Fred "Crime Dog" McGriff was one of the most consistent hitters in all of baseball in the 1990s, as well as one of the few modern ballplayers with a cool nickname. Over a 19-year career he drove in over 1500 runs, scored 1300 times and finished just shy of 2500 hits and 500 home runs. However, due to his constantly changing scenery, (6 teams in 18 seasons) and lack of a truly spectacular season, he was perpetually underrated and his Hall of Fame prospects remain dim.
The first of his six major league stops was with the Toronto Blue Jays. However, that's not where his story begins. The Crime Dog was originally in the New York Yankees' farm system. However, the Bronx Bombers, who had Don Mattingly tying down first base, dealt a 19 year old McGriff, speedy Dave Collins, and solid pitcher Mike Morgan for Dave Parker, a reliever who was stung by injuries, and a minor leaguer. That was December of 1982, and four years later McGriff would have a 20-HR rookie campaign as the Toronto Blue Jays' DH.
McGriff's breakout year came in 1988, when he hit 34 homers, good for 2nd in the league behind Jose Canseco's 42. He also scored 100 runs and was second in slugging percentage. 1989 and 1990 proved even better as he drove up his batting average to .300 in '90 and led the league in home runs in 1989.
In 1991 he had much the same season, doing something he would do regularly over the rest of his career by hitting 31 home runs and garnering 106 RBIs. The thing is, he did it in a San Diego Padres uniform. Over the offseason McGriff was in a much less one-sided trade than the Yankees deal, going to the Pads along with Tony Fernandez for 2B prodigy Roberto Alomar and future World Series hero Joe Carter. 1992 proved much the same as he won his second home run title, and 1993 looked to be very similar. However, McGriff was traded yet again in midseason, going to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league duds. The 1994 strike may have cut off a career year as it did for Matt Williams, who was challenging Maris' record. McGriff would nonetheless end up with 34 home runs. In 1995 he won a championship with the club, and he spent 1996 and 1997 with the team as well. However, declining home run totals caused him to be shipped to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he had possibly his worst season, hitting only 19 home runs. However, in 1999 he went .300-30-100 for the first time in his career and did well again in 2000.
A hot start in 2001 had him coveted by several playoff contenders, and it was the Chicago Cubs who eventually won his services in a trade for Manny Aybar. They would, however, only finish third in the NL Central. He went on to yet another 30-100 season in 2002, but followed with two lackluster seasons the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, and again with the Devil Rays 2004, just hanging on in an attempt to get his 500th home run. Injuries and age took their toll, however, and McGriff posted the two worst seasons of his career, falling just short of his goal with
493 career homers, and retiring midway through the 2004 season.
Fred McGriff never hit 40 home runs in a season, nor did he ever drive in 110 runners in a year. However, his consistency was almost unmatched. In his 19 seasons, he had ten 30 home run seasons, including seven in a row from 1988-1994, for a record five different teams. He drove in 100 runs eight years for four different teams, and had a streak of 15 years in a row with at least 80 RBI from 1988-2002. McGriff also holds the record for having homered in 42 different major league ballparks - the most ever by any player.