Around 2:45 p.m., on Tuesday I was walking back from the snack bar at Eastmont Lanes — drink and meal ticket in hand — when I nearly dropped my medium Pepsi and spilled it all over the bowling alley’s multi-colored carpet. But it wasn’t because of anything the Wenatchee or West Valley girls exhibited on the lanes, and frankly, had nothing to do with bowling.
SportsCenter, which was sandwiched in between the two team scores, was on and at the bottom ticker ESPN had breaking news that the MLB had just announced its 2020 Hall of Fame Class.
Derek Jeter was voted in by a landslide. The talking heads meanwhile were debating how Jeter, one of baseball’s most well-regarded players and arguably the second-best shortstop in history (behind Honus Wagner), missed a unanimous selection by one vote — but really who cares considering neither did Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Ken Griffey Jr. or Nolan Ryan.
The real juicy news was curiously, yet fittingly, relegated to a mere mention before a commercial break: Larry Walker, the second-best Rockie in franchise history, and one of my childhood idols, will join Jeter in Cooperstown, becoming the first Rockies player (and third Canadian) to get enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Finally, the man got his due.
It was at that moment I knew what it felt like to be a Mariners fan last year when Edgar got in. I nearly screamed in excitement and threw my hands in the air — thus the near spillage — but was able to contain myself around the spectators until I found a counter to place my soda. I then started scrolling through articles for more details. Bowling was put on the backburner for a second.
Through all of ESPN’s daily talk shows on Tuesday, not one of the “analysts” picked Walker to get the call in his 10th and final year on the baseball writers (BBWAA) ballot. It was in doubt for most of the afternoon. But then again, like Edgar, there were always questions about Walker’s electability.
But unlike Edgar, they weren’t warranted – bring it on M’s fans.
As good as Martinez was at the dish, he was terrible in the field. Seattle moved him to DH permanently early on in his career, where admittedly he was good; hitting .300 in 10 seasons; mashing 514 doubles; winning five Silver Slugger awards, but he wasn’t necessarily an all-time great. Edgar didn’t break any records, he wasn’t an MVP, and for being regarded as a power hitter, Edgar never led the league in home runs and only once in RBIs.
He was very good, but not great. And he played only half the game.
The only criticism people had against Walker all these years was the fact that he played half of his games in altitude — which is honestly a joke. It’s like the baseball writers assume hitters are using aluminum bats every time they play a game at Coors.
Altitude aside, from the mid-90s to the early ‘00s, there wasn’t another outfielder better than Walker. From 1994-2004 he batted over .300 eight times — including four seasons where he hit (.350), (.363), (.366) and (.379) — won three batting titles and earned the 1997 NL MVP after mashing 49 homers.
Walker his 383 home runs and his (.965) OPS, which measures a players ability to get on base and hit for power, is the 14th best in MLB history and higher than Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Ken Griffey Jr. He’s one of just 19 hitters in MLB history with a .300/.400/.500 batting line with at least 5,000 plate appearances and one of just six whose careers began after 1960. Walker even owns a higher WAR (72.7) than his co-inductee Jeter (72.4) – for reference, Edgars' was a respectable (68.4).
Walker was also considered one of the best defensive right fielders in his generation, winning seven Gold Gloves, and possessed an absolute cannon of an arm. Base runners just didn’t test Larry.
“It’s about time really and a good thing for baseball to have one of it’s best all-around players get in the Hall of Fame on his last try,” MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian said in an interview with ESPN after the announcement. “He’s one of the best defensive right fielders I have seen and Jim Leeland told me years ago that Walker was the most talented player he has ever managed, which is saying something.”
Had he played in a different uniform, Walker would have likely been inducted much sooner, but all of that bellyaching means nothing now. After 27 years, Colorado finally has a representative in the most prestigious place in baseball.
It’s about time.