In what will most likely be viewed as a strong statement against baseball’s so-called steroid era, Fred McGriff, a slugging first baseman who is believed by many to have done things the right way, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a committee on Sunday. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other players with connections to performance-enhancing drugs were not.
McGriff, 59, played for six franchises over 19 seasons from 1986 to 2004, hitting 493 homers and driving in 1,550 runs. A five-time All-Star, he led the American League with 36 homers in 1989 and the National League with 35 in 1992. He finished in the top 10 in most valuable player voting six times and was the cleanup hitter for the pitching-rich Atlanta Braves of the 1990s when they finally broke through and won a World Series title in 1995.
A popular player who was nicknamed Crime Dog — after the crime prevention mascot McGruff — he fell just short of 500 homers and finished his career with a fairly modest 52.6 wins above replacement, as measured by Baseball Reference. But his standing among members of the Hall’s Contemporary Baseball Era Committee, which considers players whose prime was from 1980 to the present, was probably aided by the fact that his name has never been connected to the rampant performance-enhancing drug use that took over Major League Baseball in the 1990s and early 2000s. He was named on all16 ballots from the committee, which rejected the other seven candidates: Bonds, Clemens Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling.
Bonds, Clemens and Palmeiro — each of whom had much stronger statistical cases for the Hall of Fame — have been linked to the use of P.E.D.s, and Belle, though never connected to drugs, had a high-profile bat-corking incident, among other issues, during a volatile career cut short by injuries. Schilling, widely considered to be among the best big-game pitchers in baseball history, dropped off the writers’ ballot after making himself polarizing in recent years with extreme political views.
The deliberations of the committee, which considers players after they have dropped off the writers’ ballot, are kept secret, but past comments from former players in the group, like the Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Frank Thomas and Jack Morris, indicated that players connected to drug use would be held out.
Mattingly and Murphy, two of the most popular and successful sluggers of the 1980s, have never been connected to steroid use, either. But both had career numbers that fell short of typical election standards, with their totals seeming even more modest thanks to the inflation of the steroids era.
McGriff will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 23 along with anyone elected on the writers’ ballot, the results of which will be announced on Jan. 24.