Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times has a column today in which he argues that Fred McGriff is being penalized in the Hall of Fame voting because he didn’t take steroids and thus didn’t have big gonzo cartoon power numbers.
At the outset, let me note that I think Fred McGriff should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While he didn’t hit 40 homers or go crazy like so many other players, it’s important to note that his career straddled two eras: the pre-1993 era in which offense was relatively scarce and the post-1993 era where lots of things — including but certainly not limited to steroids — caused offense to explode. His numbers in the pre-1993 era were beastlike for the time.
And it’s the “for the time” part of that which is really keeping McGriff out, not his failure to take steroids (if in fact he didn’t, which we can’t really know). If anything, writers in this day and age are more likely to give him a Hall of Fame bump than to dock him for his perceived cleanliness.
What’s really keeping him out is that those same writers are largely ignorant of the differences between the pre-1993 and post-1993 offensive context. They say “well, he never hit 40” even though 40 in 1989 is the equivalent of something near 50 in 1999 and discount him unfairly. The “he’s getting hurt because he was clean” line is a cover for the writers’ ignorance. He wasn’t prevented from achieving Hall of Fame numbers by evil PED users. He had Hall of Fame numbers, but you guys just aren’t smart enough to recognize it yet.
McGriff is no slam dunk, and sure, there’s a chance I’m giving him too much benefit of the doubt because he was an important part of my favorite team, but I think he’s deserving and I think he’ll eventually make it. The steroid stuff is just smoke.