I haven't even gotten my Hall of Fame ballot in the mail yet. But how come I already have the impression Fred McGriff's candidacy is going to get trampled in the Roberto Alomar/Barry Larkin/Edgar Martinez debate?
I haven't decided yet whether I'm absolutely, positively voting for McGriff. But I think the people who have concluded -- way too quickly -- that he's not a Hall of Famer just because his 493 home-run trots don't mean what 493 home-run trots used to mean are missing something:
Fred McGriff's greatest years came BEFORE the numbers exploded on us in 1993.
This man was a difference-maker before the world went haywire on us. So how come so many people are lumping him in there with the rest of the PED generation?
I understand that those 12 seasons from 1993-2004 comprise two-thirds of McGriff's career. But let's look at the numbers he put up early in his career, when 30-homer seasons were a feat for real, live middle-of-the-order mashers, not No. 6 hitters:
From 1988-92, McGriff had four seasons with an adjusted OPS-plus of 153 or better, more than anyone else in either league.
Both of his two home run titles came in that span (1989 and '92).
He finished in the top four in his league in home runs, OPS and home run ratio in all five of those years. And how many other players could say that? How about zero.
And if we expand his period of greatness through 1994, consider this: McGriff ripped off seven straight 30-homer seasons from 1988-94. OK, that may not seem like much of a streak now, considering there have been 11 streaks that long since then. But at the time, the only players in history who had hit 30-plus at least seven years in a row were Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Ralph Kiner. For more info on those men, go to Google and type in the word, "Cooperstown."
So this perception that McGriff wasn't a feared slugger at any point in his career is just flat wrong. He finished in the top 10 in six MVP elections, ranked among the league leaders in intentional walks eight times and had a bunch of great Octobers (.303, with 10 homers and a .917 OPS in 50 postseason games).
Now does that make him a lock Hall of Famer? Absotively not. The point here is that Fred McGriff isn't a guy whose credentials should be hurt by the PED era. If anything, he ought to be helped by it -- because he was pretty close to the same player from 1993 on that he was before 1993. Take a look:
• 1988-92: .283 average, .393 OBP, .531 slugging.
• 1993-2002: .290 average, .373 OBP, .506 slugging.
As the steroid age raged around him, he kept on doing pretty much exactly what he'd always done. Except that if you were a 31-homer, 102-RBI kind of guy in 1991, you had a chance to lead the league. If you were the same kind of guy in 2001, there were about 36 other men doing the same thing.
So the question us Hall of Fame voters need to ask about players like this is a big one:
Should we factor in the strong likelihood that Fred McGriff was one of The Clean Ones when we vote, and when we measure him against his peers?
And the answer, for this voter, is: You're darned right we should.
Shameless Book Plug Dept.: The "Worth The Wait" book tour has cranked back up for the holidays. So if you're in center city Philadelphia on Tuesday (Dec. 1), I'll be signing books at the Barnes and Noble in Rittenhouse Square at 6 p.m., alongside a powerhouse author lineup that will also include Phillies broadcaster Chris Wheeler, longtime Philadelphia Inquirer columnist-laureate Bill Lyon, Philadelphia baseball historian Rich Westcott and ever-popular Philly TV sports guy Steve Bucci. copies of "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," as part of a staggering lineup of Philly sports authors.