Ex-Braves believe McGriff should be in Hall

Smoltz, Cox feel respected, consistent slugger hasn't gotten his due

Ex-Braves believe McGriff should be in Hall

ATLANTA -- As Fred McGriff earned six consecutive Top 10 finishes in National League MVP Award balloting from 1989-94, he hit 14 more home runs than any other Major Leaguer and produced an fWAR that was better than everybody not named Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr. or Cal Ripken Jr.

Six seasons of success do not equate to a Hall of Fame career, but these six specific seasons provide a glimpse of lofty perch upon which McGriff stood before his Cooperstown candidacy was influenced by the inflated numbers produced by Bonds and others during a time before baseball instituted testing for illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

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When the Hall of Fame balloting results are announced on Wednesday (6 p.m. ET on MLB Network), the improved voting results garnered by Bonds and Roger Clemens would seem to indicate more voters are becoming less strident in their opposition to the candidacies of those who were linked to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Unfortunately for McGriff, since he first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010, there has never been a similar movement among the voters to reward him and some others who have achieved greatness while seemingly playing in a clean manner.

"There is speculation on everybody," said John Smoltz, a Hall of Fame pitcher and McGriff's former Atlanta teammate. "The speculation is one person is clean and the speculation on another is that they might not be. Why is the guy who did it clean not getting enough credit?"

McGriff finished his 19-year career with a .284 batting average, a .377 on-base percentage, a .509 slugging percentage and 493 home runs (tied with Lou Gehrig for No. 28). The five-time All-Star first baseman might have reached the 500-homer plateau had portions of the 1994 and '95 seasons not been erased by a work stoppage.

While the homer total stands as a significant variable within this evaluation, it's still noteworthy that McGriff stands as just one of 16 players to hit .280 with a .375 OBP, .500 SLG and at least 490 home runs. The 15 others are Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, Mel Ott, Gary Sheffield, Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Mickey Mantle, Frank Thomas, Jimmy Foxx, Manny Ramirez, Ted Williams, Gehrig and Bonds.

"I'd vote him in, in a heartbeat," said Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, who was with McGriff in Atlanta from 1993-97. "He was a difference maker for us. He was one of the best hitters of his era. I'll never forget when [McGriff] was still playing for the Padres, Don Zimmer left me a note when we came to town that said, 'Whatever you do, don't pitch to Fred McGriff.'"

McGriff broke into the Majors with the Blue Jays in 1986 and experienced his first full season two years later. From 1988-97, he hit the third-most homers in the Majors (trailing only Bonds and Mark McGwire) and ranked eighth with a 43.2 fWAR. The seven players who ranked ahead of him within this 10-season span included six Hall of Famers -- Griffey, Ripken, Barry Larkin, Thomas, Henderson and Wade Boggs -- and Bonds.

"The support McGriff has received is puzzling to me because of the player he was offensively and defensively," McGriff's former Braves teammate Terry Pendleton said. "He brought a tremendous presence to any lineup he was in, and he was a great teammate. He went about his business every day, and you never heard anything negative about him. He was consistent every year. To me, that is what a Hall of Famer is."

McGriff will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for two more years. He could surpass his previous best ballot result (23.9 percent in 2012), but his hope to rise toward the 75 percent needed for election is burdened by talent-laden ballots and the reality that his achievements became somewhat obscured during an era that has forced Hall of Fame voters to decipher between right and wrong when determining who is now fit for Cooperstown.

"The guys [that voters] aren't paying enough attention to are Fred McGriff and Mike Mussina," Smoltz said. "Those guys did it the right way. They did it with class and dignity."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.