Jeter did have some minor blemishes. He never won a Most Valuable Player Award (he finished among the top three in voting three times). Probably helped by his reputation and astute playmaking (see: The Flip, during Game 3 of a 2001 A.L. division series), Jeter won five Gold Gloves even as his skills declined and he was rated a below-average defender. He famously refused to move from the position after the Yankees acquired a better shortstop, Alex Rodriguez, in 2004. (Instead Rodriguez took over third base.) Also some advanced statistics, such as Wins Above Replacement, haven’t been so kind to Jeter; WAR ranks him as the 10th best shortstop of all time.
“One of those names that goes along with the greats of any sport,” Walker said of Jeter during an MLB Network interview after their election. “I was thinking about it, as great as Derek is, remember those old 45s we used to listen to? They had the song on the A side and the song side you didn’t really know about? I’m the song on the B side.”
Walker, who had received steadily increasing support in recent years, tweeted hours before the announcement that he thought he would “come up a little short today.” But he received 76.6 percent of the votes — a stunning jump from 54.6 percent last year His candidacy had been undermined in previous years because he played the majority of his career in thin-aired Colorado.
Walker, who grew up playing hockey, received most of his baseball education in the minor leagues. His major-league career lasted from 1989 through 2005 and included stints with the Montreal Expos and the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit 383 home runs, and only six players have matched his career marks in batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.400) and slugging percentage (.565) — Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
Walker’s career road O.P.S. of .865 is equal to or better than those of George Brett, Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell and Griffey, all first-ballot Hall of Famers. Walker stole more bases (230) than each of those players, and he won seven Gold Gloves. He was a five-time All-Star, a three-time batting champion and the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award winner in 1997.
Walker said he was proud to join Ferguson Jenkins, a Canadian-born pitcher inducted in 1991, as the lone Canadians in the Hall of Fame. When he received the phone call informing him of his election, Walker said he uttered an expletive, “then maybe an, ‘Oh my god.’” He added later: “It was surreal.”