Ringolsby: Larry Walker Was A Complete Player Deserving Of The Hall Of Fame
For all the moaning and groaning about how Coors Field benefited Rockies hitters such as Larry Walker and Todd Helton, it is interesting that pitchers are not dinged for having the luxury of a forgiving home ballpark like Dodger Stadium.
Now, I would have voted for all of these pitchers for the Hall of Fame, but it is worth noting the home-road splits for these Dodgers starting pitchers.
Even the great Sandy Koufax allowed dramatically more runs on the road than at Dodger Stadium.
All of which gets the conversation back to Walker, who was on the writers’ ballot for the 10th and final time this year, and Helton, a second-year Hall of Fame candidate.
In full disclosure, I have been involved in media coverage of the Rockies since the spring of 1992, the year before the team played its first game.
In case there is any question, I am now 10-for-10 in voting for Walker, easily the most complete player I have had the pleasure to watch in the 44 years I have covered Major League Baseball. And that is an endorsement embraced by some of the most influential men in major league history.
Bobby Cox: “He is better than one of the best. He is the best.”
Terry Francona: “He was such a good baserunner, like his head was on a swivel. His talent was obvious.”
Tony La Russa: “I mean, just a gifted all-around everything. In fact, I think he would probably be in the top three of just about every category: baserunning, defense, handling the bat.”
Jim Leyland: “The most complete player I’ve ever seen.”
And the stats, modern-day analytics and old-time number crunching, point in his favor, too. In his career outside of Coors Field, Walker hit .282 and slugged .501.
And Walker truly was a complete player. He could hit. He could hit for power. He could run. He could throw and defend. In fact, with a .313 career average, 383 home runs and 230 stolen bases, he is one of four players in history to hit .300 with at least 300 homers and 200 steals.
The others: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and George Brett.
From Canada To Cooperstown: Larry Walker's Path To The Hall Of Fame
Walker was a fixture of Baseball America's top prospect reports and rankings during his time in the minors.
The rest of my ballot:
Todd Helton: Nobody can debate his skills defensively, but because Helton spent his entire career with the Rockies, his offensive totals come under scrutiny. Baseball-Reference.com has a neutralized evaluation in which Helton’s .316/.414/.549 (.953 OPS) career batting line becomes .302/.398/.513 (.911 OPS) in a 2019 context.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: They were the premier players of their eras. Their careers have been tainted by strong suspicion of steroid usage. There is an inconsistency among voters who ignore these two, but have not blinked at the enshrinement of other suspected steroid users with lesser accomplishments. Those voters also ignore the fact that their efforts came before MLB adopted its performance-enhancing drug program. And what about the voters who have ignored pitchers who threw spitters, even though those were against the rules, or took advantage of the amphetamines that for years were readily provided in clubhouses?
Derek Jeter: The only question about his candidacy is whether he will follow former Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera, who became the first player to be unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame.
Andruw Jones: The completeness of a player should be a factor, not just the glitz. Jones, along with already inducted Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, completed the fearsome fivesome of a Braves team that made a record 15 consecutive postseason appearances. While he faded offensively at the end of his career, retiring with a .254 average, he still hit 434 home runs. More importantly, Jones’ 10 Gold Gloves are tied for second among center fielders to only Willie Mays.
Scott Rolen: A low-key personality can be easily overlooked, but Rolen won eight Gold Gloves, more than any third basemen in history except Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt. He had a career 122 OPS+ and 70 wins above replacement. The list of HOF eligible players who have more WAR and are not enshrined is a short one: Bonds, Clemens, Curt Schilling, Lou Whitaker, Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Grich. Jeter and Walker also have more WAR but appeared on this year’s ballot with Rolen.