11/30/11 2:05 PM EST
McGriff set standard for generation's sluggers
'Crime Dog' all about consistency and big-time production
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
A decade or so before Albert Pujols established his perennial MVP status and sluggers like Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto were punishing baseballs right alongside him, there was a first baseman who quietly delivered consistent power, year after year.
Fred McGriff was 35 homers waiting to happen for more than a decade, and not all of those current All-Stars can say that just yet.
For a third year, McGriff is among those being considered for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following a debut on the ballot that garnered 21.5 percent of the vote, McGriff saw his support dip to 17.9 percent on the 2011 ballot.
The prototypical first baseman, known as "Crime Dog," McGriff played for six teams and was a five-time All-Star while playing for the Padres, Braves and the then-Devil Rays. The left-handed hitter with the unique finish to his swing was the 1994 All-Star Game MVP and is a three-time Silver Slugger winner, twice with San Diego and once with the Blue Jays.
During a prime that lasted a good decade, McGriff had seven consecutive 30-homer seasons (1988-94) among his 10 overall. He fell just short of what at least used to be a Cooperstown ticket of a milestone: 500 career homers. He was seven shy of that mark while finishing off his career with his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2004.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Second baseman Roberto Alomar (90 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven (79.7 percent) earned their ticket to Cooperstown on the 2011 ballot. Former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (62.1 percent) and starting pitcher Jack Morris (53.5 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2012 election will be announced on Monday, Jan. 9.
McGriff's prowess wasn't limited only to the regular season, as he hit .303 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs, with an an OPS of .917, in 50 career postseason games.
"Over the years, I've just tried to be consistent, I did my best to stay healthy," McGriff said. "I take pride in it. Every year, players set goals. For myself, I [want to] hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs."
When he passed his one-time teammate and Florida friend en route to 500 homers, Gary Sheffield paid tribute to McGriff.
"I knew [McGriff] would be the guy I would have to hit more home runs than -- because nobody was going to hit more home runs than Fred McGriff," Sheffield said. "So whatever number he came up with, the day I put on my uniform to play with him is the day I made that goal. ... It's the strangest thing. It's just one of those things of how much I admire him as a person, as a friend, and as a baseball player. What he has meant to Tampa -- when you talk about home runs in Tampa, you talk about Fred McGriff."
Traded from the Blue Jays with Tony Fernandez for Alomar and Joe Carter in a 1990 Winter Meetings blockbuster, McGriff excelled as the Padres' cleanup hitter before being traded to the Braves, the team he won a World Series ring with in '95. He drifted around a bit toward the end of his career, but a highlight included hitting 30 homers and recording his eighth season with at least 100 RBIs while with the Cubs in 2002. McGriff finished his career with a total of 1,550 RBIs, good for 42nd place all time.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.