Saturday, January 8, 2011

Larry Walker does not belong in Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced the 2011 class of Hall of Famers.

After spending 14 years of being denied, Bert Blyleven made it in, along with perhaps the best second baseman of all time, Roberto Alomar. Both, in my mind, are worthy candidates.

However, much of the talk around Colorado was about how first-time-eligible Larry Walker received close to 20 percent of the vote, a number that suggests he might be able to sneak in somewhere before his eligibility is up.

If Walker eventually gets in, the Rockies will celebrate their first hall of famer. However, perhaps the most talented man to don purple pinstripes does not belong in Cooperstown.

There is no denying that Walker had the talent. He hit for average, he hit for power, he had a great arm, and he did all of the little things nearly perfectly. Walker ran the bases better than anyone in the game. He played smart. He was a five-time all star and a six-time gold glove winner. He won three batting titles over the course of four years. He was the first-and only-Rockie to take home an MVP award.

So why does he not belong in the Hall of Fame? It sounds crazy, but what should keep the Canadian out Cooperstown is his lack of passion for the game.

That sounds crazy for a guy who played as hard as he did. However, for Walker, when things started going downhill for the team, he seemed to always find a way to having a nagging injury. In 1998 and 1999 when the Rockies went 77-85 and 72-90 respectively, Walker missed over 30 games. In fact, he played just enough to qualify for the batting title.

Those were rough years to be a Rockies fan. It must have been rough being a superstar player on such average teams. For Walker, winning was the most important thing, so when his team was out of the race, he focused on winning individual awards, like batting titles. If taking days off hurt the team, but helped his prospects of staying fresh to win that title, that is what he did.

In 2007, when the Rockies went on their historic run in which the won 13-of-14 to squeeze into the wild card slot, I wondered on several occasions whether that would have been possible when Walker was in the clubhouse. With the club 6-1/2 games back on September 13th, he most likely would have packed it in and given up on the season. Instead, a new group of younger Rockies focused on winning each game and found their way into the playoffs.

A Hall of Famer, in my mind, goes beyond someone who put up phenomenal statistics, as Walker did. A player worthy of the hall not only possessed the talents and abilities, but also possessed the intangibles and passion that it takes to lead a team. Walker was missing the second half of the equation.

Do you disagree? Let me know why.

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3 comments:

  1. I agree...great talent w/o the work ethic and passion for the game. Tulo will be the first Rockie in Cooperstown

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  2. There's no way Walker should be in the Hall of Fame. I don't think anyone think of him in that sentence either. Nice player, but his two great years was 1994 and 1995. That was it. His injuries prevented him to duplicate those numbers ever again.

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  3. Brad- I would like to think that Helton will be the first Rockie in the Hall of Fame. I think he is deserving.

    Leslie- I think if he hadn't missed 30+ games in five straight seasons, he might have had the numbers. In my mind, his injuries always came curiously close to the team falling out of contention.

    Thanks for the comments!

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