Early polling suggests Larry Walker isn't gaining entrance to baseball's Hall of Fame this winter, in his ninth and penultimate year on the ballot. That's a shame because he deserves it.
We've laid out Walker's statistical achievements in greater detail before, so we're just going to hit on the highlights here. Walker won seven Gold Gloves, three hitting titles, and the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player Award. He appeared in five All-Star Games and was remarkably consistent, posting an OPS+ greater than 110 in all 16 of his full seasons. He was reliably unreliable, too. He didn't finish with any of the magic numbers because he was too prone to injury: he topped 140 games four times and exceeded 500 at-bats twice. Yes, twice.
Walker can be docked for his susceptibility to injury all day and night, but it's worth noting the numbers are still there. According to the JAWS methodology, Walker's 72.7 career WAR is equal to that of the average Hall of Fame right fielder. His seven-year peak (44.6) is better than the average. WAR isn't the end-all, be-all or anything -- no sense pretending otherwise -- it just goes to show that Walker would've likely been an obvious inductee if his body had betrayed him less often. Oh, and if he had spent most of his career playing his home games anywhere other than Coors Field.
Unfortunately for Walker, most of his time was spent with the Colorado Rockies, where he posted big season after big season while playing in a launching pad. Voters haven't shown they're willing to overlook that fact -- not yet anyway, not even with Walker's numbers remaining worthy after adjusting them for park and era.
Any tension against totally trusting park factors is understandable to some extent. Odds are, the crop we're working with is flawed and presenting a distorted view of this or that player. In due time, it's almost a certainty that a whippersnapper with more computing power than his or her predecessors will improve upon the park-factor design in a meaningful way. The result might show that Walker or whomever's production was less impressive than it seems, making articles like this one -- which promote him as a worthy candidate -- look stupid. But so what?
Based on what we know right now, and based on our modern methods of evaluating ballplayers, Larry Walker belongs in the Hall of Fame. Voters have one more chance to get it right.