By: David O’Brien, Keith Law and Andrew Baggarly
Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Era Committee on Sunday night. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Contemporary Era Committee consists of 16 members, including members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, executives and veteran members of the media.
- McGriff was unelected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).
- Among those who did not get the required 12 votes from the 16-member committee: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Don Mattingly.
Evaluation of McGriff’s career
McGriff played 19 seasons from 1986 through 2004, hitting .284 with 493 home runs, 1,550 RBIs and .886 OPS in 2,460 games. He finished in the top 10 in the league’s MVP pick six times, including a fourth-place finish in 1993, the year he was traded from San Diego to Atlanta in July, and helped lead the Braves to 104 straight wins to lead past San Francisco in the great playoff races of San Francisco the modern era.
The first baseman was a five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and McGriff thrived in the postseason, particularly with the Braves. He hit .303 with 37 RBIs and .917 OPS in 50 postseason career games, and with Atlanta he had 10 homers, .411 OBP, .581 slugging percentage, and .992 OPS in 45 postseason games.
During the Braves’ 1995 postseason for the city’s first professional sports title, McGriff hit a .333 (19-57) with six doubles, four home runs, nine RBIs, and 1.065 OPS, including two home runs and a .955 OPS in the World Series win over Cleveland.
He had a career-best 37 home runs with San Diego and Atlanta in 1993, the sixth of McGriff’s seven consecutive 30-plus seasons. Although he never had more than 37, he had 10 seasons with at least 30 home runs and was the home run leader once in every league.
McGriff had eight seasons with more than 100 RBIs, six with a batting average of .300 or higher, 11 seasons with an OPS of at least .923, five with more than 90 walks, and only three seasons with more than 120 strikeouts. In 1989 he led the AL in Homers (36), OPS (.924) and OPS+ (165) with Toronto.
Another statistic that’s often overlooked, McGriff played more than 150 games in 10 of his 19 seasons, not counting 1995 when he led the National League by playing all 144 games for Atlanta in a season that was cut short by the Labour-time started late that had begun last fall.
If not for games lost to the work stoppage — the Braves only played 114 games in 1994; McGriff played 113 — there’s little doubt he would have finished with more than 500 career homers, which some say was part of the reason he was left off the ballot by many voters years ago when statistical milestones like 3,000 were reached Hits, 500 home runs or 300 virtual wins were achieved with secured HOF induction.
He was on track for a career high for home runs in 1994 before the season was suspended, finishing with 34 in 113 games. McGriff hit 61 home runs in 257 games during those 1994-1995 seasons with Atlanta and played all but one team game during that span. His 61 home runs in 258 team games over those two years would add up to 76 home runs if the entire season had been played, and the extra 15 home runs — or even if he had collapsed and hit half as many — would have given McGriff at least 500.— O’Brien
Significance of McGriff’s induction into the Hall of Fame
McGriff is the most harmless candidate the committee could possibly have inducted into the Hall of Fame. He ended his career with 52.6 rWAR and 56.9 fWAR, making him neither a definitive Hall of Famer nor a player who doesn’t belong at all. His 493 home runs – which would have made him a slam dunk in a pre-2000 era – ranks him 8th among inactive players not indoors, with six of the guys ahead of him at least tainted by rumors of PED use . One of the arguments in his favor has long been that he was one of the few thugs of his day never to have been hit by those allegations, and given what else happened in the committee’s vote, that may actually have improved McGriff’s results . — Law
Evaluate Bonds, Hall of Fame Opportunities by Clemens
Last year, Bonds received 66 percent of the BBWAA vote in his 10th and final vote with the authors. He received much less support when a committee of Hall of Fame players, executives and media members first reviewed his candidacy on Sunday. Bonds received “fewer than four votes,” according to Hall. It’s possible he didn’t get any votes at all. But percentages really don’t matter here. It’s all play art.
Committee members could not vote for more than three out of eight candidates. If the committee discussions had made it clear that Bonds didn’t have 12 votes in the room, it would have been a waste to check his name. In other words, getting fewer than four votes must be seen as a disappointment for Bonds, but it doesn’t dent his candidacy. Check out Don Mattingly, who received little to no support in previous committee votes but got eight votes on Sunday. If the composition of the committee changes enough by the time the Contemporary Era panel votes again in December 2025, bonds might stand a better chance. Or maybe Bonds will be expelled again while Jeff Kent sails through his first time in a committee election. Which would be hilarious. — baggy
Stark: 5 things we learned from the Hall of Fame Contemporary Era election
Bonds and Clemens received less than four votes each and I can only conclude that neither of them will ever enter the Hall of Fame without a ticket. This was the last real hope for both players and things couldn’t have gotten worse for them as they would need to triple that vote count to anchor themselves. So the all-time leader in home runs won’t be in the hall, although Bonds is also the all-time leader in WAR on Baseball Reference by 0.1 over Babe Ruth. He is seventh all-time in OBP, eighth in slugging, sixth in RBI, first in walk and third in runs scored. New stats, old stats, accolades, no matter how you measure it, he’s one of the best players in MLB history.
Clemens is third all-time at WAR, by a wide margin the best pitcher since integration, owner of most Cy Young Awards, third all-time in strikeouts and ninth in pitcher wins. Regardless of your personal opinion on performance-enhancing drugs, the Contemporary Era Committee has made it very clear what their opinion is, and it means Bonds and Clemens are out — and it’s a terrible harbinger for Alex Rodríguez, too. — Law
Barry Bonds wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame by a special committee, and it wasn’t close
(Photo: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)