1993 Finest: Fred McGriff

Not a lot of time is spent debating the merits of mid-tier Hall of Famers. Everyone seems to agree that George Brett and Yogi Berra were good. The extensive research and debates center around arguments of who is the very best or on trying to figure out where the indistinct line lies between the best non-HOF player and the most borderline Cooperstown inductee. Players who spend extended time in the purgatory of the Baseball Writers Association ballot and committee candidate lists find themselves the topic of extended discussion in this regard. If the answer to “Is this guy a Hall of Fame caliber player?” is “Maybe?” there will be a lot of ink spilled on the topic.

There has been a lot of discussion in this respect concerning Fred McGriff, a home run hitting first baseman who stretched the HOF consideration process to its limit before being admitted via a committee this past December. I’m not going to get into whether or not he should be in the Hall, but will note that he ranks well within my all-time top 200 position players.

What I will point out is that he was one of the biggest names at the time of his inclusion in the ’93 Finest checklist. When these cards were released, McGriff had spent the last four years in the top-10 of MVP voting and would do so again in 1993 and 1994. From 1989 to 1994 McGriff actually hit more home runs than anyone, including McGwire, Bonds, and Fielder. This isn’t just the effect of accumulating stats, as he led both the American and National Leagues in single season home runs in different years.

Padres Refractor Team Set Complete

San Diego wasn’t always a baseball backwater. Named after one of the most famous Pacific Coast League teams, the Padres were competitive in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Like the recent makeover that brought Fernando Tatis, Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Xander Bogaerts together, the early ’90s roster had the combination of Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffield, and Fred McGriff. Given these names, completing the Padres team set within the 1993 Finest checklist hits home a bit more than one would think given that there are only four San Diego players in the set.

Given the costs of chasing this set and the minute details separating higher end grades, I initially targeted refractors in NM-MT condition. This has worked well for most players but presented a challenge for McGriff. Of the McGriff refractors reviewed by PSA, almost 90% had been graded as mint or better. This left only 13 copies floating around the hobby in my desired grade, a figure that has only recently expanded to 15 in the past few months. Eventually one came up at one of the major auction houses and I combined its purchase with that of my McGwire card. Fast forward a year and a half later and I found myself inspecting a nearly complete mint condition set that was being broken up. Making a bulk purchase allowed me to make selective upgrades of certain cards, including McGriff.