It happened. It finally and rightfully happened. Larry Walker is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame after being elected in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
A top five player by fWAR during his career (1989-2005), Walker’s election sparked celebration among the many factions of fans that followed his career, even garnering a celebratory tweet from Justin Trudeau who congratulated Canada’s second Hall of Fame player. And while those in New York are fuming over the fact that Jeter was a single vote shy of being a unanimous Hall of Famer on his first ballot, you can see that those happiest for Walker finally breaking through on his last chance after a decade long trek were those with him the moment he got the call and his family watching the results live.
But Walker’s election is much more than just being the first player elected to the Hall of Fame in a team’s history. It’s also vindication that playing at altitude isn’t a detriment to any player’s career and that you can be Hall of Fame-worthy in Denver.
Walker famously said, “No needles went in my ass. I played the game clean and it’s almost like Coors Field is my PED.” And he was right. The voters had been unfairly punishing him for something completely out of his control, never mind the fact he played less than a third of his career games at Coors Field (as you surely know by now).
So what changed? Walker received only 10.2% of votes in 2014 but really started his rise in 2016 with a bump to 15.5%, then to 21.9% in 2017, 31.4% in 2018 and up to 54.6% in 2019. That sort of rise doesn’t just happen.
More from Colorado Rockies News
- A Colorado Rockies Thanksgiving
- Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon out for the season
- Colorado Rockies: Injuries shift look of roster ahead of Dodgers series
- Colorado Rockies: 3 things we appreciated from Tuesday in San Francisco
- What Bill Schmidt’s comments mean for the Colorado Rockies in 2023
It coincided with the rise of something else that’s been changing baseball: Sabermetrics and advanced stats, specifically park adjusted stats.
As these stats became more accepted, even on a small level, writers started to realize how efficient and superb Walker’s career really was. Even after factoring in Coors Field, the stats started to prove that Walker’s production wasn’t a farce. It was a force. And slowly but surely, more and more writers and voters began to understand the stats and recognize how badly this Blake Street Bomber deserved to be in the Hall.
And, here in 2020, it came to fruition.
What does it mean for future cases? It opens the door further for guys like Todd Helton who spent his entire career with the Rockies, making him a prime target for the Coors take from those who never really watched him play. It lends more credence in the greater public to the greatness we see from guys like Nolan Arenado on a daily basis. And it shows that the misconceptions of Coors Field are slowly but surely being corrected among baseball writers across the nation (which hopefully will trickle down to their readers and so on).
January 21, 2020, was one of the more pivotal and historically significant days in Denver sports history and Walker came out on the right side of it.
Larry Walker: Hall of Fame Class of 2020
That has quite the ring to it.