Larry Walker finally overcomes his steroid: Coors Field

30 March 2002: Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies during the Rockies game versus the Anaheim Angels at Edison Field inAnaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
30 March 2002: Larry Walker of the Colorado Rockies during the Rockies game versus the Anaheim Angels at Edison Field inAnaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Former Expos and Rockies outfielder Larry Walker was voted into the Hall of Fame for the 2020 season, on his last year of eligibility.

Canadian born outfielder Larry Walker heard his name called to the hallowed gates of Cooperstown this past Tuesday, reaching the Hall of Fame in his 10th and last year of eligibility with 76.6% of the votes.

Walker would sign with the Montreal Expos in 1984 as an amateur free agent and would begin his professional career the following year. He would make his MLB debut in 1989, and would spend the next 17 years playing for the Expos, the Colorado Rockies, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Known for his eye at the plate, Walker would craft a career slash line of 313/.400/.565 with 471 doubles, 383 home runs, and 1311 RBI’s. His best years would be in a Rockies uniform, where he would lead the MLB in batting average three times, as well as slugging percentage and OPS twice. He would rack up 3 silver slugger awards, as well as 5 all-star appearances and 1 NL MVP award (1997) during his illustrious career.

While he was an offensive weapon, Walker also had a key eye in the outfield, an attribute that helped him collect 7 gold gloves over his career (5 of them with the Rockies). Primarily an outfielder, Walker spent most of his time in right field while also spending some time at first base earlier in his career.

With all these impressive stats and awards, many are wondering why it took 10 years for Larry Walker to get his rightful call to the HOF.

The answer? His home ballpark in Colorado: Coors Field.

Coors Field is a hitters paradise and a pitchers nightmare, with long balls turning into home runs and lots of outfield space for singles to turn into doubles. Opening in 1995, Walker called this place home for 9 seasons, with his first season in the state of Colorado being the same year as Coors Field’s grand opening.

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The main reason behind this ‘hitter friendly park’ is the altitude in which the field sits. The air density is lower in Colorado because of how high the state and field are above sea level, which allows the ball to travel further when it comes off the bat compared to a ball hit closer to sea level. There is a ton of math and science involved, which you can find explained here.

Many argue that because he played at Coors Field during his ‘better’ years, Walker has elevated stats that wouldn’t have translated if he played in another park. If he had played with a team like the New York Yankees or Atlanta Braves but put up the same numbers, he would most likely have been voted to the HOF within his first few years of eligibility.

The key in this argument is looking at his home vs away stats when he was with the Colorado Rockies. For his career, Walker did hit better at home than on the road (348/.431/.637 vs 278/.370/.495), but this is not surprising when looking at many of the previous HOF players and current MLB stars.

One stat in Walker’s favour is that he walked on base more when on the road compared to at home while playing for the Rockies. In 1997, he hit more home runs on the road when compared to hitting at home in Coors Field as well.

He was also able to collect a road OPS over .400 in 5 of the 9 seasons he played for Colorado, which is no easy task in the N.L. West with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

From 1995 – 2004, Walker was able to hit above .300 AVG on the road in 1997, 1998, and 2002, so while he did hit better at home for his career, his road stats are not lacking by any means. Overall as a hitter, Walker now sits 35th overall in home runs, 67th in RBI’s, and 53rd in batting average compared to already inducted HOF members.

Even with the Coors Field argument, I feel any writers who chose to leave Walker off their ballots are missing the overall point of how special a player he was. He was still able to crush incredible slash lines, hitter friendly park or not, year after year while also showing off his gold glove defence in the same park known for being a hitters paradise.

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In the end, Larry Walker never stuck a needle in his arse but still had a lingering steroid hanging around his name in the form of Coors Field. It would have been an absolute travesty to not have Walker in the HOF, but I am glad the accredited writers were able to muster enough votes to put one of Canada’s most influential players in his rightful place in Cooperstown once and for all.