More on Fred McGriff

by Quin Hillyer

After posting yesterday about the baseball and football Halls of Fame, I found myself becoming more and more outraged at the lack of respect shown to a player I never really rooted for (as a New Orleanian, I tend to consider Atlanta teams to be rivals). But the overwhelming evidence is that Fred McGriff is being horribly mistreated by the baseball writers, and that he should be an easy entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

First, consider that McGriff’s only real “drawback” is that he fell just short of the magic number of 500 career home runs — but that a large portion of what was looking like his best year ever was lost to the idiotic players’ strike. No strike, and he reaches 500, easily.

But a quick comparison of his record with that of other slam-dunk enshrinees at his position shows that McGriff clearly merits induction. 

Eddie Murray played 566 more games than McGriff, but out-homered him only 504 to 493. (McGriff’s 493 homers, by the way, ties him with Lou Gehrig.) Their career batting averages were almost identical, with Murray at .287 and McGriff at .284. But McGriff had a better eye at the plate and more overall power. He beat Murray .377 to .359 in on-base percentage, .509 to .476 in slugging percentage, and thus .886 to .836 in OPS. This difference largely makes up for Murray’s somewhat better defense — and when factoring in the simple fact that McGriff’s excellent post-season performances (detailed in my earlier post) far outshone Murray’s, the whole package shows that McGriff if anything should be considered a slightly better candidate for the Hall than Murray, who entered the Hall in his first year of eligibility with 85 percent of the vote.

Now compare McGriff to first ballot Hall of Famer Willie McCovey (81 percent of the vote). Again, McCovey barely edges McGriff in homers (that darned players’ strike!), 521 to 493.  But although McCovey played 128 more games, McGriff beat him in runs scored (1,349 to 1,229), hits (2,490 to 2,211), batting average (.284 to .270), and on base percentage (barely: .377 to .374), and was almost a perfect match in RBIs (1,550 to 1,555) and OPS (.886 to .889). For what it’s worth, he also had a slightly higher fielding percentage, .992 to .987 — and, again, ten years of post-season heroics, easily outstripping McCovey there.

Finally, McGriff’s numbers blow away those of the excellent Tony Perez. Runs: 1,349 to 1,272. Home runs: 493 to 379. Batting average, on base percentage, slugging, and OPS: respectively .284 to .279, .377 to .341, .509 to .463, and thus .886 to .804. 

And McGriff was a solid citizen, an excellent teammate, popular with fans — and the first player since the dead-ball era to lead each league in home runs. How in creation can he receive less than 12 percent of the vote for the Hall, when these others vaulted into the Hall either with almost no real opposition or, in Perez’s case, with vote totals that began (his first year of eligibility) at 50 percent and rose steadily and inexorably thereafter?

McGriff’s nickname was “Crime Dog.” It doesn’t take much sniffing around to figure out that his treatment by the baseball writers who cast Hall of Fame ballots is almost criminal.

Right Field

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