MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Understated McGriff deserves Hall call

Crime Dog notched 12 seasons of 90 or more RBIs, but 1st baseman not flashy

Understated McGriff deserves Hall call

So why isn't Fred McGriff in the National Baseball Hall of Fame? As somebody who votes for Crime Dog every year, I haven't a clue. OK, maybe I do.

It's that cliche thing.

Remember the one about the squeaky wheel always getting the grease along the way to reaching Cooperstown someday? All I know is that historically quiet McGriff turned into suddenly noisy McGriff the night of July 12, 1994, inside of Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

I was there, and I still can't believe it. First, McGriff ripped a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off splendid closer Lee Smith to push the All-Star Game into extra innings for his National League team.

Nothing strange there for McGriff. Ever since he slammed a game-tying homer in Atlanta a few hours after he stepped off a flight to join the Braves from the Padres following a trade in the middle of the 1993 season, he'd become baseball's Mr. Clutch. Over 19 Major League seasons, his formula never changed: He got to opposing pitchers with his smooth left-handed swing, and then he went about his business without a hint of flash.

Anyway, the NL won in 1994 in the 10th, with much help from McGriff's homer in the ninth, but that's not where I'm going.

Let's move to what happened later, after McGriff received the 1994 All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player Award in the home clubhouse. He formed the biggest smile of his life, which was shocking enough, but not as much as this: He turned to those of us standing nearby with pens, notepads and cameras, and he shouted to the top of his lungs, "I'm a hero!"

Wait a minute. Did Crime Dog say that?

We need MORE of that.

That's what I thought to myself, trying to determine if this was McGriff or Reggie "Mr. October" Jackson.

Suddenly, the Braves' first baseman who mostly hid his emotions went bonkers in public (you know, by his standards) for one of his few times ever. It probably was his only time ever. We're back to the squeaky wheel. Since brashness, emotion or a combination of both among sluggers gets players seen and heard -- and Hall of Fame votes in some cases -- I'm thinking the mellow ways of McGriff have shoved him a long way from Cooperstown's city limits.

It also didn't help McGriff's cause that he spent most of his Major League career with low-profile teams. He did play one season for the Dodgers, but that was at the end of his career. He also spent two years before that with the Cubs, but those were the Cubs of struggle instead of the ones of triumph.

Other than that, McGriff played much of his career with the Rays and the Padres, teams in the shadows back then. He also was with the Blue Jays before they grabbed folks' attention with their consecutive World Series championships during the early 1990s.

No question, McGriff was a huge catalyst for the early part of the Braves' record winning streak that eventually reached 14 seasons, but when you think of those Atlanta teams, you think of pitching -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, all Hall of Famers. You think of Bobby Cox, Atlanta's manager, who also is in Cooperstown. You also think of Chipper Jones, who was a McGriff teammate with those Braves for a couple of years and who should enter the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

McGriff and Cooperstown? You may join me in a sigh. After this year, his name will appear on my Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot just two more times. Then it gets complicated for McGriff, who got just 20.9 percent of the Hall of Fame votes cast last year.

You need 75 percent for entry.

Tony Perez got 77.15 percent. I mention him because he was the clutch first baseman of the Big Red Machine during the 1970s, and his biggest claim to fame for reaching Cooperstown was his 12 seasons of 90 RBIs or more. McGriff also had 12 seasons of 90 RBIs or more.

While Perez finished with 379 career homers, McGriff managed 493. McGriff had better career numbers than Perez in batting average (.284 to.279), slugging percentage (.509 to .463) and on-base percentage (.377 to .341).

Like McGriff, Perez wasn't a squeaky wheel, and courtesy of his soft-spoken ways, Perez lacked the notoriety of his star-studded teammates on those Reds teams that won more games during the 1970s than anybody. His teammates ranged from Pete Rose, who constantly made highlight reels with his head-first slides, to Johnny Bench, who was a popular guest for late-night shows on national television, to Joe Morgan, who began talking to anybody and everybody as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning.

Perez's nickname of Doggie, though, did catch your attention.

Crime Dog is just as good.

I'm back to where I started with McGriff, his impressive career numbers and his lack of Hall of Fame momentum despite it all.

I don't get it.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.