Consider these numbers.
That's the percentage of votes Larry Walker has received during his first four years on the Hall of Fame ballot. The 10.2% he received this year, shows that he's both under appreciated, as Drew discussed in yesterday's Rockpile, as well as getting squeezed out in what's become an extremely crowded ballot.
First off, I should probably disclose the following. If I had a ballot, I wouldn't vote for Walker.
It's not because I don't think he had a remarkable career, it's because I have a ridiculously high bar for the Hall of Fame - And yes, I realize that many players with far less reason to be in Cooperstown than Walker have already crossed through the gates, but that doesn't mean I'll be changing my stance on this issue any time soon. I'm only in my twenties, but I've already developed a pretty prickly exterior when it comes to this topic.
In fact, if I did have a ballot, I wouldn't have filled up my ten allotted slots. My only four definite yes guys for 2014 are Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, and Schilling. From there I'd take a long hard look at a few other players starting with the likes of Bagwell, Biggio and Piazza, but I wouldn't have gotten down to Walker.
Now if I was ranking the 36 players on this year's ballot, Walker certainly would have come in much higher on my list than the 19th place he clocked in at yesterday in terms of highest percentage of votes.
Walker was a legitimate five tool player, and regardless of which park he called home, he could wreck games for the opponent on both sides of the ball. During his eight year peak from 1994 through 2001, he posted a line of .339 / .422 / .635, good for a 1.058 OPS, and even after it's park and league adjusted for pre humidor Coors Field and the performance enhancing drug era, it still comes out to an OPS+ of 150.
When you add in the fact that Walker was both an excellent fielder and one of the smartest base runners you will ever see, you start to think he's got a great case for the Hall.
But there's a problem. Actually, there's several problems. Little things aligning against Walker. Each shouldn't be a big deal by themselves, but when added together, they really drag down his Hall of Fame chances.
The first is games played. As good as Walker was when he was on the field, he wasn't on it often enough. During that eight year peak, he only averaged 119 games a season, and for his career, he only played in more than 143 games once. Not surprisingly, that's the year he took home the MVP. At the end of the day though, his lack of playing time is definitely a sour note. He finished his career with only 6,907 at bats.
Playing in pre humidor Coors and the performance enhancing drug era also hurts him in two ways. One, it makes his numbers seem less impressive. Not because he did anything wrong, but because he gets lost in a storm of several other guys putting up big numbers. It also hurts him now because he's on a crowded ballot with several other big and controversial names. By the time you go through the biggest fish in this sea, Walker unfairly gets lost in the shuffle.
Another thing hurting Walker is that he didn't spend his entire career on one team. In fact, he has the worst of both worlds occurring here. He spent essentially his entire prime with the Rockies, but didn't start or finish his career with them. So again, he ends up a bit forgotten.
Adding to the list, he didn't see many playoff appearances because after his first season in purple in 1995, he wouldn't see the postseason against until he was traded to St. Louis in 2004. Unfortunately for Walker, his best postseason series came in a four game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox when they were breaking an 86 year old curse. Once again, his accomplishments end up as more of a side note.
The position he played also didn't help. Corner outfielders really, really, REALLY have to rake to stand out from the crowd, especially during the period Walker played in. From 1995 though 2005, right through most of the best years of Larry's career, over two dozen players that played the majority of their games in the outfield posted a wRC+ of 130 or higher. That's some tough sledding. (Walker clocked in at 146 for reference)
At the end of the day, I see Larry Walker as a guy with Hall of Fame talent who didn't have a Hall of Fame career - If that makes any sense at all.
It is however a complete shame that he came in 19th yesterday in terms of the percentage of votes, because he's a better player than that.
Yesterday, Larry tweeted this...
My goal of staying on the ballot for all 15 years got one year closer today!! #content— Larry Walker (@Cdnmooselips33) January 8, 2014
He has a good grasp on the situation, and I hope he does stay in the mix. His career was absolutely good enough for us to look back and dissect it every January for the next eleven years, even if it doesn't meet my insanely high expectations of a Hall of Famer.
Throughout his career, Walker was forgettable in the eyes of the national media, and now, he's being forgotten again in the voting process. Hopefully, he hangs on and sees a reversal of the voting percentage plunge he took this season, because his career really was better than most people outside of Colorado think.