Larry Walker in the Hall of Fame
As members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) are casting their vote for players deserving of the Hall of Fame in 2020, there are many great candidates on the ballot. Among them, Larry Walker stands out in the eyes of Canadian baseball fans. As a native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia; Walker became a favorite among Canadian baseball fans during his 17-year career.
The Hall of Fame Case
Larry Walker was the first Canadian to ever win the Most Valuable Player Award in 1997. Walker was a five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold-Glove winner, three-time Silver Slugger and the winner of three batting titles during his MLB career. In his first year on the ballot, Walker received just 20.3% of the votes. While experiencing a vote decline, Walker seems to be back on track with the most recent in 2019 being 54.6%. Now in his final year on the ballot, this may be Walker’s last chance to get into the Hall.
Having played for the Colorado Rockies for a long time, Larry Walker played many games at Coors Field; a stadium in which favors hitters due to the high altitude. While Walker’s numbers are impressive at Coors, the fact he played there may deter some voters. What some writers may not consider is when comparing Hall of Famers versus Larry Walker’s numbers at Coors Field is that Walker, in fact, exceeds them.
Larry Walker in Coors Field
2501 PA .381/.462/.710, 1.172 OPS
Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Coors Field
1764 PA .325/.410/.564, .974 OPS
Yes, Larry Walker hit well in Coors Field. But he hit MUCH better than all HOFers combined—in the same environment. He’s a HOFer.
— Adam Darowski (@baseballtwit) November 22, 2019
If members of the BWAA were to look at Larry Walker through this perspective; it could change the narrative of the Coors effect narrative. Ultimately, the 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot has the potential of changing the way players are perceived. One of the things changing about the voting process is the use of ballpark factors. Electors will now have to elect players who are dominant in all 30 parks, not just a few. Walker’s election could allow for other Rockies players like Dante Bichette and Todd Helton to enter Cooperstown.
Walker and Canada
If Walker were to be inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame, he would become the second Canadian to do so behind Fergie Jenkins. Walker has paved the way for many great Canadian players like Joey Votto, Justin Morneau, Matt Stairs, and Russell Martin. Former Major Leaguer Jeff Francis even said “[Larry Walker]was the standard for the height of baseball in Canada.” Ultimately, Walker’s election would cement himself in Canadian history; something that has been long overdue.
Since the Junior National Team program was established in 2003, twenty-eight players have gone on to play in Major League Baseball. As more Canadians are able to compete with American kids, it shows how baseball has grown north of the border. Now Canadians are achieving at every level, this can make baseball more attainable for young prospects, and those wishing to play beyond high school.
Walker’s impact is shown both on and off the field. Larry Walker helped team Canada during the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) as their hitting and first base coach. He ended up coaching for team Canada at the WBC, again in 2013 and 2017. In addition, Walker was on the coaching staff when Canada won gold in the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games.
Larry Walker’s influence on baseball in Canada allows guys like Mike Soroka and Josh Naylor to continue to enter the league. As one of the best players in his era, Walker brought the love of baseball north to Canada. While he is better known as a Colorado Rockie, his time in Montreal allowed him to develop into a household name. Now, in his final year on the ballot, writers need to make the right decision. Ultimately, it ends with Larry Walker’s face forever enshrined in Cooperstown, where he truly belongs.