You could make a heroes and villains list from the eight player list that will be considered by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Era Committee next month.
You’ve got Albert Belle, a powerful slugger whose personality was rarely warm and fuzzy. Likewise, Barry Bonds–a generational talent with a sometimes surly disposition who may not have hit 762 homers without a little “assistance.” Curt Schilling has a Hall of Fame case to be made but has his share of detractors, too.
On the flip side are fan favorites like Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly and Fred McGriff, all of whom bring more than respectable career achievements to the ballot.
To be elected by the committee, which consists of former players, executives and some longtime media members, a player has to get 75 percent of the vote. Of those on the ballot, the player that generally seems to be given the best chance by those who analyze these things is McGriff.
He played 19 years, appeared in five All-Star games, won a World Series, hit .284 and if not for the ’94 strike, would likely have reached the 500 home run mark, which has traditionally meant almost certain HOF election (he also won home run titles in each league). His WAR number could be better and McGriff never received as much as 40 percent of the votes during his time on the Baseball Writers Association ballot. Yet, his durability and consistency were among the best of his era.
In analyzing the players on the ballot, Jayson Stark of The Athletic wrote, “I’ve often said that McGriff was the most criminally under-supported candidate of all time. And he might just be the early favorite to get elected by this group of Hall of Fame players, executives and writers/historians. It all seems perfect for this committee. You can just feel the love building in the room for a guy like this.”
Ironically, McGriff had been drafted by the Yankees in 1981, but was later traded to the Blue Jays because New York had quickly become enamored with Mattingly, another first base prospect.
McGriff’s rookie cards are in the 1986 Donruss and 1986 Leaf set (a product produced by Donruss for the Canadian market). McGriff was a Donruss “Rated Rookie” and the company got the jump on both Fleer and Topps by including the youngster in its 1986 set, the year in which he made a very brief big league debut. Production was such at the time that nice, ungraded copies of the Donruss Rated Rookie can be found for the price of a fast food lunch. PSA has graded over 3,700 of them including 409 10s and 1,433 9s. PSA 10 McGriffs have been selling in the $350-$450 range of late— a bit higher than they were a year ago, while 9s are less than a quarter of that.
Other than the logo on the front, the Leaf looks identical to the Donruss but is much harder to find (and less popular). In all, PSA has graded 522 of them as of now with just 54 10s and 168 9s. Despite that, 9s aren’t much pricier than the regular Donruss version.
McGriff took over as Toronto’s full-time starter in 1987 and you’ll have to look to the ’87 Traded/Update set to find McGriff’s first issue. Likewise, Fleer didn’t put him in its set until ’87’s Update and Glossy Update.
McGriff does have cards issued during his time in the minors. He’s in the 1985 and ’86 Syracuse Chiefs sets and the ’86 ProCards Syracuse issue as well as the 1985 Dominican League Stickers set.
Among the other candidates on the ballot, Stark feels Schilling might have a reasonable chance to reach the 75 percent threshold, having come fairly close to election toward the end of his time on the writers’ ballot. Schilling was a six-time All-Star, three-time World Series champ (and was MVP in one of them). His 3,116 strikeouts and postseason dominance are also part of his 20-year ledger.
Schilling was an Orioles prospect when Donruss again beat competitors to the punch and put him in its 1989 set. Produced at the height of the junk wax era, it’s plentiful and generally inexpensive. Ungraded versions are only a buck or two and often available in bulk. PSA 10s are currently available for under $75 with 9s still under $20 in most cases.
He appeared in a few different minor league sets and first appeared on a Topps card in 1990.
The full ballot includes McGriff, Schilling, Mattingly, Murphy, Bonds, Clemens, Belle and Rafael Palmeiro,
The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorates charged with the review of the Contemporary Baseball Era player ballot will be announced later this fall. The Committee will meet to discuss and review the candidacies of the eight finalists as part of baseball’s Winter Meetings.
The results of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee vote will be announced live on MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight” at 8 p.m. ET on December 4.