Are Fred McGriff and Larry Walker Heading to Cooperstown?

Sunday December 11th, 2011

Sam Evans: During the pinnacle of their careers, Fred McGriff and Larry Walker, each averaged over thirty home runs a year. Now, in their first couple years of eligibility, both players have shown promising signs that they are on their way to becoming Hall-of-Famers. However, I’m not quite sure if they both deserve it.

Larry Walker: Larry Walker was an amazing power-hitting outfielder from 1989 to 2005. He actually was a very solid defensive right fielder, considered one of the best in baseball history. Walker played for the Expos, Rockies, and Cardinals during his seventeen years in the majors.

Walker helped popularize the game back in his home country of Canada. He was the first Canadian ever to win the MVP in 1997. He hit .366 with 49 HR, 130 RBI,  and 33 stolen bases. When he retired in 2005, he had been nominated to five All-Star games, he won seven Gold Gloves, and Walker finished with 67.3 WAR, which is 67th all-time among position players.

Unfortunately, Walker also played during the height of the Steroid Era. We are learning more and more about these dangerous drugs as time passes, and we still can’t be positive who is using PED’s (See Ryan Braun announcement from today). It would not come as a big surprise to me if Walker was using PED’s in the 90’s. However, as great as it is to see a player that had a successful career without PED’s, (e.g. Ken Griffey Jr.), we have to remember that performance enhancing drugs were not banned back then. I am sure that the public suspicion that Walker was a steroid user though are hurting his Hall of Fame chances.

Another knock against Walker is that he never won a World Series. It is hard for voters to vote for a proclaimed winner, if they never won a championship. In 2011, Walker’s first year of eligibility, he received 20.3 of the BBWAA votes. The requirement is seventy-five percent, but overall, this was a strong first year showing for Walker.

If you look at Walker’s career as a whole, I’m pretty certain he will be considered a Hall-of-Famer. I really think Cooperstown though needs to redefine what being a hall of famer is all about. Is it about the impact players made on the game? Or what their numbers look like? The Hall-of-Fame has a lot more problems with its standards then I think most people realize.

Fred McGriff: McGriff is another top power hitter. McGriff holds the MLB record for homers in the most different stadiums with forty-two.

McGriff hit 493 homers in his career, good enough for 25th all-time. “Crime Dog” also finished with a .284 BA, and an average of 86 walks per 162 games. McGriff was nominated to five All-Star games and led the league in home runs twice. On the other hand, McGriff was not known as a great defensive first basemen. Also, he never really stayed with one team for an extended amount of time.

When looking at McGriff’s long career, the homers obviously stand out. He hit just as many homers as current HOF’er Lou Gehrig. Another highlight of McGriff’s nineteen year career was winning the World Series with the Braves in 1995.

McGriff will surely be named a Hall-of-Famer before his fifteen years are up. He played during an era where power was easy to find, and McGriff relied on his power to provide him with a lengthy career. However, 483 homers, and being tabbed “Baseball Superstar” in Tom Emanski’s infamous commercials is apparently enough for an election to Cooperstown.

McGriff is really a “push” candidate for the Hall-of-Fame. I’m not completely sure he will a fair chance to make it because of the era he played in. In 2010, McGriff received 21.5% of the BBWAA votes, and then in 2011, he took a step back only getting 17.9% of the votes.

For both of these players, writers are more reluctant to vote for them because of who the group they played with. As was evidenced with the Ryan Braun news, Americans have a very negative reaction to PED’s. We just want to enjoy baseball nostalgically, with”real” athletes that don’t need to cheat to succeed. The truth is, cheating is a huge part of the game. From corked bats to spitballs, this kind of thing has been going on for over a hundred years. The effects that PED’s have in the human body are devastating, and turning yourself into a superhuman should not be allowed in baseball. However, the era in which Larry Walker and Fred McGriff played in should not be the reason to keep them out of Cooperstown.  Both players should be judged on their numbers and performances, if that is possible.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

Posted on December 11, 2011, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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