“How much difference could performance-enhancers have made on a slender slugger such as Fred McGriff?” wonders the St. Petersberg Times’ Gary Shelton, arguing the 15 year MLB veteran “is a victim” (“all those crooks with the cartoon biceps and inflated statistics made his numbers look ordinary by comparison…they stole from McGriff like an Internet swindler with your bank account number.”) Fair enough, but you can’t become a TV commercial icon if your skull swells beyond the size of standard mesh cap.
The more the bodies swelled, the more their shadows obscured what McGriff was doing. Erase Bonds and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Palmeiro ” all of whom have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs ” from the books, and do you know how good McGriff was in those 15 seasons? He was second in home runs, first in RBIs, third in hits and first in extra bases. Even McGriff’s supporters will admit he’s not a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, but the cleaner you can imagine the sport, the better McGriff’s numbers look.
As it was, McGriff received a disappointing 25 percent of the vote in his first year of Hall Of Fam eligibility. That doesn’t mean he won’t get in. Billy Williams received 23.4 percent of the vote his first time out, and he got in six years later. Jim Rice received 29.8 percent, and 15 years later he got in. Don Drysdale received 21 percent, and it took him 10 years. McGriff has a lot of ground to make up, perhaps a lot of years to wait.
To this day, McGriff swears he has never seen a performance-enhancer. He insists he has never been offered one. Could he have obtained one if he wanted? Yeah, probably. He could have gone to a gym and asked around. He could have hired a personal trainer. For goodness sake, he played with Jose Canseco.
“People always talk about how this guy came clean or that guy came clean,” says McGriff. “I ask them, ‘Did he give back the money?’ “