The Larry Walker Double Standard
There have been several reasons that have been indicated for the uptick of votes for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on this year’s Hall of Fame voting. Some point to the dubious election of Bud Selig. Others will wrongly used Mike Piazza‘s induction into the Hall of Fame as a justification. More believe this is just a reflection of the changing Hall of Fame electorate. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that Bonds and Clemens have received more support this year than they have in past years.
Using Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, Bonds and Clemens respectively received 44.3% and 45.2% of the vote last year. In published votes, Bonds and Clemens respectively received 47.3% and 47.2% of the vote. This year those vote totals are way up. With there being 163 published ballots this year, Bonds and Clemens have respectively received 69.5% and 68.9% of the vote. That is a huge jump from where they were last year.
At this point, it is fair to say people are beginning to judge players like Bonds and Clemens on their numbers alone. They are beginning the process of either ignoring, compartmentalizing, justifying, or even not caring about the effects steroids have had on each player’s numbers. More and more voters are saying it does not matter if these numbers are enhanced in any way. Rather, they are saying the numbers these players put up deserve induction into the Hall of Fame.
With that being the case, where is the support for Larry Walker?
Now, the Hall of Fame case of Larry Walker has not been hindered by any allegations of steroids use. Rather, voters have not voted for him because his numbers were inflated by his playing at Coors Field.
Buster Olney, a writer who has supported the induction of Bonds and Clemens before forever abstaining in his Hall of Fame voting, said regarding Walker, “The difference in the numbers between Walker in Coors Field and on the road are enormous, to the degree that you’re not quite sure what to make of his performance; was he a superstar or a really, really good player? I’ve thought that the baseball writers are in the same position judging Walker that the Colorado front office has been in when assessing its own talent: Exactly how good are they?” (Patrick Saunders, Denver Post).
Before giving up his vote, it should be noted Olney never did vote for Walker despite voting for players like Bonds, Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro in his last ever ballot submitted. Notably, Olney took no issue with stats enhanced by steroids use, but he had a real problem with stats enhanced by Coors Field. Apparently, he’s not the only one.
So far this year, out of the 116 people who voted for either Bonds or Clemens, only 24 writers voted for Walker as well. Now, there are a myriad of reasons why people could justify not voting for Walker. For some, they noted injuries. For others, they note this is still a loaded ballot, and Walker remains just short. Still, the overriding factor for the lack of support for Walker is the Coors Field thin air of suspicion that Walker’s numbers were aided by his home ballpark.
For example, Jeff Fletcher, who voted for Bonds and Clemens, noted that one reason he withheld his vote for Walker in this year’s Hall of Fame election was Walker’s home-road splits. Another writer, Scott Priestle, voted for Bonds and Clemens, and yet, he has not voted for Walker due to the perceived Coors Field effect. Assuredly, they are not the only ones who have withheld their vote due to the perceived Coors Field effect. They are certainly not the only ones who have voted for steroids users while not voting for Walker.
And yes, Walker greatly benefited from playing at Coors Field. Over the course of his career, Walker hit .381/.462/.710 with 154 homers and 521 RBI in 597 games at Coors Field. At Coors Field, he was 23 points higher than his career .313 batting average, 62 points higher than his career .400 OBP, and 145 points higher than his .565 slugging. Walker hit 40% of his career homers and RBI at Coors Field as well. Overlooking these numbers, it is hard to argue that Walker put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers due to his 10 years as a Colorado Rockie.
Somehow there are writers that are holding this against him while casting votes for Bonds, Clemens, and other players who have been definitively linked to steroids use. It begs the question why stats increased through ill gotten means are more virtuous and/or more legitimate than numbers legally put up at a ballpark authorized by Major League Baseball? It begs the question why Walker gets penalized for Coors Field while Bonds and Clemens are rewarded for steroids.
If it doesn’t make sense to you, it shouldn’t. It’s a double standard. It’s one that needs to end before Walker loses enough support to fall off the ballot. It’s one that needs to end in order for him to be inducted into Cooperstown.