Derek Jeter’s passage into baseball’s Hall of Fame was as brisk and predictable as Larry Walker’s was arduous and dramatic.
The last of the New York Yankees’ single-digit legends, Jeter on Tuesday just missed becoming the second player shipped off to Cooperstown in unanimous fashion, receiving 396 of 397 votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America. Teammate Mariano Rivera was the first unanimous selection last year.
Walker, whose climb to the 75% vote total required for induction looked impossible just three years ago, earned 76.6% of the vote – getting in by 10 votes –, earning induction in his 10th and final appearance on the ballot. Walker, 53, is the seventh player to get in on his final try, following Edgar Martinez’s path one year ago, and joins pitcher Ferguson Jenkins as the only Canadians in the Hall.
“I look at all the votes that I got. It takes a lot of votes to get elected to the Hall of Fame,” Jeter said when asked about his near-miss with 99.7% of the vote. “Trying to get that many people to agree on something is difficult to do. That’s not on my mind.”
Jeter’s coronation has been expected for the better part of a decade. As one of the game’s most telegenic stars, he lacked not for attention – but also had the credentials to back his outsize recognition.
The 14-time All-Star shortstop finished his career with 3,465 hits, most among full-time shortstops, and a .310 batting average. His postseason resume is second, perhaps, to no one: In 158 games, Jeter batted .308 and boosted his on base plus slugging percentage to .838 from his respectable .817 mark.
That the Yankees won five World Series championships only boosted Jeter’s resume – and his fame. The first title came after his 1996 Rookie of the Year campaign, starting a run of three in four seasons that concluded with his World Series MVP performance in the 2000 Subway Series against the Mets.
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Walker had no such platform – his only World Series appearance came in his penultimate season of 2004, with the St. Louis Cardinals. And he had to fight the perception many of his greatest accomplishments were fueled by Coors Field, his home ballpark for 10 seasons with the Colorado Rockies, including his 1997 NL MVP campaign.
But Walker’s five-tool skill set and undeniable Hall of Fame credentials in two crucial categories – OPS (.965, fifth all-time) and Wins Above Replacement (55th) helped him stay on the ballot – and finally get over the top. He is the first Rockies player to ever make the Hall.
Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens weren’t quite as fortunate Tuesday.
Schilling (70) narrowly missed out as Bonds (60.7) and Clemens (61) continued their slow climbs – all three players with just two more years of eligibility left on the ballot.
Schilling was up from 60.9%, Bonds saw an increase from 59.1 and Clemens from 59.5.