Last year, Fred McGriff received 17.9 % of votes in his 2nd year on the ballot. In fact, Fred McGriff lost votes having received 21.5 % of votes in the year supposedly reserved for the best of the best. Jim Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009, his fifteenth and final year on the ballot. In his first year on the ballot, Rice received 29.8 % of votes. Fred McGriff does not appear to be on track to become a member. With stats far superior to Jim Rice, Fred McGriff is being excluded from the Hall of Fame. In fact a strong argument can be made that he deserved the honor of a first ballot election.
There are two key pieces of evidence in the case of the Crime Dog; comparisons to Willie Stargell, and Willie McCovey of the first ballot club. Let’s start with Willie Stargell, a hero in Pittsburgh. In twenty-one seasons Stargell played in 2360 games while in only nineteen seasons McGriff played in 2460 games. The natural inference is that Stargell was a far less durable player than McGriff. 128 is the average number of games played by Stargell per year excluding the last three years during which he only played 180 games total. In comparison Fred McGriff averaged 146 games a season. Durability is a factor in greatness and for a team in a pennant race 18 games per year is plenty of time to make up several games on a division leader. Games played is not the only statistic in which McGriff trumps Stargell. In his career, McGriff racked up more hits, more doubles, more runs scored, more home runs, more runs batted in, more walks, and less strikeouts than Willie Stargell. If Willie Stargell is a first ballot Hall of Famer, then why is McGriff not even on track to be a Hall of Famer?
As for Willie McCovey, he has less hits, doubles, and walks than Fred McGriff despite having played more years than the Crime Dog. Traditionalists will argue that McCovey surpassed the glorious 500 home run milestone. McCovey has only 28 more home runs and McGriff is only seven shy of 500. And it almost goes without saying that but for the 1994-1995 strike when he was in his prime, McGriff would have easily surpassed the “magic” 500 home-run level. McGriff even makes up for his home run “deficiency” with a noticeably higher average. Why is Willie McCovey a first ballot hall of famer while Fred McGriff is entering his 3rd year with less than twenty percent of votes?
The clear difference between McGriff and Stargell or McCovey is that McGriff played for several different teams while Stargell and McCovey spent most of their careers in one place. Is McGriff struggling to gain votes because he has no single team to associate himself with? A player often has little choice in where they receive the opportunity to play so it is unfair to penalize McGriff for his lack of a “franchise.” In fact, it is merely a result of the change in free agency rules, allowing players to entertain offers from other organizations. Stargell and McCovey may not have spent most of their careers with one ballclub if they had any choice
Fred McGriff deserved to be a first ballot hall of famer. Instead it is unclear if he will receive his place in Cooperstown at all. Vote McGriff!
Fred McGriff Statistics and History
Willie McCovey Statistics and History
Willie Stargell Statistics and History