by Harold Friend
When compared to Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, George Sisler, Hank Greenberg, and Bill Terry, Fred McGriff is not a Hall of Famer, but when compared to Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Murray, and Harmon Killebrew, Fred McGriff is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Fred McGriff Compared to the Greatest First Basemen
Fred McGriff's offensive production pales in comparison to the first group's offensive production, but it holds its own against that of the second group.
With respect to batting average for the first group (McGriff .284, Bill Terry .341, Lou Gehrig and George Sisler .340, Jimmie Foxx .325, and Hank Greenberg .315), Fred McGriff is overwhelmed. When compared to Tony Perez (.279), Orlando Cepeda (.297), Eddie Murray (.287), and Harmon Killebrew (.256), McGriff holds his own.
But statisticians have discovered that batting average is a highly overrated yardstick of achievement. On-base percentage is a more reliable measurement.
Fred McGriff's on-base average was .377, compared to Gehrig's incredible .477, Foxx's .428, Sisler's .379, Greenberg's .412, and Terry's .393. McGriff comes close only to Sisler and Terry, neither of whom walked much. Compared to the second group, (Perez .341, Cepeda .350, Murray .359, and Killebrew .376), Fred McGriff tops them all.
Fred McGriff averaged 32 home runs, 102 RBI's, and a .509 slugging average over a 162 game season. which compares favorably with Tony Perez (22, 96, .463), Orlando Cepeda (29, 104, .499), Eddie Murray (27, 103, .476) and Harmon Killebrew (38, 105, .509).
More Than Numbers
There is more to player evaluation than just numbers. McGriff was a positive presence in the clubhouse who got along well with other players and the media. He was constantly attempting to improve his game and took the game seriously. He was the MVP in the 1994 all-star game, and led the American League in home runs in 1989 while with Toronto, and led the senior circuit in home runs in 1992.
The New York Yankees drafted Fred McGriff out of high school and while he was in the minors, they traded him to Toronto for relief pitcher Dale Murray. It was a trade that ranks right up there with Jim Brosnan for Lou Brock.
An Atlanta Brave World Champion
Although he played first for Toronto and then San Diego, Fred McGriff will be remembered as an Atlanta Brave. He helped them win four division titles and their only world championship since moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta.
Fred McGriff doesn't rank among the elite Hall of Fame first basemen, but neither do Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Eddie Murray, or Harmon Killebrew. The last four are in the Hall of Fame.
Based upon the above, the question is not, "Does Fred McGriff belong in the Hall of Fame?" The question is, "How can Fred McGriff not be elected to the Hall of Fame?"