The facts for the Crime Dog are as follows:
- From 1988-2000, he hit between 27 and 37 home runs every year but two
- His average those years was always between .273 and .318. His OBP was always between .353 and .405.
- Because of his almost metronomic consistency, he has few stand out seasons, although there are five seasons with an OPS+ over 150.
- The standards for both first basemen and players in his era are high, high enough that 2490 hits, 493 homers, and a 134 career OPS+ feel borderline.
- No one has made a serious accusation that McGriff used PEDs, but of course we have no way of knowing for sure.
Mark McGwire: YES
Mark McGwire hit 49 home run his rookie season in 1987. Steroids or not, the guy could always hit home runs. The other thing he could always do is get on base, at a clip of .394 for his career. He led the league in OBP twice (the last full year in Oakland and the 70 homer year). Intentional walks helped, but only 150 of his 1317 career walks were intentional. The rest of his career is pretty well known: the 583 homers and a 163 career OPS+ (13th all-time), but also the disastrous Congressional testimony and his later admission of using steroids.
The bad is why McGwire can’t even get 20% of the vote, and will almost certainly end up around there again, if not lower. You know my position on PEDs, and in the end, the Hall is a museum, and you can’t tell the history of baseball without Mark McGwire, both for good or for ill.
Jack Morris: NO
Let’s be honest here, Morris is not about to get elected because of his stats. He will (probably) get in because of 1.) Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, 2.) the perception that he always took the ball, in contrast with today’s alleged babied pitchers, and 3.) a spite vote against steroids and stat guys. The only stat in his favor is the “most wins in the 1980s” thing, which has a twofold problem of pitcher wins being a team dependent junk stat and arbitrary endpoints. The biggest problem with Morris’s candidacy is his 3.90 career ERA, which would be the highest ERA of any starting pitcher in the Hall. Any of them. It comes out to a 105 ERA+, meaning for his career Morris was just five percent above average. His postseason numbers outside of that one incredible game aren’t even that great. Jack Morris was a fine innings eater for a long time. I have nothing against him personally and good for him if he gets elected, but he’s just not a Hall of Famer. As others have pointed out, it’s all narrative based with nothing concrete to back it up.
Dale Murphy: NO
This is Murphy’s final year on the ballot. Given that he received 14.5% of the vote last year, it’s almost certain that he will not make it this year and thus be the mercy of the Veterans Committee. Murphy won back to back MVPs in 1982 and 1983, and was just as good in 1984, 1985, and 1987. The last of those years he was 31 and hit .295/.417/.580. At this point, considering Murphy a future Hall of Famer made perfect sense. The next year, however, Murphy .226/.313/.421, and it only got worse from there. Every player has a decline phase, but this wasn’t a decline, this was falling off a cliff. It hurt Murphy’s career numbers to the point that it is kept him out, no matter how nice a man he is.
Rafael Palmeiro: NO
If Palmeiro had not tested positive for PEDs, his case would’ve been the big debate on whether the milestones of 500 homers and 3000 hits are locks for induction. He has 569 homers and 3020 hits, but very few truly outstanding seasons. Even with his enhancements and the era he played in, Palmeiro managed just one season with an OPS over 1.000. He was just a consistent, well, .288/.371/.515 or so (his career line) guy year after year. Obviously there’s a lot of value in that, but Palmeiro is basically McGriff with an extra 350 games or so. They are both close, and could be in, but it’s a tough ballot to get on. In addition, there’s the positive test, which for most voters makes all the above irrelevant. You know how I feel on the drugs question, but given that Palmeiro actually has a positive test on his record, I have to admit it colors my vision. I don’t want to say I wouldn’t vote for anyone with a positive test on their record, but in this case it’s certainly not helping.
Palmeiro received just 12.6% of the vote last year. Given the crowded ballot, he could easily get under 5% this time around and fall completely off.
See the next page for more, including the most overlooked player on the ballot.