Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 25, 2004
BASEBALL: Can The Crime Dog Still Bite?
So, Fred McGriff has been cut by the aimless Devil Rays, who decided to go with that young up-and-comer, 36-year-old Tino Martinez. Honestly, I'm baffled by the idea that McGriff can't get any kind of major league job. He's always kept himself in good shape, he seems to be well-liked, and he's apparently healthy again after last season's knee injury. And his days as a serious masher are hardly ancient history; compare his average season from 1999-2002 to that of Tino or of last year's Tampa 1B, the man the Yankees picked up to back up Jason Giambi, Travis Lee:
The point here isn't that this is a particularly relevant comparison, but it was not long ago at all that McGriff was churning out 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons and an OPS close to .900 like clockwork - not impressive for Fred McGriff, but numbers that most mere mortals would be more than happy to see from their first baseman. McGriff had a bad year last season, due to a combination of age, his first-ever serious injury, and Dodger Stadium; even so, he batted .249/.428/.322 (park-adjusted OPS+ of 99), compared to .273/.429/.352 (OPS+ of 106) for Tino and .275/.459/.348 (OPS+ of 111) for Lee. That's not that much of a difference, particularly compared to Tino. And yes, McGriff is 40 and it's hard to bounce back at that age. But given how productive he was and how recently he was doing it, don't you think somebody would give him a chance, at least as a part-timer or a bat off the bench?
But at least on the raw numbers, it's worth remembering how unprecedented it is for a guy with McGriff's numbers to be on the outside looking in. There are 24 players who have played 2000 or more career games with a career OBP of .370 or higher and a career slugging average of .500 or higher - 21 Hall of Famers, plus Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Fred McGriff. If you drop the bar to .475 career slugging, you get 5 more, 4 Hall of Famers and Norm Cash. That's pretty good company.