Jeter, Walker to join MLB's immortals in the Hall of Fame

Derek Jeter comes one vote short of a unanimous induction

Kyle Powell
January 21, 2020 - 5:56 pm
Derek Jeter

Photo: William Perlman - NJ Advance Media for NJ.com via USA TODAY Sports

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Cooperstown, New York will have two more members to add to the Baseball Hall of Fame in late July.

The Baseball Writer's Association of America announced on Tuesday night that former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and longtime outfielder Larry Walker will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was Jeter's first year of eligibility on the ballot, while for Walker, it was his last year eligible on the ballot.

Many anticipated that Jeter could become the first unanimous position player to have his bust etched on the walls of Cooperstown, especially after his teammate Mariano Rivera broke down the barrier last January and received 100% of the writers' votes as a closer. Rivera remains the only unanimous inductee, for now, as ballots revealed that Jeter received all but one vote from the committee.

This induction is the icing on the cake to a laundry list of accolades that Jeter received and accomplished throughout his storied playing career. After 15 games played in 1995 as part of a "cup of coffee" promotion to the Major Leagues with the Yankees, Jeter took the league by storm in '96 and took home the American League's Rookie of the Year award after hitting .314 with 183 hits, 10 home runs and 78 runs-batted-in. His inaugural season in the league was capped off with the team's first of five championships during Jeter's time in the Big Apple.

Jeter quickly blossomed and became part of the upper-echelon at his position by the 1998 season, and was frequently mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox and Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners. From 1998 to 2000, Jeter never hit under .324 in a season, while racking up over 200 hits in all three years. Jeter also popped 58 home runs in that span and drove in 259 runs, highlighted by his only 100-RBI season of his career in 1999 (102).

Jeter was an integral part of the emerging "Core Four" in these years as he, Rivera, pitcher Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada made up the backbone of three consecutive World Series-winning teams. The Yankees took down the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets in succession to capture the last three titles of the century in Major League Baseball.

"The Captain" kept chugging along as from 2001 to 2012, Jeter averaged 150 games played, over 100 runs scored, 191 hits, 15 home runs, 70 RBIs and 20 stolen bases per-year. Though the World Series championships did not come as often as they did earlier in Jeter's career, the Yankees were still able to win their 27th World Series title in 2009 when they took down the reigning champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

During the 2012 playoffs, Jeter suffered a broken ankle while fielding a ground ball up the middle against the Detroit Tigers, which cost him most of the 2013 season. He was limited to just 17 games that season where he hit just .190.

Some wondered if that would be the unfortunate ending to, an otherwise, storybook career, but Jeter was able to come back for one more season in 2014. Though he hit just .256 at the plate, he racked up 149 more hits in the regular season. That helped him pass a quartet of Hall of Famers in the career hits department in Paul Molitor, Carl Yastrzemski, Honus Wagner and Cap Anson.

Jeter finished his career with 3,465 career regular-season hits, which is currently the sixth-highest total all-time, and trails only Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.

Throughout Jeter's career, he was known as a clutch player that you would want up at the plate in a tense moment.

In Game 4 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona Diamondbacks, Jeter earned the nickname "Mr. November" when came up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning against stingy reliever Byung-hyun Kim. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Jeter socked a ball towards the right field corner that gave the Yankees the walk-off victory. The home run occurred moments after the clock struck midnight in the Bronx, and since the game started on Oct. 31, 2001, Jeter officially became the first player in history to hit a home run during the month of November.

Though Jeter never won a regular season Most Valuable Player award, he did earn one for his World Series efforts against the Mets in 2000. During that five-game Subway Series, Jeter hit .409 with nine hits in 22 at-bats. He also hit two home runs against his New York counterpart, one of which was of the leadoff variety to start Game 4 at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2011, where Jeter became the 28th hitter in Major League history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone on July 9. Jeter ripped a 3-2 pitch from Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price into the left field seats at Yankee Stadium to become the second player ever to have their 3,000th hit be a home run (Wade Boggs, 1999).

Jeter also, as was custom to his brand, capped off his final home game at Yankee Stadium with a flourish. In a tied game in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jeter came to the plate with the game-winning run on second base against Baltimore Orioles reliever Evan Meek. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Jeter ripped a single to right field between first and second base that scored the winning run as the Yankees won in walk-off fashion, 6-5.

His baseball instincts on the field were constantly on display as well. In the 2001 American League Division Series, Jeter made one of the most iconic plays in baseball history when Oakland Athletics outfielder Terrence Long drove a base hit down the right field line with teammate Jeremy Giambi on first base. Yankees outfielder Shane Spencer got to the ball deep in the corner, but overthrew both of his cutoff men as Giambi rounded third base. Jeter astutely sprinted from his position near second base all the way to the first base foul line to grab the loose ball, before shoveling it to Posada at home plate so the catcher could tag Giambi out trying to score on the play.

As is seen, there was not much Jeter did not do on the diamond. Though he did not join teammate Rivera as a unanimous Hall of Famer, he did become the first in a different department in the storied history of Cooperstown. With his selection on Tuesday, Jeter became the first Hall of Famer to accumulate 3,000 hits (2011), win Rookie of the Year (1996), win an All-Star Game MVP (2000) and receive a World Series MVP (2000).

Not to be upstaged, 17-year outfielder Walker also brought with him a strong résumé to the Hall of Fame. Walker's path to Cooperstown was much different than that of Jeter's, as was evident by his 10 years spent on the ballot.

The prime of Walker's playing career was spent with the Colorado Rockies at the friendly confines of Coors Field in Devner; a place that has been part of much scrutiny and controversy over the years. Due to its placement amongst the thin air of the mountains in Colorado, it has been well-documented that those who play the majority of their games at Coors Field have a natural "advantage" for their home games. Simply put, balls fly much further in the field and because of that, many longtime Rockies and their career statistics have been questioned for validity simply because of the playing conditions.

Walker's induction could be a sign of the softening on this topic by the BBWAA. Should this be the case, that would bode well for historic Rockies players like Todd Helton, Matt Holliday and even Nolan Arenado down the road.

Walker, a Canadian-born corner outfielder, spent the first five seasons of his career in Montreal with the Expos. During that time from 1990-94, he batted .284, hit 99 home runs and drove in just south of 400 RBIs. Then in April of 1995, Walker signed with the Rockies as a free agent. He played in Colorado from the ages of 28 to 37.

The true "prime" of Walker's career was from 1997 to 2002, where he hit an astounding .353 while averaging 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 105 runs scored, and nearly as many walks as strikeouts at the plate. Walker also won his first and only MVP award in 1997, after posting a .366-.452-.720 stat line at the plate with 208 hits, 130 RBI and his league-leading 49 home runs.

Another invaluable part of Walker's game was his lethal right arm in the field. Many a baserunners thought twice before taking an extra base on Walker, as he quickly earned a reputation around the MLB as a man who you'd be safer sticking with a double rather than stretching for that triple.

A seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, Walker lead the National League in assists as a right fielder three times (1992 - 16; 1995 - 13, 2002 - 14), and helped start an incredible 40-career double plays from his domain in right field.

Walker ended his career with 383 home runs, 1,311 RBIs, a .313 batting average, a crisp .400 on-base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .565. Per Baseball Reference, Walker's similarity scores are equatable to the likes of Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Duke Snider, Gold-Glove legend Jim Edmonds, Yankee great Joe Dimaggio and recent inductee Vladimir Guerrero, Sr.

He also became the first Canadian-born position player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Jeter and Walker's induction ceremonies are set for July 26, 2020 as part of Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown. The duo will be going in with Marvin Miller, a former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and catcher Ted Simmons. Miller and Simmons were elected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee on Dec. 8, 2019.

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