Today, we take a look at the next two former Cubs on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. We consider the candidacies of former Cub outfielder Jacque Jones and first baseman Fred McGriff. For more information on the candidates already reviewed or to learn more about how the Hall of Fame ballot process works, please click here.
Jones played ten years in the major leagues, including two with the Chicago Cubs. During that time, Jones hit .277, slammed 165 home runs, and drove in 630 runs. Jones accumulated 5.4 Wins Above Replacement (“WAR”) in 2002 out of his career total 11.5 WAR. In comparison, Mike Trout has produced a WAR of 20.1 in his first two full seasons in the major leagues. Perhaps the Hall of Fame screening committee owed Jones a favor when it placed him on the ballot, but his career statistics clearly do not merit serious Hall of Fame consideration.
Jones spent the first seven years of his career with the Minnesota Twins before Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry signed him to a three-year free agent deal in 2005. In his first year as a Cub, Jones posted an impressive .833 On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (“OPS”) while tying his career high of 27 home runs. 2007 proved less fruitful for Jones as he managed to hit only five home runs en route to posting a .735 OPS. During the first half of the 2007 season, in particular, Jones struggled at the plate and saw his playing time reduced. While he finished with a strong August and September, Jones’s 2007 season strained relations between Jones and team management.
Following Jones’s disappointing 2007 season, Hendry traded him to the Detroit Tigers for Omar Infante. One month later the Cubs traded Infante along with pitcher Will Ohman to the Atlanta Braves for Jose Ascanio. Infante, by the way, remains a valuable baseball player with a career WAR of 17.4 – significantly higher than Jones. In fact, Infante signed a four-year, $30-million-dollar free agent contract with the Kansas City Royals this weekend! Perhaps in ten years I will draft a more compelling case for Infante’s Hall of Fame induction than I have for Jones.
Projected percentage of Hall of Fame vote: 0.3%.
For many Hall of Fame voters, longevity counts for a considerable amount. Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff certainly hopes it does. Over the course of a 19-year major league career, McGriff cobbled together impressive numbers including 493 home runs as well as 1,550 runs batted in. Even more impressive than his power numbers was McGriff’s .886 OPS. McGriff also accumulated a career WAR of 52.6. Over a six-year peak, from 1989 to 1994, McGriff finished in the top ten of American League Most Valuable Player voting each season. Twice the league leader in home runs (the first player in the modern era to lead both leagues in home runs), McGriff topped 100 runs batted in eight times during his career. Despite these impressive offensive numbers, McGriff’s pedestrian fielding skills at first base do not enhance his Hall of Fame credentials.
On July 27, 2001, the Chicago Cubs acquired McGriff from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Manny Aybar. For the following one and a half years, McGriff produced solid offensive numbers. Over the final two months of 2001, McGriff produced a .942 OPS when he hit 12 home runs and drove in 41 runs. McGriff followed up his 2001 campaign by hitting 30 home runs and driving in another 103 runs while notching an .858 OPS in 2002. After failing to make the playoffs in his two seasons with the Cubs, McGriff signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003. McGriff was released in July 2004, only seven home runs shy of 500.
As far as McGriff’s Hall of Fame chances are concerned, he definitely faces an uphill battle. Two years ago, McGriff received nearly 24% of the vote, but last year he slipped to just over 20%. With this year’s crowded ballot, McGriff’s chances to improve his vote total appear dim. McGriff’s best chance for Hall consideration may involve treading water for the next few years until several other top candidates are elected. In comparison to many other sluggers of his day, McGriff has not been connected with performance enhancing drugs. In a few years, McGriff’s power numbers may seem more impressive than they currently do in the context of the “juiced ball” era.
Projected percentage of Hall of Fame vote: 18.2%.