July 15, 2012
Who's better, Larry Walker or Joey Votto?
By Bob Elliott, QMI Agency
After Tony La Russa had managed his final, final game Tuesday in Kansas City, he was asked how much he’d seen of Joey Votto?
“Too much,” said La Russa who went out on top winning Game 7 of the World Series over the Texas Rangers.
And he was undefeated this summer, managing the National League to an 8-0 win over the AL in Kansas City.
“Joey Votto is a great talent and a great run producer,” said La Russa after watching Votto hit .295 with 12 doubles, two triples and 25 RBIs in 59 games against the Cardinals from 2007-to-2011.
“Dave McKay, our first base coach, used to come into the dugout and tell we what a solid person he is, from the two of them talking with each other between innings.”
La Russa said it was the same during the two-day, all-star game event.
One coach after another approached him -- New York Mets manager Terry Collins, Milwaukee Brewers Ron Roenicke -- about Votto’s saying “hey did you notice this ...”
Sometimes it was work ethic, how a respectful person he was or how he was a student of the game.
“Albert Pujols told me for years what a special player Joey was,” said La Russa.
Both Pujols and Votto are represented by agent Dan Lozano.
This season Votto is hitting .364 (8-for-22) against La Russa’s old team, the Cardinals.
Votto is not the first Canadian left-handed hitter La Russa admired.
On Larry Walker’s final visit north of the border as a major leaguer, in June of 2005, he was sitting playing cards with Reggie Sanders in the Cardinals clubhouse at the Rogers Centre.
La Russa walked by with a newspaper saying to Walker: “Someone wrote that YOU were the best ever position player from Canada? I can think of three better.”
Walker shrugged and played his card.
La Russa told Walker, Terry Puhl, Kevin Reimer and Rob Ducey were all better than Walker.
Later in his office, La Russa said “he’s so much fun to tease and joke with.”
“Walker is not only the greatest Canadian position player, he ranks with the best position players of his era from Latin America and North America,” La Russa said way back in 2005.
The people at baseball-reference.com compare Votto and his numbers at age 27 to the likes of Jeff Bagwell, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Wally Berger, Mo Vaughn and Adrian Gonzalez.
When Walker was 27, in 1994, three years before his MVP, he was compared to the likes of Leon Durham, Jermaine Dye, Danny Tartabull, Hunter Pence and Tony Perez.
Now that his career is over, Walker compares to the careers of Duke Snider, Ellis Burks, Moises Alou, Jim Edmonds, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, Vladimir Guerrero, Todd Helton, Chuck Klein and Pujols.
Snider, DiMaggio, Klein and Perez are all in the Cooperstown, while voters punish Walker for his hitting prowess in Denver -- he was named on 23% of the Baseball Writers of America Association ballots for the Hall of Fame in January.
Isn’t a slugger supposed to take advantage of his home field advantage?
Walker won an MVP award in 1997.
Votto won an MVP in 2010 and this spring was given a 10-year $250 million contract extension.
So, who is the better player?
Walker or Votto?
“Wow,” said La Russa, “that’s a great question.”
“Finally,” I replied, “after all these years,”
La Russa is the studious type and didn’t proceed equally.
“Larry was a complete player, he’d steal bases, threw the ball well to the bases,” said La Russa. “Votto is one of the toughest outs and he’s a good first baseman.”
La Russa had Walker coach with the Cards during the spring of 2006.
“I’d ask him to work with base runners and Larry would say ‘I just run,’ then we’d ask him to work with the outfielder and he’s say ‘I just get the ball and throw it.’ I think he may have been having some fun with us -- he was no dummy, he knew how to play the game.”
The Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in 2006 World Series and La Russa made sure that Walker was given a ring the next year.
Walker handled the gesture in Walker fashion saying: “I play 17 seasons and never win a World Series ring, then my first year not playing I get one.”
Walker or Votto, who is the better player?
“I think,” said La Russa, “the fact we are having this conversation tells you how really great a player Votto is.”