Leyland: Larry Walker Is Most Complete Player I Ever Saw -- Stats Agree
Jim Leyland has spent the last 48 years in professional baseball as a minor-league player, a coach and a manager at the minor-league and major-leauge level, and most recently as a special assistant to the Detroit Tigers.
And the man who managed six divisional champions, and won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997, says there is no argument about the most talented player he saw and/or managed.
"It is a no brainer for me," Leyland said. "Barry Bonds is the best player I ever managed, but Larry Walker was best five-tool player I ever had. There was nobody more impactful in a game than Larry Walker.
"He beat you every way he could. There were five ways he could beat you. There was defense, with his throwing, with his baserunning, with his hitting and with his power. I can’t even believe it’s a question myself."
The only thing he doesn't understand about Walker is how Walker isn't in the Hall of Fame. He is puzzled as to why Walker is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 10th and final time this year.
"I only had Larry Walker one year,(when Leyland managed the Rockies), but I managed against Larry Walker in Montreal and during that time he was one of the greatest players to play," he said. "There’s no question about that. It was nice to have him in that lineup, instead of looking at him from the other side, believe me."
And his overall career numbers support that case. You take his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles, triples, home runs, and RBI, and there are only six other players in the history of the game who can match or beat him across the board -- six members of the Hall of Fame. And is throw in his 230 stolen bases, he stands in a class all his own. Among the six Hall of Famers on the list, only two even had 100 stolen bases -- Babe Ruth (123) and Lou Gehrig (102) -- according to Stats, Inc.
A year ago, Walker did make a major jump, improving his vote total by 25.1 percent -- 144 to 252 -- but would need a similar hike this year to receive the 75 percent support from voters to be inducted by the veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, and not be sent to the Veterans Committee to correct what is arguably the biggest oversight in Hall of Fame voting history.
And that, said Leyland, would be a shame.
"This guy could do everything," he said. "He could run. He could jump. The baserunner I ever saw, not base stealer, but baserunner. He used to deke that fly ball, and throw a guy out at second. He was so gifted and graceful. He wasn’t just some big guy with power. He was only five tool player I managed and I managed 33 years, 22 in the majors.
"People looked at him and he made it look easy. I can’t imagine Larry Walker not being in the Hall of Fame."
The big knock on Walker is that he called Coors Field home. Okay. Well, Sandy Koufax called Dodger Stadium home.
And nobody would question that Koufax deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but Dodger Stadium was and is a pitcher's haven.
And Walker did hit .2817 outside of Coors Field. That's better than 38 non-pitchers in the Hall of Fame, including 22 who played in the expansion era, according to Stats, Inc.
Walker also sits well in terms of the more recent stats, like WAR. Among Hall of Famers, his career WAR of 72.6 would rank sixth among outfielders in the Hall of Fame, who played at least 1,000 games since 1961, and would make him 16th all-time on the list of Hall of Fame outfielders, which currently includes 52 inductees.