Fred McGriff will be eligible for the Hall of Fame next year, and the folks in Tampa (his home town, and where he currently works) are already banging the drum for his induction.
His basic numbers are pretty good — 493 homers, 1,550 RBIs, a .284 average. Further research by Rays VP Rick Vaughn makes them look even better, noting that all eligible players with similar triple crown category numbers are in and that McGriff compares very favorably with other first baseman in the Hall, as well as those in his era.
As good as McGriff was -- and he was very, very good -- the mention of his name has never sparked the imagination of casual baseball fans. As a player, he was quiet and classy. He didn't court trouble or attention. He didn't win any MVP awards. He just smashed 30-35 home runs and drove in 100 runs every year for 19 seasons.
Over a 15-year stretch from 1988-2002, McGriff was sixth in home runs, trailing Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Ken Griffey Jr. Over the same stretch, only Bonds and Palmeiro drove in more runs.
And one more thing: Of the players mentioned above, only Griffey and McGriff have never been connected to steroids.
Whatever you think of juicing, it has become quite clear that Hall of Fame voters do care, and are prepared to punish anyone connected to steroids or suspected of using them. Just ask Mark McGwire.
So in contrast, will voters reward McGriff for a resume that is perceived to be clean? The Crime Dog tells the New York Times that he's not sure it should matter:
"I think even without those guys being accused of this and that, my numbers stack up pretty good against those guys," McGriff said. "It's not like they were that much better. If you really start to look at the numbers, I was still right there."
Well said, Fred.