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No, being steroid-free is not keeping Fred McGriff out of the Hall of Fame

Jul 29, 2010, 10:22 AM EDT

Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times has a column today in which he argues that Fred McGriff is being penalized in the Hall of Fame voting because he didn’t take steroids and thus didn’t have big gonzo cartoon power numbers. 

At the outset, let me note that I think Fred McGriff should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While he didn’t hit 40 homers or go crazy like so many other players, it’s important to note that his career straddled two eras: the pre-1993 era in which offense was relatively scarce and the post-1993 era where lots of things — including but certainly not limited to steroids — caused offense to explode.  His numbers in the pre-1993 era were beastlike for the time.

And it’s the “for the time” part of that which is really keeping McGriff out, not his failure to take steroids (if in fact he didn’t, which we can’t really know).  If anything, writers in this day and age are more likely to give him a Hall of Fame bump than to dock him for his perceived cleanliness.

What’s really keeping him out is that those same writers are largely ignorant of the differences between the pre-1993 and post-1993 offensive context. They say “well, he never hit 40” even though 40 in 1989 is the equivalent of something near 50 in 1999 and discount him unfairly. The “he’s getting hurt because he was clean” line is a cover for the writers’ ignorance.  He wasn’t prevented from achieving Hall of Fame numbers by evil PED users. He had Hall of Fame numbers, but you guys just aren’t smart enough to recognize it yet.

McGriff is no slam dunk, and sure, there’s a chance I’m giving him too much benefit of the doubt because he was an important part of my favorite team, but I think he’s deserving and I think he’ll eventually make it.  The steroid stuff is just smoke.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 29, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    I think Fred McGriff has alot in common with Bert Blyleven. Had some great years, has great career numbers because of longevity, but is very much a borderline HoF’r. We see how long it has taken Blyleven, but he is getting in the next year or two. Same thing could happen to McGriff where he sits there for about 12 years, and then gets in down the road.

  2. nps6724 - Jul 29, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    McGriff definitely should be in the Hall. He was one of the top hitters in baseball for a 15-year stretch. And Freddie himself had a good line in that article: “I think my numbers are as good or better than some of the people in there. People say, ‘Well, you didn’t hit 500 home runs.’ So I’m a good player if I hit 493 and a great player if I hit 500? I don’t believe seven home runs should make that much difference.” Well said.

  3. Jonny5 - Jul 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    As the article proves, writers/reporters are sometimes morons, some are most of the time. Who votes for the HOF again? Your honor, I rest my case.

  4. Ari Collins - Jul 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    Blyleven is WAY better than people think.
    Agree that Griff is borderline, though. His OPS+ (already adjusts for park and league and era) is a shave above Jim Edmonds, with considerably less defensive value.

  5. Detroit Michael - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    McGriff just wasn’t quite good enough to make the Hall of Fame. Take his top 5 seasons ranked by OPS+ (or whatever decent or semi-decent statistic) and compare them to other top first basemen over the past 25 years and you’ll see what I mean.
    Most of his peak seasons occurred before the 1994-95 MLB work stoppage, before most folks speculate that steroid use REALLY became prevalent, so adding a few more homers each year might not make that much of a difference, even assuming that we’re omniscient enough to know who took steroids and how much they benefitted players.

  6. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Blyleven is a two-time all-star and only made the top 10 in Cy voting 4 times. Not your usual Hall of Fame candidate. He’ll get in for longevity, but I don’t think there was ever a single time in his career ever where he was in the top 20 of guys you would choose to pitch game 7 of the World Series.

  7. Paper Lions - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    So you are saying that because fans and writers at the time weren’t smart enough to recognize how great Blyleven was that he shouldn’t be in the HOF? Blyleven did much more than hang around for a long time, he was a much better pitcher than many guys in the HOF, he just pitched for crappy teams, and people of the time thought that pitcher wins actually reflected something useful about performance. Once you have better information, you use it; doing anything else is just being stubborn and willfully ignorant.

  8. BC - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    I’d put him in.
    30 HR’s 9 times (including 34 in the 113-game 1994 season)
    100 RBI 8 times
    Top 5 in OPS 7 times
    He wasn’t like Jim Rice, who basically had an ungodly 6-year stretch. He was just really good for a really long time. More like a Robin Yount. I’d put him in eventually.

  9. Alex - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Everybody ahead of him on the career home run list is in the HOF except for Bonds, Griffey (will be in), Sosa, A Rod (will be in), McGwire, Palmeiro, Manny (will be in), Frank Thomas (will be in) and Sheffield. McGriff should be in — all of the guys who aren’t in have been implicated by roids, and are widely acknowledged to have benefited greatly from them.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    Look, if you want to call all the sportswriters and people who vote on every single post-season accolade and the Hall of Fame idiots, then that is your right. However, there isn’t much else for those of us who weren’t around when Blyleven pitched to look at except how he compared to his contemporaries. Getting into an argument about Blyleven being better than some guys in the Hall of Fame already is useless. The question is whether Blyleven was a great pitcher to be in the hall of fame. He was very good, but if go through his career year by year, his numbers really don’t shout out “Hall of Famer”. For longevity, he is in. That’s about it.
    Paper, why do you have to get so personal and call me stubborn and willfully ignorant…is the guy your grandfather or something? Why not stick to the numbers and make your case.

  11. nps6724 - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Why are you taking only his top 5 seasons? Is the HOF based only on just a half-decade of greatness?

  12. ThatGuy - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Go to Bert’s baseball-reference page and look at all his top 10 finishes. The guy is 13th all time in WAR for a pitcher, including 10 straight top 10 finishes. 13 seasons of top 5 in strikeouts(5th all time). 9th all time in career shutouts, 8 top 5 ERA finishes. Wins as we know now are meaningless, but then thats what they based awards on.

  13. Ari Collins - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Yeah, getting pesonal ain’t the way to go. But, as you said, comparing him to his contemporaries is all you have to go on. So:

    Was in the top 5 of ERA 7 times.

    Was in the top 5 of WHIP 7 times.

    Was in the top 5 of K/9 9 times.

    Was in the top 5 of IP 6 times.

    Was in the top 5 of Ks 14 times.

    Was in the top 5 in shutouts 9 times.

    Was in the top 5 in CGs 6 times.

    Was in the top 5 in K/BB 12 times.

    Was in the top 5 in ERA+ 7 times.

    This is not a compiler, guys.

  14. Dberg - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Blyleven is absolutely a Hall of Famer, and not even a marginal one. If he were currently in the Hall, here is how he would rank among his peers in metrics that actually mean something (unlike all-star appearances, wins, and Cy Young Awards):
    WAR: 8th (90.1, ahead of Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson, and Nolan Ryan)
    ERA+: t-12th (118, ahead of Gaylord Perry, Dennis Eckersley, and Fergie Jenkins)
    SO/BB: 11th (2.8, ahead of Tom Seaver, Walter Johnson, and Bob Gibson)
    And for those who care about such things, Blyleven would have the fourteenth most wins in the Hall (287), more than Robin Roberts, Bob Feller, and Jim Palmer.

  15. Steve C - Jul 29, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Comparing what McGriff did in 1988 is disingenuous to what happened in 2008. Those are two different offensive environments and don’t really compare. Year by year is not the best, but better.
    Year, OPS rank compared to 1st basemen
    1988, 1st
    1989, 2nd
    1990, 3rd
    1991, 4th
    1992, 3rd
    1993, 5th
    1994, 3rd
    1995, 10th
    1996, 11th

    7 Seasons in a row where he was top 5 at his position. Keep in mind he is competing with guys who were / are sure fire hall of famers (Thomas & Palmeiro).
    -in 1987 as a rookie he got more than 300 PA as a DH and finished with the 3rd best OPS for DHs.
    – 3 Silver Sluggers (89, 92, 93)

  16. walk - Jul 29, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    Anyone else notice the number of pitchers on mitchell report? I have no way of knowing how that impacted a player like the crime dog.

  17. ThatGuy - Jul 29, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    If you really need more convincing I suggest this website. For about 6 years they have been pumping out Bert stories outlining why he belongs. They have stories factually debunking every myth of why he doesn’t belong and ones outlinining why he belongs. Scroll down to the Bert series on the left side of the screen, interesting reading.

  18. Alex - Jul 29, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    Sorry — I missed Thome, who I think will make it in too.

  19. Jeremy - Jul 29, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    McGriff is pretty borderline. I think if you put him in, you HAVE to put in his almost exact contemporary, Will Clark, who has a 7 WAR lead despite quitting before his decline phase.

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