Larry Walker might be Canada's last Baseball Hall of Famer for a long time
Joey Votto has a shot, but his chances don't look that great
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It might be awhile before another Canadian gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame
Larry Walker finally made it yesterday in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Needing 75 per cent of voters to pick him, the Maple Ridge, B.C., native got 76.6 per cent. He's the first Canadian hitter to get into sports' most selective hall of fame, and the second Canadian overall — after pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in 1991.
That's a long time between Canadian hall of famers. And it might be a long time before the next one. There's only a few guys you could even cobble together an argument for. Justin Morneau won an MVP award and a batting title, but concussion problems cut his career short before he could compile the raw numbers you usually need to get in. Catcher Russell Martin is a four-time all-star with a Gold Glove, but his offensive stats are underwhelming. Tip O'Neill won two batting titles and a triple crown back in the late 1800s, but if the committee that looks at old-time players hasn't voted him in by now, it's probably not gonna happen.
There's probably only one Canadian with a realistic shot of making the Baseball Hall of Fame in the foreseeable future: Toronto's Joey Votto.
Votto's case looks weaker than Walker's. So if he does get in one day, it would probably happen (like Walker) at or near the end of his 10-year eligibility window. There's also a minimum five-year waiting period between the time you retire and when you can first show up on the ballot. And Votto is still playing for the Cincinnati Reds at the age of 36. So this isn't happening anytime soon — if it does at all.
The best way to assess Votto's chances might be to compare him to Walker. Offensively, they're in the same ballpark. Votto's lifetime batting average of .307 is close to Walker's .313. Votto has a better on-base percentage (.421 to .400), but Walker tops him in slugging percentage (.565 to .519), home runs (383 to 284) and stolen bases (230 to 79). Surprisingly, Votto has never won a batting title, though he has seven National League OBP titles. Walker won the NL batting title three times and led the league in OBP twice. Votto is a good defensive first baseman who has won a Gold Glove, but Walker has seven of those for his more glamourous work in right-field. They both own one National League MVP award.
Of course, the knock on Walker was always that his offensive numbers were inflated by playing so many games at Colorado's high-altitude Coors Field — a hitter's heaven. Votto has spent his entire career in Cincy, where the stadium is also batter-friendly, though not to the same degree.
To help decide who's truly the better player, savvy voters will look at stats that adjust for a player's environmental factors — including his ballpark and the quality of competition he faced, among other things. One of them is OPS+, which adjusts a player's on-base-plus-slugging percentage and calibrates it so that a score of 100 represents an average player. Walker's career OPS+ is 141 (so 41 per cent better than the average hitter's). Votto's is 150.
The problem with OPS+ is it only tells us how good a player is at the plate. Walker was phenomenal away from the dish too. He stole a lot of bases and did excellent work in right field. To capture that, we can look at the Wins Above Replacement stat. Basically, it tells us how many more wins a player was worth to his team vs. a hypothetical scrub who could be easily acquired for next to nothing. By Baseball Reference's calculation, Votto's WAR is 60.2. That's already higher than several Hall of Famers', including Yogi Berra, Vladimir Guerrero and Kirby Puckett. But Walker's WAR is 72.7, and he only got into the hall by the skin of his teeth on his very last try.
Sure, Votto could still add to his resumé. But he's in the twilight of his career and he's coming off his worst season. Right now, he looks like a long shot to join Walker and Jenkins in the hall of fame.
Who's the person that didn't vote for Derek Jeter? That's what everyone is wondering after the Yankees great fell one vote shy of becoming only the second unanimous Baseball Hall of Famer (his former teammate Mariano Rivera did it last year). We might never find out the answer because voters aren't required to make their picks public. Of the 224 voters who have revealed their choices so far (about 58 per cent), no one has owned up to snubbing Jeter. Regardless, Jeter and Larry Walker will be inducted on July 26 in Cooperstown along with catcher Ted Simmons and former players' union head, the late Marvin Miller. Those two guys were added by a committee that considers people from past eras who weren't voted in the conventional way, by baseball writers. The most notable players who fell short in this year's writers' vote were Curt Schilling (70 per cent), Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (both 61 per cent). Read more about Jeter and who'll be on the ballot next year here.
Canada's Olympic basketball hopes took a bit of a hit. Centre Dwight Powell tore his Achilles while playing for the Dallas Mavericks last night. That should end his season and his plans to play for Canada in its last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria in late June. Powell is no star, but he's a solid NBA "soldier" (Dallas coach Rick Carlisle's word) who plays good defence and stays within himself on offence. He's finally become a regular starter in his sixth NBA season, and he's averaging 9.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. The Mavs, who are a good organization, thought enough of Powell to give him a three-year, $33-million US contract last summer. Powell was also one of the few Canadian NBA players who answered the call to play in the Basketball World Cup last summer. He's the kind of guy you want to have around. Read more about Powell and check in on some other Canadian NBA players here.
Canada finished strong at the Youth Olympic Games. On the final day of competition in Switzerland, the men's hockey team beat Finland for bronze and snowboarder Liam Brearley completed a medal hat trick with a bronze in the big air event (he also won a bronze in the halfpipe and silver in slopestyle in the last couple of days). Canada ended up 15th in the medal standings with one gold and eight total. Halfpipe skier Andrew Longino was the gold medallist, and he got to carry the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony. Read CBC Sports reporter Devin Heroux's wrapup of the Games here.
Milos Raonic made it to the third round of the Australian Open. The last Canadian left in the singles tournaments breezed past Chile's Cristian Garin in straight sets. Raonic, who's seeded No. 32, will now face a seeded opponent for the first time: No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. They've never met before. Two Canadians are playing their first-round doubles matches tonight: Vasek Pospisil in the men's event and Gabriela Dabrowski in the women's. The third-round singles matchup getting the most buzz is 15-year-old American Coco Gauff vs. defending champion Naomi Osaka. Read more Raonic's win and today's other Aussie Open results here.
Zion Williamson will make his long-awaited NBA debut tonight. The launch date for one of the most exciting rookies in years was pushed back by a long and cautious recovery from knee surgery. But the 6-foot-6, 285-pound dunking machine will finally suit up tonight when his New Orleans Pelicans face San Antonio at 9:30 p.m. ET. Zion became something of a celebrity back in high school when videos of his dunks starting appearing on the internet. He also put on a show in his lone college season at Duke before going first overall in the NBA draft. Zion is so fun to watch because someone his size just shouldn't be able to move like that and jump that high. But he also has some Greek-tragedy vibes because the source of his greatness could be the very thing that causes his downfall. Zion's big, powerful body and explosive moves put tremendous strain on his legs, resulting in two significant knee injuries in the last year. To try and prevent any more, the Pelicans have been retraining him in how to move, jump and land (tip: always bend your knees). Hopefully it works, but there's also a gnawing fear that Zion won't last very long.
Please enjoy these gifs of the latest (and possibly greatest) Carolina Hurricanes post-game celebration: Dodgeball!
.<a href="https://twitter.com/ASvechnikov_37?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ASvechnikov_37</a> is really in it to win it. 😂 <a href="https://t.co/b5TZQjGKFm">pic.twitter.com/b5TZQjGKFm</a>—@NHLGIFs
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