With the clock winding down on Larry Walker‘s Hall of Fame eligibility, it appears as if the decision will come down to the eleventh hour. As of writing this, the greatest Canadian slugger is currently over the necessary 75% threshold and is second on the ballot.
But if we assume the Maple Ridge, BC-native joins Fergie Jenkins as the second Canuck in Cooperstown, the question for Canadian baseball fans becomes who’s next?
The next ‘big’ Canadian to appear on the ballot will be Justin Morneau. The 2006 AL MVP is fourth in home runs by a Canadian (247) and second in RBI (985) and last played for the Chicago White Sox in 2016.
Morneau is unlikely to get much ballot love as his career peaked much too early and he only played 1,545 career games.
One can only wonder what could have been for the former Twins-standout, if he had avoided a mid-season concussion in 2010. Prior to that collision, the New West Minster, BC-native was coming off his fourth straight All Star appearances and already had 2 Silver Sluggers and one MVP under his belt. After that injury Morneau never returned to his all star level.
He will likely join other top Canadians, as one and dones on the Hall of Fame ballot:
Eric Gagne (2014) – 0.4% 11.7 WAR
Matt Stairs (2017) – 0% 14.2 WAR
Jason Bay (2019) – 0% 24.6 WAR
Ryan Dempster, who is second among Canadians in wins and strikeouts, was not even placed on the ballot in 2019.
Votto and Martin now stand as Canada’s next best hope. Here is an argument for both:
The Reds slugger may not have the flashiest resumé – he has 6 all stars seasons, 1 MVP (2010), one Gold Glove, no Silver Sluggers, and has yet to hit the 300 home run mark. But despite the lack of hardware the Etobicoke, Ontario-native is considered by many as one of the greatest hitters of his generation.
MLB.com recently picked Votto as the fifth best player from the past decade (that started off with his 2010 MVP season). The four men ahead of him were for-sure Hall of Famers Mike Tout, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and he finished ahead of the likes of Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey.
Votto’s biggest selling point is his consistent ability to get on base. He is one of 6 men to have won their League’s on base percentage (OBP) title seven times. This puts him in some pretty elite company with the likes of Roger Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams (all Hall of Famers) and Barry Bonds (likely to join the Hall soon).
We cannot predict what Votto’s career batting average and OBP will be, but as it stands he has hit .307, with a .421 OBP over 13 seasons. The 36-year old’s OBP is currently seventeenth all time, slightly ahead of Hall of Famer Micky Mantle.
If the Canadian lefty hung them up tomorrow would he be enshrined in Cooperstown? Some advanced metrics say yes, others say no. I will leave it to WAR, in which Votto sits at a career 60.2, whereas the average first baseman Hall of Famer is 66.8.
With four years left on his current contract, the next few years could determine whether Votto goes from a fringe Hall of Famer to a for sure thing.
Unlike Votto, the case for Russell Martin relies almost exclusively on advanced metrics.
Let’s first look at the 4-time all star’s resumé. His WAR sits at 37.9, good for 27th all time among catchers, 191 home runs (23rd), 771 RBI (29th), and 101 stolen bases (21st). Martin is a part of a very elite club of catchers that have over 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases, along with Hall of Famers Ivan Rodriguez and Carlton Fisk.
But with only one Gold Glove, one Silver Slugger, and a WAR that is 16.4 back of the average enshrined backstop – inducting the Montreal-native into the Hall may be a hard sell.
Enter the advance stat of pitch framing. Ben Lindbergh of the Ringer wrote a pretty compelling article this October about why Martin deserves a deeper ballot look. He highlights the difference between WAR with and without pitch framing. When pitch framing enters the conversation, the Canadian catcher goes from a top-30, to a top-10 all time catcher.
Pitch framing is how a catcher receives the ball and potentially turns a ball into a strike. I don’t pretend to understand this stat but the impact it has on Martin’s WAR is undeniable. If we base WAR off the Baseball Reference definition (that does not incorporate pitch framing) Martin seems a long shot. But if we look at FanGraphs WAR (55.2) he is ranked ninth all time and with Baseball Prospectus (59.8) he is eighth all time.
Whether the Hall of Fame electorate will appreciate this sizeable difference by the time Martin appears on the ballot, we will have to wait and see.
Now in the twilight of their careers Votto and Martin stand as the next two reasonable Canadian candidates to join the Hall. As this decade comes to an end Fergie Jenkins remains the only Canadian in Cooperstown, but by the end of the next decade we could realistically have a quartet of Canucks in the Hall.
(Top Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)