The Hall of Fame Case for Larry Walker
By Editorial Staff
Coors Field may eliminate any chance Larry Walker has at the Hall of Fame. If only he had played for the Red Sox. Fenway is just as much of a hitters’ park as Coors, yet doesn’t have the same stigma. Red Sox players are not deprived of MVP awards because of their home stadium — cough, cough, CarGo, cough, cough. There are many ballparks that provide advantages to both hitters and pitchers, but none stir up more controversy than Coors Field. There is a bias against beautiful Coors and guys like Walker and Todd Helton will suffer as a result.
Larry Walker was the best right fielder in baseball for the better part of the Nineties. He could run, hit and was one of the greatest defensive right fielders ever. During his era, no one could match Walker’s combination of range and throwing ability. He is seventh all-time in career assists from right field. He also won seven Gold Gloves — good for eighth all-time amongst outfielders. That is quite a feat for a guy that spent so many years roaming Coors’ cavernous outfield. Playing right field in Denver is no easy task. Just ask Brad Hawpe. Larry excelled in Colorado; he was the game’s pre-eminent defensive right fielder during his time here. Ozzie Smith made the Hall because of great defense. Shouldn’t Walker’s supremacy in right carry significant weight in his candidacy for the Hall? And if the BBWAA is going to dock his offense so heavily because of Coors Field, shouldn’t they have to reward his defense for the same reason?
Needless to say, Larry should get a few more votes than Dante did.
Larry could also hit a little bit. For his career, he hit .313, including four seasons in which he hit over .350. He was awarded three Silver Sluggers and won three batting titles. He crushed 383 homeruns in just over 8000 at bats. If he hadn’t battled so many injuries, he would have hit 500. He got on base with regularity — a .400 career OBP — and was consistently among the league leaders in OPS and Slugging.
His 1997 MVP season was one of the greatest single season efforts ever:
Now for the kicker — Walker’s Home/Road splits from 1997:
That year, he was actually a more dangerous hitter on the road. Regardless of his home stadium, he was clearly MLB’s best player. One great season does not make a Hall of Famer, but these numbers prove that Walker’s ability was legitimate, even if his splits were pretty extreme in other years. His best seasons in Montreal can’t be ignored either. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, he was instrumental in the Expos’ first place finish. He hit .322 that year. Walker also won two of his Gold Gloves and one of his Silver Sluggers while in Montreal.
The Rockies have a short history, but the BBWAA has not been kind to the few players who have become Hall of Fame eligible. Ellis Burks and Andres Galarraga each hit over 350 career homeruns, but last year was their first and last on the ballot. They both received less than 5% of the vote. Burks and Galarraga have steroid ties, but Coors Field also played a huge role.
It would be foolish to exclude Walker from the Hall because of where he played. He was a tremendous all-around ballplayer who had a fantastic career. Plus, last I checked, Coors Field is an approved Major League ballpark. Rockies fans need to pay close attention to January’s vote by the BBWAA. You can expect Todd Helton to receive the same kind of treatment that Walker is given.
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