We’re going to speak about Larry Walker in a second, I promise. However first, a preamble.

If you happen to’ve adopted baseball’s Corridor of Fame course of at everywhere in the previous a number of years, you’ve little question heard voters — together with myself (usually) — complain a few crowded poll. And also you’re most likely irritated by now, both at us grumbling voters or on the Corridor, which has lengthy restricted eligible BBWAA voters to 10 test marks on a poll that features 30-something gamers who made the minimize. 

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And I get it. I do. No one likes a complainer. The poll crunch, although, is a REAL THING for these of us who really feel greater than 10 gamers have careers worthy of a spot in Cooperstown. Strive as we’d, it’s inconceivable to suit 12 or 13 guys into 10 spots, and a few deserving gamers wind up with clean packing containers subsequent to their names yearly. 

Lately, I wrote a column about my Fred McGriff dilemma. I consider he’ll at some point wind up with a spot within the hallowed Plaque Gallery, however I didn’t vote for him in my three years with a poll. This was McGriff’s final probability to be elected by the BBWAA, his 10th yr on the poll. After I posted my column on Twitter, I included this line: “However I do assume he belongs in Cooperstown, and I really feel assured he’ll wind up with a bronze plaque in a pair years.”

The reply beneath appeared to resonate with different Twitter customers, receiving a gradual however regular stream of likes over the following couple of hours. 

(Sigh.) If solely the voting course of was that straightforward. 

As I wrote within the column, few gamers — if any — have been extra impacted by the crowded poll than McGriff, a persistently wonderful slugger who wasn’t a no-doubt Corridor of Famer, however definitely did sufficient to belong. I gained’t rehash right here.

So now let’s speak about Larry Walker. For many of his eligibility, Walker wasn’t simply stagnant, he was trending within the flawed route. Gamers who spend a number of years with lower than 25 % of the vote don’t usually sniff BBWAA election. He’s in his ninth yr on the poll — you solely get 10 now, bear in mind? — and these are his ultimate vote totals the primary eight years: 

2011: 20.three %
2012: 22.9 %
2013: 21.6 %
2014: 10.2 %
2015: 11.eight %
2016: 15.5 %
2017: 21.9 %
2018: 34.1 %

You see the bounce in 2018, proper? And this yr, Walker completed with a relatively gorgeous 54.6 % of the vote. For the primary time in his time on the BBWAA poll, there’s hope that he may really be elected with out the assistance of a veterans committee. Not simply chip-and-a-chair hope, however fairly real looking hope.

So what occurred? Two elements performed a task, one bigger than the opposite. 

First: The poll has cleared up. Lastly. Prior to now two years, seven greats — first-year candidates Ivan Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome and holdovers Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman — have been elected by the BBWAA. Seven!

That’s the equal to taking dynamite to a jammed river after an enormous flood stacked up timber and particles towards a bridge. The backed-up water lastly can transfer ahead. 

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In Walker’s first seven years of eligibility, each poll featured at the least seven eventual Corridor of Famers and as many as 11 Cooperstown-bound stars, and that record doesn’t embody PED-associated Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa complicating issues, or guys like Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, McGriff and Billy Wagner who may finally get in, too. 

The query was by no means so simple as “Is Larry Walker a Corridor of Famer?” The query was all the time, “The place does Larry Walker rank in your record?” Truthfully, Walker doesn’t have a top-five-on-your-list resume. He has a Cooperstown-worthy resume, however that was by no means the query.

My first Corridor of Fame vote was for the category of 2017, and I didn’t discover a spot for Walker. He was No. 11 on my record, and as I wrote in my column, I used to be simply glad he was excessive sufficient on the tracker that he wouldn’t end beneath 5 % of the vote and fall off the poll. 

I voted for Walker the following yr, after the three-player class of 2017, and once more this yr, after the four-person class of 2018. I’m not alone

Walker didn’t bounce from 21.eight % in 2017 to 54.6 % in 2019 as a result of 32.eight % of the citizens lastly had a come-to-Jesus second regarding Walker. Like me, they simply lastly had a spot on their crowded ballots for a participant with Walker’s Corridor credentials. And it is value noting that, after the four-person class of 2019 (Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina), just one sure-fire Corridor of Famer (Derek Jeter) joins the poll subsequent yr. Lastly, with Walker, voters will be capable to simply say “Is Walker a Corridor of Famer or not?”

I consider a second issue is at play, too: Walker’s former Rockies teammate Todd Helton was on the poll for the primary time this yr. Helton, who completed with 16.5 % of the vote, provides Coors Discipline context. 

Context is so crucial when judging a participant’s Corridor credentials. That’s what we’re attempting to do, evaluate the candidates to the gamers already within the Corridor. When there is no such thing as a established baseline — main league baseball within the skinny air of Denver didn’t exist — it may be a battle. It’s the identical factor with the DH: Edgar Martinez wanted David Ortiz to retire and be a part of the Corridor dialog so as to add context to what a Corridor of Fame designated hitter seems like

Walker was the primary reputable Corridor candidate to put on a Rockies uniform for almost all of his profession. Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla put up video-game numbers at Coors Discipline, however they weren’t severe Cooperstown candidates (all three fell off the poll of their first yr of eligibility). 

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However Walker and Helton are totally different. Each have house/highway splits that strongly favor the house numbers, in fact. However so do a number of present Corridor of Famers. So whereas it’s possibly straightforward to look rapidly at, say, the hole between Walker’s house/highway splits — 1.179 at house, .899 on the highway throughout his Rockies profession — and dismiss his general numbers as inflated, possibly the main focus ought to have been on the truth that an .899 highway OPS remains to be actually rattling good. 

Including Helton to the dialog means extra focus needs to be on a greater method to decide numbers produced by Rockies, as a substitute of a fast “look the place he performed” dismissal. If Helton’s ballpark-neutralized numbers nonetheless stack up nicely with all-time first baseman — they usually do, as Jayson Stark explains right here — taking a second have a look at Walker’s numbers turns into a good suggestion, too. 

And a second have a look at his numbers — and house on the poll — implies that Larry Walker being a part of the Corridor of Fame class of 2020 is a really actual chance. 

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