12/31/10 6:45 PM EST
'Crime Dog' takes second bite at Hall of Fame
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
A decade or so before Albert Pujols established his MVP status and Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Joey Votto were punishing baseballs right alongside him, there was a National League first baseman who quietly delivered consistent power, year after year.
Fred McGriff was 35 homers waiting to happen for more than a decade, and only Pujols among those current All-Stars can say that now.
For a second 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.
The prototypical first baseman, known as "Crime Dog," was the lone candidate among several corner infielders of his era who were on the ballot for the first time a year ago to advance to this year's vote. Those who did not gain enough support included Andres Galarraga (4.1 percent), Eric Karros, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile, who were all 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.
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. Outfielder Andre Dawson reached that threshold to gain entrance last year, while pitcher Bert Blyleven (74.2 percent) and second baseman Roberto Alomar (73.7 percent) narrowly missed out. Among other players on the ballot for the first time in '10 were Reds superstar shortstop Barry Larkin (51.6 percent) and Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez (36.2 percent).
Results of the 2011 election will be announced on Wednesday, Jan. 5.
During a prime that lasted a good decade, McGriff was a five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner, including one in the American League. 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, 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 100 RBIs or more for the Cubs in 2002. McGriff finished his career with a total of 1,550 RBIs.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.