The Ballot: Fred McGriff
|Joe Posnanski||Jan 14, 2019|
Hitting: 425 points
Fielding: minus-50 points
Base running: -10 points
League leaders: 10 points (led in HRs twice)
The awesomeness of his mustache: 5 points
Starring in Tom Emanski commercials: 15 points
Crime Dog nickname: 5 points
Hall of Fame Race to 400 points: 400
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I've said this before: My Hall of Fame bar is Fred McGriff. I mean this literally. Everyone who I think is BETTER than Fred McGriff would be in my Hall of Fame. Everybody who's not quite as good as Fred McGriff would fall just short for me. It's no coincidence that he scored exactly 400 points in the Race to 400.
What to do with McGriff himself? Well, that's an interesting question ... but to be honest it's one I've never had to answer officially, because for me, as a Hall of Fame voter, McGriff has never quite been one of the 10 best players on the ballot. The highest I ever had him ranked was 11th (in his first year on the ballot -- and looking back, he might have been Top 10 that year). Most other years he was closer to 20th than 10th.
But I readily admit that this is because the ballot is loaded with PED guys who I would vote in, but others would not. I can see how someone else can say that McGriff should be voted in before MannyBManny or McGwire or other guys, because he was, by all indications, a clean player. But we're not going to rehash that argument. We all know where we stand on that stuff.
So, let me answer the question now: Do I think Fred McGriff should be in the Hall of Fame?
Yes. I do. I've evolved somewhat on the question, because I've evolved somewhat on how I view the Hall.
Fred McGriff WILL GO to the Hall of Fame. Of this, I have almost no doubt. He obviously will not be elected by the BBWAA. This is his final year on the ballot, and he's never gotten even 25% of the vote. He probably will get 35% or more this year -- most players spike a bit in their last year on the ballot -- but that's not nearly close to the 75 percent he would need.
But he will be elected. The veterans committee will vote him in at its first opportunity (more on this in a second). And I've come around to thinking: The Hall of Fame sends conflicting messages.
On the one hand, they often make the point that the Baseball Hall of Fame is the toughest one to get into, that only 1% of all players ever make it, that the standards are impossibly high, and must stay impossibly high.
On the other hand, they have these veterans committees, where 16 old people -- and I can say this as an old person myself -- get into a room and just decide if certain players who were not voted in by the BBWAA should be elected. The generosity of these committees has been sporadic. There have been stretches of time when they were Scrooge-like and wouldn't vote in any player (and certainly not any living player). And there have been other stretches of time when they have been Santa Clausian in the way that they've lavished Hall of Fame honors on players.
[caption id="attachment_23990" align="aligncenter" width="429"] The Crime Dog will be in Cooperstown soon enough.[/caption]
We're in one of those Santa Claus periods now -- Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Lee Smith and Harold Baines have been elected in the last two years. The BBWAA carefully considered all those players for 15 years (well, Baines fell off the ballot after six) and simply could not find a 75% consensus for any of them. In retrospect, those BBWAA votes were a waste of time. I mean that in a literal way. They wasted the players' time. They wasted the fans' time. They wasted the voters' time. If those four players were going to end up in the Hall of Fame anyway, they should have gone in a decade earlier, through the front door, with a true celebration.
Instead, they got beat up for more than a decade, year after year of disappointment and arguments and nonsense.
I've written a lot about Fred McGriff and how much of a borderline case he is for me, and how he might be JUST SHY of the Hall of Fame. Well, what was the point of that now? The Crime Dog was a terrific player, and he's going to end up in the Hall of Fame, and he ABSOLUTELY SHOULD go to the Hall of Fame if Harold Baines is the veterans committee standard. Let's just get him off the BBWAA ballot and into Cooperstown already.
A lot of people have wondered what the Harold Baines election will mean for others. Baines finished with 38.7 bWAR. Obviously, bWAR alone should not determine who's worthy of the Hall of Fame, but it's noteworthy that 167 retired players with more than 40 bWAR are not in the Hall of Fame.
Very few of those 167 will actually have their Hall of Fame cases affected by the Baines election. But I do think three players could get a boost:
No. 1: McGriff
Like I say, I think he was going in anyway, But now there's no question at all. McGriff and Baines were similar in some ways -- they were both tall, lean, left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing, likable hitters who put up metronome consistent numbers year after year. The difference is that Baines played longer, but McGriff was substantially better.
No. 2: Steve Garvey
The funny thing here is that Garvey isn't one of those 167 players with more than 40 WAR. He actually has LESS bWAR than Baines. But in many ways, I think Garvey is the player most likely to benefit from the Baines election. Garvey's case is a lot like Baines'. He was a middle-of-the-lineup hitter for a long time. He got a lot of hits (2,599) like Baines, he hit for a good average like Baines, and he was a solid RBI guy like Baines.
In addition to those things, Garvey won an MVP (Baines never was close), Garvey won four Gold Gloves (Baines was predominantly a DH), Garvey started nine All-Star Games (Baines started one), Garvey was a postseason hero (Baines hit well in the postseason, but generally in a losing cause) and Garvey's fame was many times that of Baines.
But, of course, Garvey was also involved in some well-known paternity scandals.
Anyway, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo asked Tony La Russa how he could justify voting for Baines and not Garvey, and La Russa sort of hemmed and hawed and hinted that, hey, maybe Garvey should be in there too. I think Garvey's got a real shot.
No. 3: Dale Murphy
This one isn't as direct a connection. Murphy and Baines have very little in common. I just have this feeling that Baines' election could help Dale. For one thing, there are so many former Braves who are eligible to be on these committees (not to mention his old manager Joe Torre) that I think that could help Murphy in the way that La Russa and Jerry Reinsdorf helped Baines.
But perhaps more: Baines seems to have been elected not just because he was a good player -- and he WAS a good player, I feel like it's always important to say that -- but because he was a solid guy, someone everyone on the team looked up to, a credit to the game. Baines' election seemed to open the door for ex-players and executives to do what they so desperately wanted to do: Elect entirely from the heart.
If that's the case, Dale Murphy, with his two MVPs, with all the newspaper articles that called him "the best player in baseball" in real time, and with the way he carried himself on and off the field, well, who knows? It could happen.