By Steve Svetovich
There has been a lot of talk about the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the election of four players by the baseball writers and two by the Veteran’s Committee.
The group includes a pair of former New York Yankees, including Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader who was the first to receive 100 percent of the writer’s vote, and Montourville’s Mike Mussina who won 270 games in his pitching career. Mussina also pitched for Baltimore.
Former Seattle Mariners DH Edgar Martinez, a .312 career hitter, and late Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who earned Cy Young Awards with both teams, were also selected by the writers.
Former Chicago White Sox star Harold Baines and Big Lee Smith, who once held the career saves record, were selected by the Veterans Committee.
And that leaves the biggest question and the most startling omission.
What about the Crime Dog?
In his 10th and final year on the writer’s ballot, Fred “the Crime Dog” McGriff only received 39.8 percent of the writer’s vote, which was far short of the required 75 percent to be elected.
The Crime Dog hit 493 career home runs. That ties Lou Gehrig, a Yankees legend and member of the Hall of Fame. McGriff also drove in 1,550 runs and hit .284 over an 18-year career. He had a .377 on base percentage and 2,490 career hits.
He has more home runs than any player not in the Hall who is not suspected of alleged steroid use.
A five-time All Star and three-time Silver Slugger award winner, the Crime Dog hit 20 or more homers 15 times and 30 or more 10 times. He batted .300 or better five times and drove in over 100 runs eight times. He had seven consecutive 30-homer plus years from 1988 through 1994.
No MLB player hit more homers than the Crime Dog from 1988 through 1994. And that includes a list of players such as Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Juan Gonzales and Jose Canseco. With the exception of Griffey, all of those players were suspected of alleged steroid use.
And because the Crime Dog was 100 percent clean, he may have become a victim of his era with all of the inflated statistics of alleged steroid users. His stats just remained consistent.
And despite playing in the steroid era, McGriff, playing the game clean, led both leagues in home runs in separate years, the American League in 1989 and the National League in 1992.
He was born in Tampa, Florida. His mom was a school teacher and his dad an electronics repairman.
As a youngster, he hung out at Al Lopez Field where the Cincinnati Reds trained. He worked as a vendor at Tampa Stadium.
Nothing was ever fair for the Crime Dog. He was cut from his high school baseball team as a sophomore, but came back and made it as a junior.
After hitting a mammoth home run off Doc Gooden in a high school game he drew the attention of baseball scouts and accepted a scholarship to play for the Georgia Bulldogs.
However, he was drafted in the ninth round of the amateur draft by the New York Yankees in 1981 and signed for $20,000.
The great Don Mattingly had the Yankees first base position locked and was blocking the Crime Dog’s path to the big leagues. The Yankees traded him to Toronto in one of the most lopsided deals in MLB history. The Blue Jays had a star in the making.
McGriff emerged as a power hitter in the American League leading the circuit with 36 homers in 1989. Playing with the San Diego Padres, he then led the National League in homers in 1992.
He played for six MLB teams from 1986 through 2004 and is credited with leading the Atlanta Braves to their only World Series title in 1995. He currently works for the Braves as a Special Assistant of Baseball Operations.
On July 18, 1993, McGriff was traded by the San Diego Padres to the Braves. He was the offensive spark plug as Atlanta finished 51-19 to overtake the San Francisco Giants and win a third consecutive NL Western Division title.
He hit a career high 37 homers and finished fourth in the NL MVP voting in 1993.
In 1994, he was hitting .318 with 34 homers when a baseball strike ended the season in August. He was MVP of the MLB All-Star game that season.
A year later, he was leading the Braves to a World Series title. He had a career high 107 RBIs and hit two big homers in the 1995 World Series.
McGriff’s nickname, “Crime Dog,” was created by sports broadcaster Chris Berman. It was a play on McGruff, a cartoon dog created by American police to raise children’s awareness on crime. McGriff is fond of the nickname.
For over a decade, the Crime Dog appeared in national commercials for Tom Emanski’s Baseball Fundamentals Training Videos.
Besides his bat, the Crime Dog was best known for those commercials.
A silent leader, he let his bat do the talking in 50 post season MLB games when he batted .303, with 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 36 runs and 37 RBIs.
A model of consistency, he also excelled playing for the Chicago Cubs, LA Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays at the end of his career.
The 1994 strike and a nagging injury in his final two seasons cost the Crime Dog the seven homers he needed to reach the magic 500 mark.
But he did it clean. No steroids. Class. Character. Professional. Clutch. And he had the numbers in both the regular and postseason.
Isn’t that what makes a Hall of Famer? The baseball writers failed on this one. Now it will be up to the Veterans Committee to decide.