Fred McGriff was 30-35 homers waiting to happen for more than a decade and deep into his career, and not many players can say that, now or then.
The prototypical first baseman, known as "Crime Dog," McGriff played for six teams, but shined his brightest as an All-Star with the Padres and Braves. With a string of 30-plus homers per season, 10 of them in all, McGriff fell just short of what at least used to be a Cooperstown ticket of a milestone: 500 homers. He was seven shy of that mark while finishing off his career with his hometown Tampa Bay Rays in 2004.
For a fifth year, McGriff is among those being considered for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, with voting results to be announced Jan. 8, 2014. McGriff saw his support fall to 20.7 percent in 2013 voting, after his top showing of 23.9 percent in 2012.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the Hall of Fame. After no players were elected by the BBWAA last year for the first time since 1996, second baseman Craig Biggio (68.2 percent), starting pitcher Jack Morris (67.7 percent) in his 15th and final year on the ballot, and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (59.6 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are among the first-timers on the 2014 ballot.
During a prime that lasted a good decade, McGriff was a five-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner, including one in the American League. He had seven consecutive 30-homer seasons (1988-94) among his 10 overall.
"Over the years, I've just tried to be consistent. I did my best to stay healthy," McGriff once said. "I take pride in it. Every year, players set goals. For myself, I [want to] hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs."
Even as he passed his one-time teammate and Florida friend en route to 500 homers, Gary Sheffield paid tribute to McGriff.
"I knew [McGriff] would be the guy I would have to hit more home runs than -- because nobody was going to hit more home runs than Fred McGriff," Sheffield said. "So whatever number he came up with, the day I put on my uniform to play with him is the day I made that goal. ... It's the strangest thing. It's just one of those things of how much I admire him as a person, as a friend and as a baseball player. What he has meant to Tampa -- when you talk about home runs in Tampa, you talk about Fred McGriff."
Traded from the Blue Jays with Tony Fernandez for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter in a 1990 Winter Meetings blockbuster, McGriff excelled as the Padres' cleanup hitter and was one of four All-Stars for the Padres when they hosted the 1992 All-Star Game -- McGriff, Fernandez, Sheffield and Tony Gwynn. By the next summer, he was traded to the Braves, the team he won a World Series ring with in '95. He was dealt to Atlanta in July 1993, finishing a career-high fourth in the NL MVP voting after delivering 19 homers and 55 RBIs for the Braves in the final two-plus months of the season.
McGriff played for three teams in the last three years of his career, but a highlight included hitting 30 homers and recording his eighth season with 100 RBIs or more for the Cubs in 2002 -- joining Sheffield as the only two players ever to hit 30 homers for five different teams.
McGriff finished his 19-year career with 1,550 RBIs, which ranks 42nd on the all-time list -- between Hall of Famers Willie McCovey (41st, 1,555) and Willie Stargell (43rd, 1,540), both of whom at least finished their careers as first basemen.