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Happy Birthday Fred McGriff

Toronto Blue Jays

Fred McGriff turns 59 today.

McGriff was born in Tampa, Florida. The Yankees drafted him in the 9th round of the 1981 amateur draft. Don Mattingly blocked his way to the majors for the Yankees. The Jays picked up McGriff, Dave Collins, Mike Morgan and cash for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. That trade worked out. Pat Gullick had the golden touch.

In 1986 Fred was up for three games in May. In 1987 he started the season with the team and slowly 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 entire season as a first baseman was great. He hit .282/.376/.552 with 34 home runs and 79 walks, 100 runs, and 82 RBI. He received MVP votes. He was second in the AL in slugging %, 4th in 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 2nd with 119 walks. He was also 4th in the league in on-base percentage, 2nd in slugging average, and 1st in OPS. Fred hit the first home run ever in Skydome on June 5. Fred won the Silver Slugger award for the best AL bat at first base and came in 6th in the MVP vote. Robin Yount won the prize, and Jays’ teammate George Bell came 4th in the voting. In 1989 the 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. He finished 2nd in the league in on-base and 4th in slugging average and homers.

McGriff was a terrific 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. People say one of those stupid things when they want to complain about someone but can’t find a reason.

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. It worked out for us since we won two World Series in the three seasons after the transaction.

Fred went to Atlanta for 4.5 seasons from San Diego, 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.

He should be in the Hall of Fame. You would have thought that Chris Berman giving him the nickname Crime Dog would have been enough to put him over the top.

Fred was one of those guys I just loved. I tried to swing the bat as he did. He played good defense and was a very likable guy. I was sad when we traded him. I remember telling a friend that we had traded a Hall of Famer. Little did I know that one of the guys we got back would go to the Hall of Fame.

Fred is married and has two children, Erick and Ericka. He works in the Rays’ front office.

Happy birthday Fred. I hope it is a good one.

Other former Jays with a birthday today:

  • David Dellucci turns 49. You might not remember, but he played 8 games for us back in 2009, hitting .040/.172/.080. That was the end of his 13-year MLB career. He played 1099 games and hit .256/.338/.435 with 101 home runs for the Diamondbacks, Cleveland, Rangers, Phillies, Yankees, Orioles, and Jays.
  • Steve Trachsel turns 52 today. In a doomed effort to get into the playoffs, we traded for him and Mark Guthrie at the trade deadline in 2000. Steve would make 11 starts and put up a 2-5 record with a 5.29 ERA in 11 starts. He had a pretty good career, playing for 16 seasons. Steve had a 143-159 record, a 4.39 ERA in 420 games, and 417 starts. You might remember he took so much time between pitches that you had time to read a book.