The Crime Dog, so nicknamed because the name stenciled on the back of his shirt closely resembled that of a crime fighting cartoon dog, makes his way on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time next season. Rickey Henderson was a first ballot Fall of Famer this year but McGriff seems to have only a small chance following Henderson’s lead. Fred played in the decade of the first baseman, manning the position with such notable peers as Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Mark Grace, Mark McGwire, Andres Galarraga, Will Clark and the list goes on.
Originally signed by the Yankees in 1981, Fred was just another youngster to be dealt for aging has-beens by Yankee brass. New York packaged him in a deal with speedster Dave Collins and pitcher Mike Morgan for a couple veterans after the ’82 season. After a few more seasons in the minors, Fred came up to Toronto and put pressure on longtime Blue Jay Willie Upshaw with 20 homeruns as a rookie DH. Upshaw’s first base job was Fred’s in 1988. He had his breakout season in 1988, leading Major League first basemen with 34 homers and a .552 slugging average. He and Will Clark were the only two 1B to score 100 runs.
The Crime Dog led the Blue Jays to postseason action in 1989, leading the AL with 36 homeruns and finishing as the runner-up in walks. Toronto lost to the A’s in the ALCS, with Fred’s bat remaining silent, but he would have many chances to redeem himself in October over the course of his career. In 1989, Fred finished fourth in the AL with 35 homeruns while hitting .300. He had firmly established himself as a legit big league power threat, but during the offseason he was dealt in a blockbuster deal to the San Diego Padres. Toronto shipped Fred with their steady shortstop Tony Fernandez and got future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in return with veteran slugger Joe Carter tossed in.
Fred went to the National League and led NL 1B in homeruns and free passes while pacing the league in intentional walks. He was the cornerstone of the lineup, hitting behind the high average hitting Tony Gwynn but had little protection in a lineup devoid of power. Fred paced the league in homerunsin 1992 while finishing third in both RBI and slugging. He had proved that AL pitching couldn’t retire him and that NL pitching suffered from the same dilemma.
The Braves of Bobby Cox had a whole at first base and wanted Fred to fill it. They acquired The Crime Dog during the 1993 season for a trio of minor leaguers- the best of which was high-strikeout total Melvin Nieves – and Fred slugged .612 with 19 homers down the stretch for Atlanta. In the NLCS, Fred went on a tear, hitting Philadelphia pitching to the tune of a .435 batting average with 10 hits and six runs, but the Braves fell despite McGriff’s heavy hitting.
Being a member of the Braves in the 1990s meant that you were going to play in the postseason. Fred returned to October play in 1995, hitting .333 with 6 RBI in the Division Series and .438 in the NLCS. The Braves took on the Indians in the World Series and Fred clubbed a pair of homers in a winning cause. He kept up his postseason hitting in 1996 when he clubbed two homers and drove in seven runs in the NLCS. The Braves lost the ’96 World Series but Fred was in fine form, hitting .300 with two homers against Yankee pitching.
1997 was Fred’s last trip to the postseason and he hit .333 in an NLCS loss to Florida. In total, The Crime Dog was a career .303 postseason hitter with ten long balls and 37 RBI.
Fred went home in 1997 when his contract was purchased by the Devil Rays. A resident of Miami, McGriff put on a show for his hometown fans, hitting .284 in ’98 and following that up witha solid line of 32 HR/104 RBI/.310 BA in 1999. He made his fifth and final All-Star appearance in 2000. During the 2001 season, Tampa dealt a still productive Crime Dog to the Cubs for the stretch drive and Fred socked a dozen homers for the Wrigley Faithful in the latter stages of the season, but Chicago couldn’t quite make the playoffs.
Fred clubbed 30 homeruns in 2002 for the Cubs but fell off drastically in 2003 when he signed as a free agent with the Dodgers. He rejoined Tampa Bay in 2004 in pursuit of his 500th homerun, but he could only drive two balls over the fence and ended his career with 493.
G 2,460/R 1,349/H 2,490/2B 441/HR 493/RBI 1,550/BB 1,305/SO 1,882/BA .284/SA .509