Happy birthday to Larry Walker, who turns 45 today.
Walker was never a Ranger, but he came real close to being one, in a deal that would have had a huge negative impact for Texas.
Back in July, 2004, right after John Hart and Buck Showalter forced out Grady Fuson (who was supposedly in the process of taking over for Hart), the Rangers were still a surprising contender in the A.L. West, and what Hart and Showalter decided the team needed was a big-time bat for the middle of the lineup.
So Hart ended up making a trade with the Colorado Rockies for Walker, who was 37 at the time but still mashing the ball.
Walker had a no-trade clause, however, and ultimately vetoed the deal, supposedly because he didn't want to play in the American League. Walker ended up getting traded to St. Louis instead, and the Rangers finished in third place, where they likely would have finished even if they'd traded for Walker that season.
The players Hart gave up in that trade? A small righthander named Erik Thompson, and a minor league shortstop named Ian Kinsler, who was in the midst of a breakout season.
If you click on the link above, you can see that, on my old site, I wasn't happy at all about the deal, but was more worked up about the possible loss of Thompson than of Kinsler. Oops.
In any case, Walker retired after the 2005 season, and really, he has a pretty decent Hall of Fame case. Part of his problem is that his numbers get discounted because he 1) started with Montreal, which no one pays attention to, then 2) went to Colorado, which meant he was putting up altitude-aided video game numbers, and 3) he was doing it in the late 90s and early 00s, an era where everyone had huge numbers.
But even taking all that into account, he was really good. He won the MVP in 1997 while putting up a .366/.452/.720 line, and then in 1999 (despite missing about 40 games) he put up a .379/.458/.710. Setting aside 1989, when he had a 20 game cup of coffee with Montreal, he never had an OPS+ of less than 110. Over a 10 year stretch beginning in 1994, he never posted an OPS lower than 898.
Walker was a really, really good ballplayer. And yet, he was thisclose to being lumped in with Harold Baines, Adam Eaton, and Lee Mazzili in the annals of Rangers history.