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Walker for HOF? Canadians say 'yes'

@baseballexis
January 21, 2020

TORONTO -- There was perhaps no more captivated audience for the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame election results than the Canadian Baseball community. Larry Walker’s 10th year on the ballot was the final opportunity for the best position player the country has ever seen to be voted into the Hall,

TORONTO -- There was perhaps no more captivated audience for the 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame election results than the Canadian Baseball community.

Larry Walker’s 10th year on the ballot was the final opportunity for the best position player the country has ever seen to be voted into the Hall, and with 76.6 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the 53-year-old will become just Canada’s second member and first in almost 30 years, after Ferguson Jenkins was inducted in 1991.

Complete 2020 Hall of Fame voting results

“It would be a big moment for all of us,” four-time All-Star and 2006 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Justin Morneau said at Baseball Canada’s annual banquet and fundraiser earlier this month. “Fergie Jenkins is in there -- but to have a position player in there who represents Canada so well, I would obviously not be as proud as him, but I would be as close as you can get because he means that much to everybody who’s come into contact with him.”

Beyond a 17-year Major League playing career with the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals that saw the right fielder from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, win three National League batting titles, take home one home run crown, amass seven Gold Glove Awards, three Silver Slugger Awards and the 1997 NL MVP honor, Walker has represented his home country on and off the field with Team Canada.

It is because of all that he has done for the hockey-loving nation and his dedication to future generations of Canadian baseball players that everyone who is part of the family that Baseball Canada has created is so excited to see its hero recognized by the game’s wider audience.

“This is truly an amazing moment for Canadian baseball and Canadian baseball fans, but most importantly for Larry Walker and his family,” Baseball Canada’s director of national teams Greg Hamilton said. “Larry was a tremendous talent on the baseball field and was an athlete that young Canadian ballplayers could look up to and someone Canadians from coast to coast were thrilled to call their own.

“A proud Canadian who still impacts the game north of the border through his association with our national team, Baseball Canada could not be more proud for Larry on achieving this honour that he so richly deserves.”

Walker’s on-field resume is highlighted by more than a decade of dominance in which he was one of baseball’s best all-around players. He amassed a career WAR of 72.7 over a big league career that spanned from 1989 to 2005. During that time, only four players produced higher WAR -- Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell. Derek Jeter -- who was elected into the Hall of Fame this year, his first on the ballot -- totaled a career WAR of 72.4, and took 759 more games to reach that number.

“Larry was a guy who went about his business at everything he did. But when you saw him in a game environment, that’s when you really noticed how special he was,” said Joe Siddall, Walker’s former Expos teammate and fellow countryman. “It wasn’t the obvious things. It was the game within the game … all the little intricacies of the game that I appreciated so much as a catcher.

“Those are the things that I think of more than anything about Larry Walker that other people overlook a little bit because of the great things that he did. The guy was a pretty darn good player all-around, and the numbers back it up. It’s not a subjective thing."

Added Morneau, “He could do everything. He could take the game over in any aspect. If you need him to steal a base, throw a runner out, he had as good an arm as anybody, he had a quick release, Gold Gloves, he was so impressive. And then he could hit with anybody in the league. He really was a five-tool player who could impact the game in so many different ways.”

In order to reach the required number of votes in his final year on the ballot, Walker needed to make the biggest three-year surge in voting since Herb Pennock went from 18.2 percent to 77.7 percent in 1948. Before his 76.6 percent total this year, Walker received 54.6 percent of the votes last year, a jump from the 34.1 percent he received the previous year, and the 21.9 percent he got in 2017.

“It would be amazing to have a player of his calibre representing Canada in the Hall,” former Rockies hurler and fellow BC native Jeff Francis said. “I grew up playing on Larry Walker Field, so it was just a fact of life that he was a star. But you look at the wave of Canadian players coming into the big leagues, and they’re all young now. So to be able to start that wave with one of our older generation players going into the Hall of Fame would be huge.”

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.