With Santa Claus in everyone's rear-view mirror, we have fully engaged baseball's Hall of Fame ballot season. Longtime Colorado Rockies beat reporter Troy Renck of the Denver Post followed suit on Thursday by publishing his reasons why he didn't cast a vote for, among others, Barry Bonds and Larry Walker.
The Bonds stuff we've heard before, but Renck's take on Walker caught me offguard.
Walker has been criticized before about his work ethic, most notably in a Sports Illustrated story in 2000, in which an unnamed "scout" made several damning assertions about Walker's behavior and character, labeling him a "clubhouse cancer."
Walker roared back in protest at the time, so I wonder what he'll have to say about what Renck now writes in the Post:
Walker's omission (from my ballot) has nothing to do with PEDs. He just didn't play enough or care enough. His statistics come up slightly short, and his absence from games by choice, not injury (like missing nearly a week one season to prepare for lasik surgery), was an annual issue. Had he played more, his numbers would have required admission into the Hall.
Well, HELLO! Not only is it what Renck says, but how he says it, that's so striking. Just so matter-of-fact. "Yeah, he missed a week to get ready for lasik." It's easy for fans (or writers removed from the scene) to say things like, "This guy doesn't play hard enough," when we really have no idea. But you would think that a reporter such as Renck, who has been the Rockies beat writer since 2002, and whose intimate knowledge of the team surely predates that, has been in a position to know before throwing out such an accusation. Renck has cited Walker's "lack of passion" before, but he really tightens the screws here.
Though his career wasn't all it could have been (because of injuries, I have assumed), I have thought Larry Walker as a Hall of Famer. Yes, playing in Coors Field during the pre-humidor era obviously padded his statistics. But it also warped the perception of how good Walker was. This is Walker's third year on the ballot and he's received 20 and 22 percent of the vote in his first two years on the ballot. Considering that 75 percent gets you in, he'll probably never get a Cooperstown plaque.
The only way that would change is if somebody started driving the discussion in Walker's favor. The more a player is talked about and the longer the discussion continues, my theory goes, the bigger the chance that people might be talked into voting for him. But when the top Rockies beat writer not only won't vote for Walker, but also gives damning testimony as to the validity of his candidacy — and his character — any kind of grassroots movement probably dies in the weeds.
Not only is Walker not a Hall of Famer in Renck's view, but he also didn't give the Rockies (and later, the Cardinals) his best effort. That's just as damning as calling him a drug cheater.
Or maybe worse.
We don't have Walker's side of the story on this. And we certainly don't have to take Renck at his word. But what he says certainly doesn't help Walker's cause.