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Top 60 All-Time Greatest Blue Jays: #17 Fred McGriff

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees

Fred Stanley McGriff | 1B |1986-1990

After being up for a cup of coffee in 1986, Fred started the1987 season with the team. He gradually took over the DH role from Rance Mulliniks. He hit .247/.376/.505 with 20 homers and 60 walks in just 295 at-bats, a pretty good rookie season. After the season, Willie Upshaw was sold to Cleveland to make room for Fred at first base.

McGriff’s first full season as a first baseman went very well, hitting .282/.376/.552 with 34 home runs and 79 walks, 100 runs, and 82 RBI, which earned Fred MVP votes. He was second in the AL slugging % and 4th in the OPS, and 2nd in home runs.

Fred had an equally outstanding season in 1989, going .269/.399/.525 with a league-leading 36 homers and number 2 with 119 walks. He was also 4th in the league in on-base percentage, 2nd in slugging average, and 1st in OPS. He hit the first home run ever in Skydome on June 5. Fred won the Silver Slugger award for best AL bat at first base, and he came in 6th in the MVP vote, Robin Yount won the award, Jay teammate George Bell came 4th in the voting.

Jays came in first in the AL East, but we lost out to the A’s in 5 games. McGriff didn’t have a good series hitting just .143 with no extra-base hits and no walks.

In 1990 Fred had his third consecutive terrific season hitting .300/.400/.530 with 35 homers. Three seasons with 34, 36, and 35 home runs can’t ask for anything more consistent than that. He came in 10th in MVP voting, finished 2nd in the league in on-base, and 4th in slugging average and homers.

McGriff was just an excellent first baseman for us, but the one little knock folks had on him was that he never drove in 100 runs for us despite hitting 35 home runs a year three years straight. It is of those things people say when they want to put down a player but can’t find a reason to. Mickey Mantle hit 30+ home runs nine times but only drove in 100 in 3 of those seasons, though McGriff hit for a slightly lesser average with runners on base early in his career. On December 5, 1990, he was traded to the Padres with Tony Fernandez for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. After the trade, McGriff drove in 100+ runs eight times. I remember telling a friend that we traded away a Hall of Fame player. Since we won two World Series in the three seasons after the transaction, you’d have to say it worked out for us.

From San Diego, Fred went to Atlanta for 4.5 seasons, where he won a World Series ring. Then he played for Tampa Bay, the Cubs, the Dodgers, and Tampa Bay again, where he retired after a 19-year career and 493 home runs. His career hitting line is .284/.377/.509 in 2460 games. Fred also had a streak of 3 years with bWAR greater than 5. I could only find one other Jays’ hitter with the same, and he’s a little higher on the list. McGriff was 21st on Bill James’ list of top 100 first basemen. As he played five seasons after James put together the list, he likely would be up a few spots from that now.

Fred was very consistent. He was the first to hit 30 home runs for five different teams, and he hit 30+ in seven straight seasons. And just the second player to hit 200 home runs in both the AL and NL, Frank Robinson was the first (he hit his 200th AL home run off Roy Halladay).

McGriff really should be in the Hall of Fame and more than likely would be if he had just seven more home runs. He finished with 493. As Matt pointed out, the 1994-95 strike-lockout likely cost him a plaque in the hall.

Fred is married and has two children Erick and Ericka (I thought my parents had no imagination). Since retiring he has worked in the Jays, Rays, and Braves organizations. He did a talk radio program for a few years.

Fred McGriff’s play among Jay hitting leaders:

bWAR: 13th.

Batting Average (>2000 PA): 17th, .278

On Base % (>2000 PA): 3rd, .389

Slugging Average (>2000 PA): 3rd, .530

OPS (>2000 PA): 3rd, .919

Games: 36th, 578

Runs: 28th, 348

Home Runs: 11th, 125

RBI: 28th, 305

Walks: 11th, 352