Forgotten Friars: The Crime Dog

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Fred McGriff was as steady and consistent as they come all throughout his career. The big lefty with the smooth stroke raked it for 19 years and sent the ball sailing over the wall 493 times in his illustrious career. 84 of those home runs came in San Diego. 

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McGriff had made a pretty big name for himself as one of the premier sluggers in the American League in the late 80s and early 90s. The Blue Jays were on the cusp of greatness, finishing second place several times during McGriff’s tenure. They were looking for that extra piece to push them over the top, and McGriff was going to be the trade chip to do it.

The Crime Dog arrived in San Diego with Tony Fernandez for the 1991 season in one of the biggest trades in Padres history. They would send Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar to the Blue Jays who of course would play major roles in Toronto’s back-to-back World Series championships a year later. But the Padres didn’t get a slouch in return by any means. 

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McGriff led the AL in home runs in 1989 and followed his 36 home run campaign with 35 more prior to being traded to San Diego. Once with the Friars, McGriff put up consecutive seasons that would rival any other first basemen in the league. McGriff’s first season in the N.L. was a huge success. He hit just .278, but once again eclipsed the 30 home run mark with 31, and set a career high in RBI with 106. The Pads would improve by 9 wins behind the steady bat of McGriff.

His second season was even better. His average rose 8 points to .286 and he struck out 27 less times. He also led the National League in home runs with 35, becoming the first player in the modern era to lead both leagues in home runs. He would drive in 104 runs and the Padres would finish 82-80.

With the Padres struggling to stay in the race the following season, they shipped McGriff off to Atlanta for a cast of nobodies. Vince Moore, Donnie Elliott and Melvin Nieves would never amount to much on the Friars, but McGriff would go on and be a key contributor in what would be to this day the Atlanta Braves only World Series Championship.

Now, Crime Dog is facing his biggest battle. With a ballot chock full of talent, McGriff’s sixth attempt at the Hall of Fame will be tougher than ever. But the man who belted 200 home runs in each league, the man who went 7 consecutive years with 30-plus home runs in a time when that was a ton, and the same man who finished just 7 home runs shy of the once immortal 500 Home Run Club (with the same amount as Lou Gehrig incidentally) will probably find himself on the outside looking in once again.

Maybe it’s time to #FreeTheDog!

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