to credit years he was hurt (durability is important too), he could have added to his counting stats when aged 23-26, even if his rates wouldn’t have been as good as in his prime.

        • Zach says:

          I would think that yes, generally rate stats are a better indicator of player quality than cumulative stats. Obviously at the extremes there are exceptions, but there are plenty of pitchers with more wins and strikeouts than Sandy Koufax who no one would think were better, even if they had a much longer career. High peaks (to me, at least) tend to correlate much better with a Hall of Fame-caliber career than simply sticking around for a very long time.

          Here’s the thing though: McGriff has more home runs and more hits (in a lot more PAs), so if those are the counting stats you care about than I guess he has more. If you look at WAR (which IS a cumulative stat) though, Martinez has a rather significant lead (quite a bit larger if you use bWAR, still sizable with fWAR).

          Thus, it’s a pretty easy argument that Martinez was both a better hitter and compiled more value, which is why he’s #6 on this list and McGriff is #15. I don’t think a Hall of Fame with McGriff in it is a travesty, but I tend to think that he falls a bit short (as does Rafael Palmeiro, his natural comp even if you take Palmeiro’s stats at face value).

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            I go back and forth on this one, Zach, but I think you raise some great points. I think Dale Murphy should be in the HOF. I totally agree with Joe on that one. I think Don Mattingly had a great case, too. I also don’t think guys who simply played forever and compiled should automatically be in. Harold Baines and Johnny Damon and Tommy John are all examples of guys who have pretty good counting numbers but whose peaks were pretty meh. All had fine careers, of course, but weren’t HOFers. You could probably add Carlos Delgado and Paul Konerko to that list, too.
            I can see why some people might look at Baines, Delgado, Konerko and others who most will agree aren’t HOF-worthy and will lump McGriff in with them. I get it, I really do. McGriff to me is a little bit like Dale Murphy is to Joe: I know his case is flawed, but I can’t help it.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            I too have problems with guys getting in the Hall simply because they hung around long enough to compile big numbers. But, on the other hand, I think productive longevity is usually a key aspect of being an HOFer. I was a Braves fan and Murphy was one of the top two or three players in the game for 5 or so years. But he did almost nothing the rest of his career (at both ends) and I can’t really get past that in considering him for the Hall. To me, he comes up just short. There are exceptions-Koufax obviously-but I don’t think Murphy’s peak years were so dominant as to compensate for his lack of longevity.

          • invitro says:

            “I was a Braves fan and Murphy was one of the top two or three players in the game for 5 or so years.” — C’mon, Marc. I was (sort of) a Braves fan, too, and you’re overrating Murphy. Even looking at just NL position players, he was #2 once, #3 once, #4 once, #8 once. If you don’t like dWAR, he was first among NL position players in oWAR once, 3rd once, 4th twice. Taking all players, his best WAR ranking is #6 in 1983.

      • Rick Rodstrom says:

        I agree with all your points. Edgar was the more dangerous hitter, and McGriff was plenty dangerous. Those extra 28 points of batting average are hard hits, doubles and such, which is why Edgar edges Fred in Slugging even though he hit fewer home runs.

        It goes to the kinds of hitters they were. McGriff was the fly ball hitter with the uppercut swing with the high finish, and sometimes his fly balls left the yard. Edgar hit ropes. The didn’t clear the fence as often, but they sure bounced off them.

  5. Carl says:

    For McGriff, always wanted to do an “adjusted” leader board.

    What I mean by this is to remove “suspected steroid user” from the “supposedly clean” players and re-do the season by season leader boards.

    Assumed clean, McGriff, for example, was second in AL HR’s in 1988 to Canseco. In 1989 McGriff led the league. In 1990, he finished fourth behind Fielder, Canseco and McGwire. In 1992 he led the NL in HRs. In 1994 he finished behind Matt Williams, Bagwell, and Bonds.

    McGriff actually led the league twice. I don’t believe any 3x HR champs are not enshrined in Cooperstown, and he would presumably have been a top-3, top-5 HR hitter several additional times in his career.

    What are the thoughts of others and of yourself, Joe?

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I think there’s a reason why Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and many others were not first-ballot HOFers and why many have not even gotten particularly close to getting inducted. Sosa and Raffy both come to mind, as does Gary Sheffield. These guys wanted immediate glory that PEDs provided and got it. But none of them are (at this point) getting Hall of Fame glory. Unfortunately, these cheaters hurt players like McGriff in the process. What a shame.

      • SDG says:

        Except we don’t know for sure who took PEDs, who took exactly which kinds, for how long, and what effect they had on each person.

        Besides, they didn’t make a tradeoff between short-term and long-term like you’re saying. They got more money than they would have without PEDs, and they got the stats that get them into the Hall. Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe are more famous than Tony Perez and Ray Schalk. They have the numbers to be the GOAT and not giving them a plaque and a ceremony doesn’t change that.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Did you just say that Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe have numbers to be the GOAT? Hmmmm. ‘Splain yourself.

          • SDG says:

            No. I said Bonds and Clemens are the GOAT. Pete and Shoeless are more famous than their Hall of Fame teammates Tony Perez and Ray Schalk (and honestly, Johnny Bench and Eddie Collins).

            My point was if you are a borderline candidate, being in the Hall makes you more famous. If you have inner-circle numbers, the Hall doesn’t add to your legend.

    • invitro says:

      I’d like to see these re-done leaderboards. But because I’m picky, I’d most want to see players ranked by WAR, and have WPA and WAA included, and most importantly, a list of the excluded players, with sourced reasons for their exclusion. 🙂

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        And everyone’s favorite troll returns.

        • BearOn says:

          I am not a huge Invitro fan … but how is this comment trolling? In fact, I think he makes a very legitimate point (and one that Joe (among others) has made for years: With so much murkiness surrounding the “Steroid Era” and with so many OTHER factors for the concurrent offensive explosion in baseball … how could anyone create a list that accurately separates PED users from those who never used?

          This, then, is what makes the argument for McGriff as a Hall of Famer BECAUSE of the “Steroid Era” supposedly reducing his awesomeness by comparison so dang flimsy …

          • SDG says:

            You can’t. That’s the problem. Unlike with individual sports it’s physically impossible to strike players (or games? see what I mean?) from the record.

            The problem is we’re acutely aware that baseball conditions fluctuate so widely based on era that it’s difficult to make comparisons between players. (Adjusted stats help but they don’t solve everything).

            So we’re basically reduced to picking blurrily-defined eras, picking the best players in each of them, making sure we account for every position and for postseason success. And absent the obvious Hall of Famers, it’s messy and sloppy. And that’s exactly where fights about McGriff come in.

            Add to that the human tendency to want to reward good people and punish bad people (which is what the PED debate is really about) and it becomes even harder.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            BearOn – Invitro has made some awesome posts (which I’ve openly praised him for) but the overwhelming number of his posts are nothing less than juvenile.

        • Carl says:

          In removing/astericking the illegitimate numbers from a year-by-year leader board (ie removing Canseco and making McGriff a 3x HR leader) one would have to adjust the WAR and WAA and WPA numbers as well as all 3 metrics are artificially enhanced by the high-scoring environment of the Steroid Era.

          A writer/researcher (calling Joe and/or Tom Tango) who removed the 20% bonus of the bonus due to steroids while leaving “supposedly clean” players such as Jeter/McGriff would have the latter’s WAAs, WAR, WPA numbers increased by 20%. A 20% increase in WAR for McGriff puts him above Murray, above Big Papi, et. al.

          It’s almost the equivalent of two simultaneous park effects going on. Reducing the Steroid Park stats by 20% and/or increasing those who supposedly played in a non-steroid park by 20%.

          • SDG says:

            Why does steroid suspicion only ever fall on the big bulky power hitters? (And Clemens?) What criteria are we using?

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            SDG – that’s true! People forget that scrawny guys like Matt Herges and Neifi Perez used PEDs, too.

          • MikeN says:

            Because steroids make you bulky?

          • Chipmaker says:

            Ozzie Canseco used steroids (no telling if it was the same regiment as twin Jose) and he couldn’t play a lick.

            TWIN BROTHERS, and PEDs did not make one the equal of the other. Jose had star talent, Ozzie did not. That did not all come from a bottle.

    • anonymous says:

      You cannot just throw out the statistics of people you dislike or think might have used steroids, though. Not least because you do not actually know which people did, and especially which players did not, use steroids. Nor do you have a precise way of quantifying how steroids affected their stats. It’s all a big hand-wave about how awful they are. Just nonsense.

  6. JaLaBar says:

    Does the fact that Murray is in the handful, top 5ish, maybe top 3ish of switch-hitters in MLB history make a difference when considering his case?

    • SB M says:

      It probably shouldn’t matter, but it’s clear that old school baseball writers love switch hitters and would no doubt give them bonus points in HOF voting.

  7. invitro says:

    Does anyone want to predict the rest of the rankings? Here’s mine:
    7. Manny Ramirez
    8. Tim Raines
    9. Larry Walker
    10. Ivan Rodriguez
    11. Gary Sheffield
    12. Vladimir Guerrero
    13. Sammy Sosa
    14. Jeff Kent

    I know Joe said he didn’t take too much care with the rankings. Still, if Joe still has a HoF ballot, and I assume he does, and if he’s as conscientious as usual, and votes for the max 10 players as usual, the difference between the top 10 and the rest should mean something. My predictions are pretty much just WAR, with some WAR given back for a really bad dWAR, since Joe has stated he’s skeptical of dWAR. I feel confident about who will be in the 7-10 group, since the lowest of their WARs (IRod with 68.4, although Edgar had 68.3… how the heck did Edgar make #6 anyway… probably credit for a late career start) is a big 8.0 WAR higher than the highest of the others (Sheffield with 60.3). If IRod weren’t so much higher than Sheffield, I’d wonder if Sheff’s massively low dWAR was enough to overtake IRod’s massive high dWAR for the final HoF vote.

    Anyway. If anyone wants to compete, reply to this post with your predictions. If at least two other people make picks, I’ll grade them and post the results. Scoring system: -1 point for every position away from the actual order.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I would switch Pudge with Walker and call it perfect. Nice post, amigo!

    • Marshall Vance says:

      I suspect Pudge will be number 7.

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      Sounds like fun (I always do badly at these, but what the hell):

      7. Raines
      8. Pudge
      9. Manny
      10. Vlad
      11. Sheffield
      12. Walker
      13. Sosa
      14. Kent

    • MikeN says:

      Kent should be higher. I’m pretty sure he makes Joe’s top 10.

    • MikeN says:

      It’ll be really embarrassing if there is someone else in his top 14.

      7. Manny Ramirez
      8. Tim Raines
      9. Larry Walker
      10. Jeff Kent
      11. Vladimir Guerrero
      12. Ivan Rodriguez
      13. Sammy Sosa
      14. Gary Sheffield

    • invitro says:

      Great, I’ll keep track and post the leaderboard in the post of the next-to-last player, and maybe once somewhere in between… 🙂 Marshall, if you want to play, you need to give a full list 🙂

  8. John M says:

    So, I hate to be the one, but I think accuracy on this detail is kind of important. McGriff actually played for 6 teams over 19 years, according to BR. (I had thought five, so I checked and was surprised to have seen he played a year with the Dodgers that I absolutely do not remember.) I always liked McGriff, so I followed him, which I why I remembered 5 teams. Just wanted to update this for completeness. Thanks.

  9. Crazy Diamond says:

    I’d vote for McGriff. I think he deserves it and I think he’s one of the 10 best players on this year’s ballot. But the BBWAA has been tough on certain guys. Delgado – while not a HOFer, I don’t think – deserved more support. Jim Edmonds deserved more support. I really truly think that many of these guys would benefit from a binary voting system similar to what Joe and Jaffe and others have talked about. It’s such a shame that players from all eras get so overlooked. Lou Whitaker, Albert Belle, Will Clark, obviously Dan Quisenberry, and many others deserved more consideration from the BBWAA.

    • Darrel says:

      Since we are mentioning Blue Jay 1B all over the place I thought John Olerud didnt get as much mention as he should. Not a HoF’r but a better career than most people remember but punished due to lack of big HR totals.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Agreed. Olerud was a great player and should’ve gotten more consideration.

      • invitro says:

        Olerud was a significantly better player than either Murray or McGriff when he was playing. His problem is that he missed a lot of games when he was with TOR, and his career ended a little early for a HoF’er. I’d put him in a group with the other two for now: high members of the Hall of All-Stars.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Hall of All-Stars? That sounds interesting. That could also include Will Clark, Don Mattingly, Ken Boyer, Ted Simmons, Bobby Grich, Eric Chavez and Tim Salmon (though they was never actual All-Stars…somehow), and others.

          • invitro says:

            Most people say “Hall of Very Good”. I’m a contrarian and just like “Hall of All-Stars” a bit more. The HoF is for perennial MVP candidates; this hall is for perennial (should’ve been) All-Stars.

  10. invitro says:

    Murray and McGriff really are almost exactly the same on a per-PA level:
    Murray McGriff
    PA 12817 10174
    Rbat 20.8 26.7
    Rbaser -0.5 -1.5
    Rdp -0.6 -0.9
    Rfield 3.2 -2.3
    Rpos -10.1 -9.6
    RAA 12.8 12.6
    WAA 1.4 1.3
    Rrep 23.1 22.7
    RAR 35.9 35.3
    WAR 3.2 3.5
    oWAR 3.2 3.7
    dWAR -0.7 -1.2
    (Those numbers are actually per 680 PA.) McGriff has 6 more batting runs, Murray has 6 more fielding runs. Otherwise, they’re the same player.

    Murray has a lot more WAR, 68.3 to 52.4. That’s entirely due to Murray’s playing more. 68.3 is 30% more than 52.4, and 12817 is 26% more than 10714. And half the difference in PA is because *Murray was a regular at ages 21 and 22*, and McGriff wasn’t. I think those age-21-22 seasons are the only difference between the two guys. If you have Murray in your HoF, you should probably have McGriff as well, unless I missed something. (I wouldn’t have either in my HoF which is the same size as the real one.)

    • Isaiah says:

      A 30% difference in wins added is huge, in my opinion. At least it isn’t self-evident that if you think one guy is HOF-worthy, you also must think that a guy who was three-quarters the player he was over the course of his career was.

      I don’t think Murray is overwhelmingly qualified, but I’d support him being in, and not McGriff because of the large difference in career value.

      • invitro says:

        “three-quarters the player he was over the course of his career was.” — But my point is that he -wasn’t- 3/4 the player. He was the same player, for 3/4 as long of a career. 🙂 But I don’t know, I may change my mind later… I’d probably want to check if McGriff should’ve been allowed to play in his age 21 and 22 seasons.

      • invitro says:

        Ok, I take it back… the huge career WAR difference is indeed enough for Murray to be significantly more valuable, and in the HoF, and McGriff out of it. Whew, I let myself be seduced by rate stats too much and goofed… 🙁

  11. Darrel says:

    One of the things that this series has me thinking about is how short of peak is too short for inclusion purposes. I am generally a small Hall guy, or at least smallish, but more than that I tend to lean towards supporting high peak guys over longevity. At the risk of starting another argument that means I would be less inclined to vote for the Blyleven and Murray types.

    This, along with the mention of past Blue Jays led me to Jose Bautista’s BR page. No doubt the career numbers do not add up but since his 2010 breakout year we have a roughly 148 ops+. Now I’m not sure that is good enough anyways buts lets say that was 170 ops+ for the sake of this question. Would 7 years of that kind of production be enough for you to vote a player into the Hall?

    • invitro says:

      Sure, but I’ll bet there are fewer than 25 players with a 170 OPS+ over 7 years, and they’re all in the HoF, or aren’t due to PED’s or eligibility or character. (I had to add “character” because it looks like Dick Allen is in this small group.)

      • Darrel says:

        So if we assume average D and no PED’s but also no, or essentially no, counting stats for more than those 7 years then the player is in. Then what about 6 years or 5. I guess what I’m trying to ascertain is at what point do we collectively draw the line and say that is too short. The other side of the equation is also at what point is the peak high enough to account for the relatively short duration. Just curious as to what the consensus opinion might be.

        • invitro says:

          It’s tough to know without an example. There is one perfect example for the 170+ case: Trout currently has a lifetime 170 OPS+, in 5 1/3 seasons. Would you put him in the HoF if he retired today? (I’m actually not sure but probably…)

          • Darrel says:

            Yeah I would but that’s me favouring peak over longevity. I’m sure there are many that would not.

          • Rob Smith says:

            Well, he needs 10 years to be eligible, so if he had these numbers after 10 years, the answer is clearly YES.

        • Patrick says:

          We’re essentially talking about Dizzy Dean. He accumulated 140 of his 150 wins in a 7-year span (not to mention 90% of his IP and 95% of his WAR) In fact, about 80% of Dean’s value (whether you’re talking WAR or wins) came in a five year stretch.

          Dean was a very good, even great pitcher at his peak, but he barely played outside of that peak. He made it in, although there’s likely no shot he’d make it in today, and is probably a poor HOF choice all things considered.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Does it make a difference if the short peak is because of injury? IN other words, it’s pretty likely that Dizzy Dean would have continued to be a great pitcher for several years if he hadn’t broken his toe and ultimately hurt his arm. Is that different than someone who has five or six great years and a bunch of mediocre years, ie Dale Murphy? To me, that does make a difference. Dean was really never a less than top pitcher until he got hurt. Murphy was a great player for a few years, but a much lesser player for several years. You could almost say the same thing about Griffey, except that his peak was SO great that it does compensate for his last few years.

          • Patrick says:

            Mark- To your question about injuries. I think it does matter, to a degree. The problem is, we tend to give credit to guys like say, Dean and Puckett, who essentially stop playing because of injuries. But we just say “tough luck” if you spend 6-10 years battling with the *effects* of an injury/injuries and become a shell of yourself (like, say Saberhagen or Mattingly) It’s selectively applied.

  12. Darrel says:

    Interesting piece by Verducci featuring Mcgriff on right now.

    • Bryan says:

      Fred McGriff – 285/389/541, Age 30 in 1994
      Kevin Mitchell – 286/361/530, Age 32 in 1994
      Will Clark – 302/378/499, Age 30 in 1994
      Danny Tartabull – 277/373/504, Age 31 in 1994
      Jose Canseco – 267/349/513, Age 29 in 1994
      Fred McGriff – 287/372/478, 3869 PA
      Will Clark – 306/393/492, 2936 PA
      Jose Canseco – 264/358/523, 2889 PA
      Danny Tartabull – 245/339/443, 880 PA
      Kevin Mitchell – 263/356/434, 450 PA
      Stuff happens with or without steroids. It’s terrible writing to decide who did and didn’t take steroids and then assume a career path change based on changing that one factor.

      • Darrel says:

        I agree. Pretty big factor though. Want proof. Go look at Bonds career high in HR before steroids and then what Roid Barry did.

    • invitro says:

      I read that article, and am working my way through Verducci’s other two linked articles that he orders us to read. 🙂 I think it’s a good article, but I will always praise a HoF voter for laying out in detail the reasons for his/her vote. It might be worth a look at the arguments he uses for McGriff…

      “1. Only 31 players in baseball history have hit 475 home runs. Every one of them who has been on the ballot and not been connected to steroids is in the Hall of Fame except one: Fred McGriff (he has 493, good for 28th place)” — This sounds good, but maybe not so good if you acknowledge that the huge boost in offense during McGriff’s career is not solely due to steroids… small parks, Coors Field, and expansion do too.

      “2. Only 37 players in baseball history have posted an OPS+ of 129 or more over 10,000 plate appearances—a rare feat of sustained excellence over many years. Every one of them who has been on a ballot and not been connected to steroids is in the Hall of Fame except one: Fred McGriff. (He ranks 24th at 134, better than first-ballot Hall of Famers such as Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield.)” — Is 10,000 PA a HoF standard? Just looking at the 19 HoF’ers at 1B, only 5 of them have 10,000 PA. I don’t think players with between 9000 and 10,000 PA’s (including Killebrew, McCovey, Foxx, Gehrig, Sisler, Bagwell, and Helton) should be excluded from comparison. So that 24th doesn’t seem so impressive…

      And Verducci runs a list of # of seasons with a 140+ OPS+, of players eligible for but not in the HoF: Dick Allen with 11; Edgar Martinez with 10; McGriff, Bagwell, and Charlie Keller with 9. Verducci has omitted PED players (Bonds, Manny, McGwire, Sheffield). Some recent players that will be on this list later: Thome (12), Pujols (11), and Chipper (9). (Keller probably shouldn’t be on this list; in three of these seasons, he had 194, 193, and 64 PA.) What I wanted to check was if this list changes much if 135 or 145 are used instead of 140. The results:

      >=135: Bagwell (12), EMartinez (11), VGuerrero (10), Allen (10), McGriff (9)
      >=140: Allen (11), EMartinez (10), McGriff (9), Bagwell (9)
      >=145: Allen (10), VGuerrero (8), EMartinez (8), FHoward (7), LWalker (7), Bagwell (7), McGriff (6), JClark (6), BGiles (6), WClark (6) (omitting 19th century MTiernan (6), GGore (6), PHines (6))

      Yep, it changes quite a bit. The 140 number is just magic for McGriff and this looks like cherry-picking. The main result that I see is that Bagwell, Edgar, and probably Vlad have better cases than even the best McGriff case…

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Lowering the pitching mound also helped hitters over the years.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        The problem I have with people saying that “McGriff’s numbers benefited from X, Y, and Z” is that EVERYONE’S numbers (especially for batters) generally benefited from this. If Edgar Martinez is hitting in 1960 or even 1980, I doubt his numbers would be as good as they were while hitting in the 1990s/2000s. Now I have no doubt that Edgar would’ve had a good career regardless of era as talent can overcome quite a bit. But c’mon, the first-ballot guys from this era benefited just like the 8th and 9th ballot guys.
        Also I agree that Bagwell and Vlad both have better cases than McGriff. Those guys were rockstars.

      • Patrick says:

        “Only 37 players in baseball history have posted an OPS+ of 129 or more over 10,000 plate appearances—a rare feat of sustained excellence over many years. Every one of them who has been on a ballot and not been connected to steroids is in the Hall of Fame except one: Fred McGriff.”

        The problem with this, as you said, is that 10,000 PAs is hardly a requirement for being in the Hall of Fame. The reason 10,000 is being used in arguments for McGriff of course, is to avoid people mentioning Delgado, or Will Clark who had similar OPS+ to McGriff in roughly the same number of PAs as say, Orlando Cepeda.

  13. Brent says:

    Joe, you have used the Luis Tiant/Catfish Hunter comparison a few times, but I don’t think it is the most effective you could use (mostly because Tiant was a LOT better than Hunter). A better comparison to use is Catfish vs. his teammate Vida Blue. I don’t see a lot of difference in their careers (except Catfish was a much better post season pitcher, which he should get credit for), yet Catfish sailed in on his third ballot and Blue never got more than 10% of the vote. Now, there are a lot of non-baseball reasons for that discrepancy, but just based on their numbers, I cannot say the better A’s pitchers is in the HOF.

  14. Mark Daniel says:

    Looking at Black Ink and Gray Ink scores, it seems that McGriff didn’t lead the league, and wasn’t in the top 10 in the league, in major offensive categories. Black Ink test is a measure of leading the league, Gray Ink of being in the top 10. You can find these on baseball-reference.

    Here are the values:

    Player, Black Ink score, Gray Ink score
    Average HoFer, 27, 144
    McGriff, 9, 105
    Murray, 11, 181
    Ortiz, 25, 161

    So Murray and Ortiz are both higher than HoF average in Gray Ink test, McGriff is lower than HoF average in both.

    Some others:
    Average HoFer, 27, 144
    Dwight Evans, 15, 113
    Jim Rice, 33, 176

    Darrell Evans, 8, 82
    Tony Perez, 0, 129

    Trammell, 0, 48
    Larkin, 0, 66

    This is not a good stat, mind you, since other than Jim Rice (someone many people feel is one of the worst HoFers), each have at least one score that is below HoF average (even the HoFers). Plus, it’s skewed toward sluggers. It also counts RBIs as one of the major offensive categories (explaining Tony Perez’ Gray Ink score).

    I guess it shows what an impact leading the league, or being on the leaderboard, has on HoF voting. At least for sluggers.

    • Darrel says:

      Those who argue for Mcgriff, and I am not on of those by the way, will argue that if you remove Canseco, Mcgwire, Bonds, Giambi, Ortiz,Sosa et al then the amount of gray and black ink for Mcgriff would have been much higher. This is a large part of the Anti-Steroid absolutist argument. Many people see it as a victimless “crime” but Mcgriff can be seen as a “victim” here. Without the influx of steroid infused sluggers it is very likely his numbers get him in. Gray/Black ink would be higher. Replacement level would have been lower so WAR goes up. OPS+ goes up as it is measured against the league. Any or all of those things probably get him enshrined.

      • Mark Daniel says:

        Good point. He did lead the league in HR twice, both prior to 1994, which is considered the start of the steroid era.

        • KHAZAD says:

          1994 is widely considered part of the steroid era, but probably should not be. Those of us who were around then were talking about the Tony Larussa steroid fueled A’s in the late 80s. I remember (just because it happened at a memorable game, so I know what year it was)discussing how Palmeiro and Juangone must be juicing before ’94.

          There are other factors that lead to people pinpointing ’94. In a shortened season, the offensive leaders put up crazy numbers, but many of those leaders are not considered users. But there was expansion in 1993, including the addition of Coors field, and 1995 was the beginning of the era when the strike zone shrunk to about the size of a postage stamp. Some new parks were smaller, and some existing parks moved their fences in.

          I have no doubt there was more widespread use after the strike, but there was also the above factors contributing to higher offense, as well as a 2nd expansion in 1998.

    • KHAZAD says:

      The comparison of “black and grey ink” to the HOF average is an outdated concept. It is twice as difficult to get black ink and grey ink now as it was for many pre expansion hall of famers. The “averages” are also skewed by the true greats.

  15. MikeN says:

    Fred McGriff’s 493 would look more impressive without the steroid users, but how much more?

    You lose McGwire, Sheffield, Sosa, Palmeiro, Ramirez.
    He would still be passed by Griffey, Bonds, Thome, Murray, Pujols, and presumably ARod.
    Others in the 400 club would be further back.

  16. Wes Tovich says:

    Now THAT is more like it-a positive article about a guy you don’t want in the Hall, at least not with your vote you don’t. I would vote for Crime Dog, but the strictures of 10 votes only is silly. I think McGriff is an easy HoF.

    This was a fine article, Joe Poz, try it again. We like Fred McGriff out here. Tearing him or another candidate down just makes you or anyone else look like a Trump voter. And who wants that?

  17. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    I started following baseball in the 1970s, but I was also swept up in the Bill James revolution in the 1980s (I’m a qunatitative analyst of sorts, so I guess it was inevitable). As a result, I have a foot in both camps. I was happy to see Bruce Sutter make the Hall of Fame, as well as Perez, Catfish, and even Rice. Most of you didn’t live through it, but these guys were *famous* in the 1970s and they were a big part of the narrative of the decade. The stats nerd in me feels guilty about this, because the quantitative case for each one is, to say the least, mixed. But even now, I don’t know how I could tell the story of baseball in the 70s and leave these guys out. (I hope it’s clear that when I refer to the famous players of the 1970s, there’s still an expectation of sustained performance; nobody wants to enshrine Mark Fidrych.)

    By the same token, I was happy to see Blyleven make it, and I’m pulling for Tim Raines. Demonstrable excellence ought to be rewarded by the Hall, even if the media at the time had no idea what how good these folks were. I am easily persuaded by appeals to WAR and WAA.

    The good news is that, with the rapidly growing acceptance of advanced analytics (sorry, Murray Chass), these debates will largely recede over the next decade or so. Now we know who the top performers are, and the gap between who’s famous and who’s great has started to close. That doesn’t mean there won’t still be Hall of Fame debate; there will always be marginal candidates about whom we can argue. But, as a generational matter, the analytics/traditionalist argument is pretty much over, and will not dominate future discussions about the Hall of Fame.

    So at this point, we just need to work through the period from roughly 1985-2000. (And of course the steroids issue, but that’s a different matter.) Given that this is already an underappreciated era in baseball history, I say that we should let in both the great and the famous. Let the Crime Dog have his plaque.

  18. Crazy Diamond says:

    “The Pete Rose Hall of Fame” – I think someone needs to create a HOF for all the guys who were good/great but didn’t make the Cooperstown HOF for whatever reason. Put all the PED guys in there, all the banned players (Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe), and all the idiots, jerks, Neanderthals, guys missing a chromosome or two (Curt Schilling), and of course all the guys who were weird, the “can’t miss” prospects who missed, and all of the truly famous players. Put John Rocker in there, too, just to annoy everyone. The loveable weirdos could have their own wing, guys like Mark Fidrych and Ryan Freel, bless their souls. Doc Ellis would be good. Oh and Sidd Finch! Gotta love him! Throw in Bo Jackson, have a few Michael Jordan White Sox items in there, have a whole wall of football and basketball players who played baseball.

    It’d be interesting! Let the fans vote on it, too.

  19. Phil says:

    As a Jays fan, an odder line for me is the one that was drawn between McGriff, now in his 8th year on the ballot, and Carlos Delgado, who didn’t make it to a second year. I understand the obvious: different eras, Delgado did his hitting during the PED boom (whereas McGriff leveled off and therefore faded into the background during those years). But McGriff just wasn’t as fearsome a hitter as Delgado was, either over the long haul or (especially) at their peaks.

    • invitro says:

      Delgado was an above-average player for only 9 seasons, from ages 26 to 34. McGriff was above-average for 13 seasons (these are going by WAA). Not a huge difference, but small differences can make big differences in HoF voting. And Delgado’s peak doesn’t look any better than McGriff’s other than their best seasons, a 7.3-6.6 victory for Delgado. Delgado could’ve tied McGriff by putting up slightly above-average seasons in ages 24, 25, 35, and 36, but he didn’t. Also: Delgado hated the USA.

    • Bryan says:

      Click on the 2010 tab and see how it’s pretty simple to place a check mark next to any name you consider worthy for the Hall of Fame unless you favor a really big hall. McGriff is 11th by WAR and gets the 11th most votes. Jack Morris and Lee Smith get more votes with fewer WAR. Robin Ventura and Kevin Appier get fewer votes with more WAR.
      Next click on the 2015 tab and figure out how to vote for Delgado. By WAR Delgado is 21st on the ballot with 44.3 and gets 21 votes, next is Nomar 44.2 and he gets 30 votes and then Mattingly 42.2 WAR getting 50 votes in his final year on the ballot.
      WAR is at most a starting point for filling out a Hall of Fame ballot but it’s a pretty bad starting point for Delgado, Nomar and Mattingly who are all over 20 WAR lower than Biggio’s 65.1 and Biggio only has the 13th most WAR on the ballot.

  20. Scsilveira says:

    As a Giants fan from way back, I can remember the 1993 season, winning 2 of every 3 games, with the Braves 8 games back in the NL West in early August. The Braves had their great starters by then, but lineup weaknesses–for example, Sid Bream was their first baseman. So they traded for McGriff. I remember the psychological impact–McGriff seemed like such an upgrade, a, yes, Hall of Fame upgrade to their offense. Within a month, they passed us up…

    • Mike Schilling says:

      Yeah, I’ve always disliked McGriff for exactly that reason. Just disliked, not hated; he’s not Steve Garvey or anything.

    • Phil Gaskill says:

      Yeah, the Braves were 9 games back when McGriff played his first game for them. When I heard about the trade, I said to my wife: “The Braves just won the pennant.” McGriff hit a go-ahead 2-run homer in his first game with them, and they were off to the races, eventually beating out the Giants 104 wins to 103. (The Phillies, who won the other division, won 97.)

  21. Rick Rodstrom says:

    Though I wouldn’t be compelled to vote for him, Fred McGriff would be no disgrace to the Hall. In keeping with Joe’s intentions, I am here to praise McGriff: He hit wherever he went, won a pair of home run titles, and mashed in the post-season. He was adequate in the field—that Braves staff doesn’t dominate with a stiff at first base. He ran OK for a first baseman. Of those Joe listed, I would vote for McGriff before Bruce Sutter, Dan Quisenberry, Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell, Tony Perez or Darrell Evans. I would love to have him on my team.

  22. KHAZAD says:

    Everyone does have a line. Mcgriff is just above mine. I think he is a Hall of Famer, but right down at the border, just over the line. He didn’t make my top ten this year, though, just because of the current glut of candidates.

    That glut is partially caused by the steroid controversy, but also contributing is the fact that there are more good players now than ever. In the “golden age” if you were in the top ten hitters in the league in a year, you were in the top 7.8% of starting players. (all of whom were white American guys) Today, you are in the top 3.9%. You are also taking your late game at bats against fresh hard throwing beast relievers instead of starters who were trying to get complete games.

    There are some who would say that because there are more players today that it is a weaker pool, but they are incorrect. There 1.875 times more active major leaguers on rosters in 2010, for instance, than there were in 1940. But the population is 2.35 times the size. That is only the beginning though. In 1940, only about 85% of the population was eligible, and in 2010, only about 72% of players were US born.

    Crunching the numbers, that means that only about 49% of the 1940 players would be good enough to make a major league roster today. The numbers for starting pitchers are a little bit better, because we use more today, but still only 61% of the starting pitchers then would be good enough to start today. There are a few more starting hitters today because of the DH, but only 52% of the starting lineup players then would be starting lineup players today. The greats then played against much weaker competition.

    I said all that stuff to say this (in case anyone actually reads this book). Even without the glut because of steroids, there would still be a glut because there are simply more great players in the latter part of the 20th century and today than there ever have been, and the voters have not made the adjustment. There are not significantly more players per year being voted in today, and there should be. In fact, due to the “generosity” of past veteran’s committees and the get off my lawn mentality of some of the voters today, the Hall of Fame is WAAY too weighted towards players in the distant past. Players like Fred Mcgriff pay the price for that.

    • Rick Rodstrom says:

      Up through the 1940’s-50’s, baseball was the only team sport that paid anything. The NFL and NBA operated at the margins of sports. Only boxing could rival baseball as a lucrative career. So all your athletes wanted to be pro baseball players. Kids played sandlot baseball, stickball, along with little league baseball. Baseball was king.

      Today football and basketball are the hottest team sports. Since all basketball requires is a ball and a hoop, it has become the most prevalent sport for pickup games, with soccer rising fast (another game where the only equipment needed is a ball). African Americans in particular have gravitated away from baseball, so that MLB has fewer black Americans playing in it now than at any time since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Baseball is a game of highly specialized skills that require lots of equipment and lots of practice that American kids aren’t getting.

      It’s like saying that since the population has doubled there must be twice as many great boxers as their once were, ignoring the fact that boxing has fallen from its mainstream perch so that few people box anymore, and those who do fight are as likely to gravitate towards MMA. Boxing, like baseball, is getting more of its talent from outside the US. Are fighters today better than Sugar Ray Robinson? Are baseball players today better than Willie Mays? Old timers will say no. But there’s no question that NBA and NFL players from 1950 would find it hard to make the squad on today’s pro teams. Willie Mays would probably be a wide receiver or a point guard if he grew up today.

      • invitro says:

        “soccer rising fast” — If the popularity of soccer really has risen as fast as its fans have been saying it has since the early 1970’s, it’d be more popular than sex by now. I don’t know how to measure the popularity of soccer — the league Pele was in had some awfully high attendance figures back then. I do know that the popularity of saying soccer is getting more popular is extremely high.

        • Rick Rodstrom says:

          Not soccer viewership, but soccer participation. Kids are playing in youth soccer leagues now, and if you take a look at city parks, they are crammed with people playing soccer, at least in NY and LA where I’ve lived. Baseball not so much.

          • invitro says:

            I played in a soccer league from about ages 9 to 14, which is about 1979 to 1984. Soccer was probably more popular as a youth participation sport than any other sport except maybe basketball — our (small) city parks were crammed with people playing soccer way back then. I’d need to see proof that any more people are playing soccer now than in the 1980’s, or even 1970’s. I’d guess that the sport with the highest increase in participation over the last 40 years has been football (I don’t include video games as a sport). There were no organized football leagues in my region when I was a kid, outside of school. There are lots of them now. Well, these are just anecdotes and don’t mean anything… I’m curious what the actual numbers are.

            I think just about everyone forgets how popular the New York Cosmos were in the 1970’s. They averaged over 34,000 in attendance from 1977 to 1981, peaking at 48,000. Does any US soccer team come anywhere close to those numbers?

          • invitro says:

            I did some research because that’s the kind of dawg I am. This site ( has “US Youth Soccer Annual Registration of Players” for several years from 1974 to 2014. The number has remained constant since 2000, which of course means that it’s slightly declining as a %age of the growing population. But youth soccer definitely grew rapidly from when I played as a kid until 2000. (I think I’ll type those numbers for states to see which have the highest % participation.)

            This site (www dot engagesports dot com /blog/post/1488/youth-sports-participation-statistics-and-trends) shows increases/decreases in youth participation from 2009 to 2014. As you’d probably guess, almost all sports declined significantly, and as you’d probably guess, football declined the most, followed by volleyball (which you might not guess). Soccer declined at about twice the rate as baseball. Basketball declined at a higher rate than baseball. Lots of little sports grew, but the biggest growth by raw number was gymnastics.

            And I saw that the Seattle team had 42,000 average attendance in 2016. That’s quite a bit higher than I would’ve guessed. All teams averaged over 14,000. Actually those numbers are a LOT higher than I’d have guessed, and I’m wondering if some creative accounting is going on :). I mean, nearly every team is at 90% capacity… really? Well, these numbers are much higher than the NBA’s as raw numbers, and appear even a little higher than the NBA’s as % capacity.

            From this research, I’d conclude that since 2000, soccer has declined a little as a participation sport, but increased greatly as a spectator sport. (I’m basing the latter on MLS yearly attendance figures & number of teams in the league.)

          • Phil Gaskill says:

            Yeah, one of the commonest appellations these days (i.e., for decades now) for mothers of kids is “soccer mom.” Whoever heard of a “baseball mom”?

        • MikeN says:

          If the US team moves up a level or two to be a real contender, and it starts to get more popularity, then all the people who talk about how great soccer is will lose interest.

      • KHAZAD says:

        There is no question that NBA and NFL players from 1940 or even later would have a hard time making it on teams today. But my point included race in the conversation. There were 330 white football players in the NFL in 1940, the NBA began being integrated in 1950.

        While it is true that there are less african american players by percentage in the MLB than there used to be, it is a very recent trend due to the cost of playing baseball (It is very expensive and travel intense now, and it was not like that in the 1980s when I played.) MLB has the same number of african american players that they did in 1961, about less than half of how many played in 1994. Some of that is the money it takes to play as a youth, some is the call of the now lucrative NBA and NFL, some the sharp increase in foreign born players taking some of the spots.

        But when comparing now to the pre integration era, which I was doing, the other sports aren’t really culling the type of player who played then. The NFL is 70% African American and has small but growing global component. The NBA is 23% white, and that includes all the Europeans. More than half of MLS players are from other countries, and they are not a salary contender, as their league minimum is only around $35,000.

        No matter how you look at it, there were alot of white guys in the 40s and earlier who were MLB players that couldn’t sniff it in today’s more populated world, with global competition, not to mention competing against US African Americans and Latinos who were not eligible then.

        • invitro says:

          “While it is true that there are less african american players by percentage in the MLB than there used to be, it is a very recent trend” — It is not at all a very recent trend. Have you looked at the numbers in detail? I have. The % of blacks in MLB peaked in 1975, and has been gradually declining at a constant rate since then. That’s 40 years, hardly recent. Why 1975? Well, 1975-1947=28. Hopefully I don’t need to explain the significance of 1947 and 28.

          “due to the cost of playing baseball (It is very expensive and travel intense now” — I’ve shown why this reason is erroneous. But I’ll add: (a) Most baseball playing now is still in school, and the school buys the equipment. All the player has to buy is their glove and cleats, and I’ll bet the gov’t buys those for many players. (b) And football is an order of magnitude more expensive than baseball. By your reasoning, blacks would be completely out of the NFL by now due to the expense of playing football. (c) Schools pay for the travel of their sports teams, of course.

    • invitro says:

      “Crunching the numbers, that means that only about 49% of the 1940 players would be good enough to make a major league roster today.” — Bill James has said that current players are at most a tiny margin better than players of the 1920’s, let alone the 1950’s, and he knows more about the issue than anyone who’s ever been born.

      “There are not significantly more players per year being voted in today, and there should be.” — This is entirely a matter of philosophy. It’s completely reasonable and consistent with the facts to believe that about two players should make the HoF every year, regardless of era.

      “In fact, due to the “generosity” of past veteran’s committees and the get off my lawn mentality of some of the voters today, the Hall of Fame is WAAY too weighted towards players in the distant past.” — I looked at this in detail some time ago, and think you’re factually incorrect here. The only over-represented era in the HoF is the 1920’s and 1930’s. All other eras are equally represented. For every Murray Chass who sends in a blank ballot, there are several voters like Joe who will vote for the maximum ten players every year (and who’d probably vote for twenty players every year if they could).

      • MikeN says:

        Where did Bill James say this? Pretty much every sabermetric(and not) writer I’ve seen would dispute this.

        • MikeN says:

          For example, evaluating the claim that the 98 Yankees are better than the 1927 Yankees, Rob Neyer wrote that the 1927 Yankees are worse than the 1998 Brewers.

          • Phil Gaskill says:

            ’27 Yankees: Ruth. Gehrig. Meusel. Lazzeri. Combs. Not bad: best team in ages, sure, but big weaknesses at short, third, and catcher. Pitching: good, not great.

            ’98 Yankees: Nobody like Ruth or Gehrig, of course. But Posada, Tino, Knoblauch, Jeter, Brosius, Chad Curtis, Bernie, and O’Neill, along with Straw, makes for a pretty damn good lineup, not to mention some of the best pitching around. Many of the guys in the lineup were at their absolute peaks that year.

          • kehnn13 says:

            In response to the comparison of 27 Yankees versus the 98 yankees. In the field, the 27 Yankees totaled 46.4 WAR versus 36.6 for the 98 Yankees (even giving the 98 version an additional player, the dh)…i did only compare starters, but i think this casts at least some doubt on the verdict re 27 Yankees versus 98 Yankees…

      • KHAZAD says:

        I don’t recall James saying this, and I have a big collection of his work. (one of my Wife and I’s first arguments when we first got together and lived in a tiny apartment was over her wanting to give the “expired” books away to save space) If he did say it, then I am sorry, he is mistaken.

        There was a pool of about 56 million white males in 1940, and there were 400 major league players. There are about 155 million US males of all colors in 2010 and there are 542 US players. Now it is very difficult to tell how many of the 542 players were white, as articles about baseball and race usually include players of every country, but it sure as hell wasn’t 542. I won’t go through every team, but for the 5 years surrounding 2010 (2008-2012) my team averaged 13.4 players on the opening day roster who would have been eligible to play in 1940. With 750 MLB players, if that is a representative sample, that is about 402 white US players in baseball, or almost exactly how many were playing in 1940 with alot less people.

        That means that there were a bunch of major leaguers then, including everyday players, who would be minor leaguers today. The competition was quite a bit poorer. The number of actual players playing was less, but the number of hall of famers is not. There were still great players, but there were also alot of borderline guys who feasted on lesser competition and made it in.

        • invitro says:

          Your argument relies on a great many presumptions. You are probably aware of them, but you don’t mention them, which makes it hard to take what you’re saying on good faith.

          By your numbers, the best 400 white players were in MLB in 1940, and the best 402 white players were in MLB in 2016. I don’t see how you can figure that any of the 400 1940 players wouldn’t have been in the 204 2016 players.

        • invitro says:

          “I don’t recall James saying this, and I have a big collection of his work.” — He says something to that effect regularly on his website in the “Hey Bill” section. I don’t have a subscription to his site right now, so I can’t view previous “Hey Bill”s, but if I get one, I will, and ask him directly, if I can think of a proper way to formulate the question. Maybe “How many of the 1940 MLB players would be on 2017 MLB rosters, if they had access to the same training, health care, and equipment that 2017 players do?” …I have lots of Bill James books too, about 25 of them, but I don’t have the Historical Abstract for some reason. That’s probably the book to look in, although his current statements are better, since he now has ten years experience of being an MLB insider to add to his already gargantuan knowledge of baseball.

    • Bryan says:

      The BBWAA has voted 80 position players into the Hall of Fame. 71 of those have at least 7500 PA. Gabby Hartnett, Bill Terry, Bill Dickey, Lou Boudreau, Ralph Kiner, Mickey Cochrane, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella have fewer than 7500 MLB plate appearances and were voted in by the BBWAA but for simplicity consider 7500 PA to be the cut-off.
      The BBWAA elected 3 of 37 players (8.1%) who debuted from 1871-1900 and had 7500+ PA. 10 of 36 (27.8%) who debuted 1901-1920. 11 of 33 (33.3%) who debuted 1921-1940. 16 of 43 (37.2%) who debuted 1941-1960. Two things are generally true of long careers, they were really good at baseball and they had very high counting stats.
      Debut 1961-1970 it’s 9 of 44 (20.5%) with 7500+ PA elected by the BBWAA which includes Pete Rose so could consider that 10 of 44 (22.7%). Debut 1971-1980 it’s 11 of 39 (28.2%). Debut 1981-1990 it’s 10 of 54 (18.5%) if Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire and Gary Sheffield were all elected it would be 16 of 54 (29.6%).
      Debut 1991-2000 is 48 players (no active player has over 5000 PA and under 7500 PA so that number is really unlikely to change). The BBWAA has only elected Mike Piazza so far. Jeff Bagwell, Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Adrian Beltre, Jim Thome and David Ortiz will most likely be elected by the BBWAA. Based on what happened on the field Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez would have been easily elected by the BBWAA. All those players being elected would be 11 of 48 (22.9%).
      Kenny Lofton and Jim Edmonds have already been rejected by the BBWAA. Carlos Beltran might need 3000 hits (383 more) to avoid the same fate. Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Todd Helton, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Jeff Kent or any other position player during those debut years probably isn’t going to be elected by the BBWAA.
      Debut since 2001 and 7500+ PA and it’s Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki who are most likely elected if they never play another game. Robinson Cano already has a solid case but so do Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich and they were rejected by the BBWAA. If Mark Teixeira stays retired he has little chance of election. Adrian Gonzalez would need to play really well after turning 35 to get elected. Adam Dunn has no chance of election by the BBWAA.
      Chase Utley has the best chance of reaching 7500 PA in 2017 and eventually getting elected by the BBWAA but see Cano/Whitaker/Grich. Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Joe Mauer, David Wright, Joey Votto, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Bautista are some of the players who will make or break their Hall of Fame case over the next 5 or so years.

      • Patrick says:

        “Cano already has a solid case but so do Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich and they were rejected by the BBWAA”

        Bobby Grich was rejected in 1992 and Robinson Cano won’t be on the ballot before 2025 in all likelihood. The voting bloc that disregarded Grich (and Whitaker) will bear little, if any resemblance to the one that will consider Cano

  23. Mike says:

    I assume there is someone at Baseball-reference going “why are so many people looking at Fred McGriff today?”

  24. birtelcom says:

    If we start the “Steroids Era” of prodigious home run hitting with the first full season after the strike, 1996, who were the leading home run hitters prior to that point? Here are the home run leaders over the nine seasons prior to 1996.

    Most HRs, 1987 through1995:
    1. Fred McGriff 289
    2. Barry Bonds 276
    3. Mark McGwire 274
    4. Joe Carter 270
    5. Jose Canseco 262
    6. Cecil Fielder 242
    7. Matt Williams 225
    8. Bobby Bonilla 214
    9. Andre Dawson 211
    10. Kevin Mitchell 208

    • Bryan says:

      250+ HR combined in 9 consecutive seasons ending in 1995 or earlier and not in the Hall of Fame or the Top 5 from the post above this one: Darryl Strawberry, Rocky Colavito, Dave Kingman, Dick Allen, Bobby Bonds, Gil Hodges, Dale Murphy, Norm Cash, Frank Howard, Lee May, Roy Sievers and George Foster.
      Guys like MVP George Bell with 245 HR from 1984-1992 are lurking if you lower the bar slightly. Rocky Colavito is the only one to top 300, Frank Howard 294 and then McGriff 289 along with missing time because of the strike. Dale Murphy “only” 288, Gil Hodges “only” 286.
      Now when Colavito hit 312 HR from 1958-1966 is he less worthy because during the same span Willie Mays hit 355, Hank Aaron 332 and Harmon Killebrew 325 with Frank Robinson 306, Mickey Mantle 289 and Ernie Banks 283 trailing Rocky? How much value do you place on being first as opposed to Colavito hitting ~2.5 more HR per year than McGriff would while leading MLB around 30 years later?

    • invitro says:

      Maybe the “steroid era” needs to start sooner than 1996…

  25. Alejo says:

    I would be proud to vote for McGriff.

  26. birtelcom says:

    Players with 200+ HRs in both the NL and AL:
    Ken Griffey, Jr.
    Mark McGwire
    Frank Robinson
    Fred McGriff
    Vlad Guerrero

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