Derek Jeter and Larry Walker have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced Tuesday evening. Jeter, predictably, has been enshrined in his first year of eligibility. However, the longtime Yankees shortstop was not unanimously elected, as he was omitted from one lone ballot. Walker, meanwhile, has at last reached the 75 percent vote threshold in his 10th and final season of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot. He appeared on 76.6 percent of this year’s ballots.
Among notable misses, Curt Schilling saw another increase, appearing on 70 percent of this year’s ballots — up from 60.9 percent in last year’s balloting. Roger Clemens (61 percent), Barry Bonds (60.7 percent) and Omar Vizquel (52.6 percent) were the only others to secure a vote on even half of this year’s ballots. That marks a bit more than a one percent increase for both Clemens and Bonds but represents a notable jump up from 42.8 percent for Vizquel.
There was never a shred of doubt that Jeter, a former AL Rookie of the Year, five-time World Series champion, five-time Gold Glover, five-time Silver Slugger and 14-time All-Star would be enshrined in Cooperstown. The 45-year-old, now the CEO of the Miami Marlins, played in 20 Major League seasons and compiled a .310/.377/.440 batting line along the way.
In that time, Jeter racked up 3465 hits, scored 1923 runs, knocked in 1311 men, clubbed 260 home runs and swiped 358 bases. Those 3465 hits rank Jeter sixth in Major League history, trailing only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker. Jeter also ranks 11th all-time in runs scored and 35th in doubles (544).
Of course, Jeter is known every bit as much for his postseason excellence as his regular-season dominance. He appeared in an incredible 158 postseason games and tallied 734 plate appearances in that time, hitting .308/.374/.465 with 20 home runs, 32 doubles and five triples. Jeter was named the MVP of the 2000 World Series after he went 9-for-22 with two homers, two doubles and a triple to lead the Yankees past the Mets. His 2001 postseason is arguably even more memorable, however, as it was in the ALDS against the Athletics that Jeter’s heady “flip play” was a pivotal moment, and his iconic walk-off home run against the D-backs in Game 4 of the World Series earned him the nickname “Mr. November.”
In all, Jeter’s brilliant regular-season career was valued by Baseball-Reference.com at 72.4 wins above replacement. FanGraphs pegged him at an even 73 WAR. Coupled with his legendary postseason track record, that made Jeter among the most obvious Hall of Famers in recent balloting history — although it’s nevertheless a shocking to see him omitted from a ballot. Once Jeter’s longtime teammate, Mariano Rivera, finally set the precedent for unanimous enshrinement, the expectation had been that others would follow. Perhaps that’ll still be the case, but Jeter was clearly a worthy recipient of such an honor and still fell shy by the slightest of margins.
Turning to Walker, the longtime Rockies and Expos star might’ve been voted in years ago were it not for many voters taking his stats with a grain of salt thanks to the hitter-friendly nature of Coors Field, where he played his home games from 1995-2004. It’s become increasingly difficult to vote against Walker, however. The Canadian-born superstar’s list of accolades certainly feel Cooperstown-worthy.
The National League MVP in 1997, Walker is a seven-time Gold Glover, three-time Silver Slugger and three-time batting champ. Many feel that he was a frequent All-Star snub — only appearing in the Midsummer Classic on five occasions — but Walker’s production arguably speaks even louder than his awards history. In 8030 plate appearances over the life of 17 MLB seasons, Walker hit .313/.400/.565 with 383 home runs, 1355 runs scored, 1311 runs batted in and 230 stolen bases.
Beyond his three batting titles, Walker twice led the Senior Circuit in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. That outstanding slash line translates to a tremendous 141 OPS+ and 140 wRC+, suggesting that the ultra-consistent Walker’s bat was about 40 percent better than that of a league-average hitter over the course of his career. Even at the end of his career, in his age-37 and age-38 seasons with the Cardinals, Walker’s .286/.387/.520 slash was nothing short of brilliant. Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR put Walker right alongside Jeter (72.7), while FanGraphs valued his career at 68.7 WAR.
Both Jeter and Walker are highly deserving of the honor they’ll receive this July when they take their place alongside the elite and entrench themselves in the annals of baseball’s history. Congratulations to the game’s two newest Hall of Famers.