01/02/10 10:00 AM ET
Reign of Cat and Dog may hit Hall
Galarraga, McGriff were longtime stalwarts at first base
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
A decade or so before Albert Pujols established his MVP status and Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder were punishing baseballs right alongside him, there was a class of first basemen that also made the National League proud.
Now, Fred McGriff and Andres Galarraga -- two powerful presences at first base for years -- are among those being considered for the first time for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, each of them making their debuts on the ballot.
Perhaps neither Crime Dog nor the Big Cat will get significant support in Hall of Fame voting, but those two slugging first basemen, along with the likes of new candidates Eric Karros, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile, were true offensive studs at the corners in the 1990s.
McGriff, who played for six teams but shined his brightest as an All-Star with the Padres and Braves, fell just short of what at least used to be a Cooperstown ticket of a milestone: 500 homers. He was seven shy of that mark while finishing off his career with his hometown Tampa Bay Rays in 2004.
Galarraga, too, fell short of a lesser yet still impressive homer milestone with 399, but he also won a batting title and has a couple of Gold Gloves on his resume, so his candidacy has merit, as well.
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. Leadoff great Rickey Henderson and former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice reached that threshold to gain entrance in 2009.
Former Expos and Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson (67 percent) and former Twins ace Bert Blyleven (62.7 percent) had the highest totals among those not elected in 2009 voting, and both remain eligible for '10. They're joined on the ballot this year by a group of newcomers that includes All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, Reds superstar shortstop Barry Larkin and Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez.
Results of the election will be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
During a prime that lasted a good decade, McGriff was 35 homers waiting to happen, year after year. A five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner, including one in the AL, he had seven consecutive 30-homer seasons (1988-94) and 10 overall.
"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."
Even as 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, winning a World Series ring in '95. He drifted around a bit toward the end of his career, hitting 30 homers for the Cubs in 2002 along with his eighth season with 100 RBIs, eventually finishing with 1,550.
Galarraga, part of the wave of talent that came through the Expos system, won a batting title with a .370 average in 1993, three years before leading the league in homers with 47 and RBIs with 150 in 1996. As a centerpiece with the Expos, the Rockies' Blake Street Bombers and then as McGriff's successor in Atlanta, Galarraga was a two-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Silver Slugger winner.
An affable giant who was a hero to later Venezuelan stars, Galarraga came back from non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999 and hit 27 homers with 100 RBIs for the Braves in 2000, before finishing out his career at age 43 in 2004.
"He's an idol, a Venezuelan idol that all kids want to be like," fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cairo once said. "All the things he has gone through, his personality, his family and everything, is a great example for the people in our country."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.