The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown just gained four new members – unfortunately, former Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker wasn’t one of them.
Pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz, as well as Craig Biggio – who played most of his career at second base – were all elected Tuesday, the first time four players have been elected at the same time in 60 years.
Walker appeared on 11.8 percent of ballots, so he’ll continue stay on the ballot for the next five years.
For fans of Walker here in Denver, there’s no reason to be disappointed. The ballot is absolutely loaded right now, even if you discount the players who may never get in because they are suspected of steroid use. While electing four players is a step in the right direction, plenty of deserving players got left out (I’ll tout Mike Mussina’s candidacy all day long). For now, it’s enough for now that Walker will remain on the ballot in the future.
It is a little bit curious however that Biggio got elected with a career WAR of 65.1 compared to Walker’s career mark of 72.6 (according to baseballreference.com). Biggio hit some round numbers in his career (he finished with 3,060 hits), but played 20 seasons. He’s more than deserving, but those round numbers still hold too much sway in the minds of voters. Because he battled injuries for much of his prime, Walker didn’t quite get to 400 home runs (he finished with 383). His lack of health and counting stats seems to be still dragging his candidacy down.
It also seems like Coors Field is still working against Walker. Walker hit .381/.462/.710 in 597 career games at Coors Field, well above his career .313/.400/.565 slash-line. Legitimate or not, the electorate outside of Colorado still views Coors Field as an unfair advantage. If he can’t get in, it’s fair to wonder just what kind of numbers a Rockie would have to put up in order to be deserving in the minds of voters. Focusing too much on the Coors Field-effect also discounts Walker’s impressive defense and legendary arm (he did win seven Gold Gloves), and underrated base-running ability, as well as his other hardware (one MVP award, five all-star selections).
Still, even on a loaded ballot, Walker got a bump up in votes from last year, and it seems like, as voters are getting more educated (and – ahem – younger), they’re starting to come around.
So don’t be disappointed, Rockies fans. Walker clearly isn’t, and as the old saying in baseball goes, there’s always next year.