The days of the Blake Street Bombers seem to fade in and out of the collective memory of those who follow the Colorado Rockies. As the humidor was installed and we all insisted that those days of carnival offense were behind us, there seemed to be a collective effort to distance the recent teams from the Bombers. And yet the past few seasons, as the starting pitching has spiraled downward furiously and every team seems to score 8 runs a game, the perception seems to be that not only are the days of carnival offense back, but they never really were gone.
Larry Walker, the star right fielder of those Blake Street Bomber days and one of the all-time great Rockies regardless of era, is on his third Hall of Fame ballot this year. On a list of players whose career accomplishments will be disparaged for different reasons (steroids), Walker’s continue to face extra scrutiny because of perceptions about Coors Field.
I cannot help but wonder if Walker would have benefited from different timing. Let’s say, in a hypothetical universe where the Rockies actually sustained the success of the 2009 season and had a competent pitching staff at altitude, that Walker then hit the ballot. With baseball in Colorado somewhat legitimated in the eyes of National voters, perhaps it would be possible to give Walker the credit he deserves for being a truly extraordinary talent in every aspect of the game.
When I think of watching Larry Walker, two things always come to mind: his incredible arm in right field, where he gunned down runner after runner at every base (including first), and his baserunning. He was just fast enough, but I am convinced that he took every single extra base possible in his career because of how incredibly smart he was on the basepaths. After that I think of him smashing home runs and extra base hits with his bright red bat, but for me it truly is after those first two things.
Unfortunately the conversation about his candidacy seems to always stop at “he hit at Coors Field.” It never even reaches the other facets of his game. The fact that the Rockies are where they are, as Dante Bichette (a fellow Blake Stree Bomber and their new hitting coach) emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of their offensive advantage at home and the front office shamelessly tries gimmicks to put a band-aid on its awful pitching, makes it seem implausible if not impossible for the conversation to ever get past his controversial offensive numbers.
That is truly a shame.