Whither Walker?

Saturday, November 23 2002 @ 02:40 AM EST

Contributed by: Coach

Arizona, already mortgaged to the brink of bankruptcy, is "stuck" with Matt Williams, a once-great player who has every right to put what's left of his career in perspective with his disingegrating personal life.

Colorado is "stuck" with one of the greatest right-fielders of all time, but they have many other problems to address (like Denny Neagle) and may have lost their best chance to dump Larry Walker and his enormous contract. If that doesn't happen, the Rockies have a very unhappy camper, now that Larry's feelings are hurt.

He's made statements already about feeling unwanted in Denver, and he resents the implicit suggestion that his lack of "leadership" is to blame for the Rockies' woes. Most of us have another culprit in mind: the bozo in the front office.

Just what does Dan O'Dowd do next? Who knows? The most predictable thing about the Colorado GM is that none of his moves will make sense. It's not just the most obvious displays of foolishness (the Hampton and Neagle contracts;) even his attempts to dig out from the messes he creates (CJ and Preston Wilson?) are mind-boggling. His choices seem to be, take whatever horrible contract(s) minimize his financial pickle, trading Walker for say, Jeromy Burnitz and Rey Ordonez -- a truly awful deal for Rockies fans -- or begin the season with his MVP (no disrespect to Mr. Helton) angry and pouting.

In a long, rambling and quite enjoyable phone conversation with Jordan yesterday (we're e-friends who hadn't actually spoken before) I suggested Walker "isn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier," alluding to his reputation as the Canadian version of a "good ol' boy." I mean no offence, and he's not a head of state or anything, so I hope that's not a controversial remark. His success on the field, which I think has been under-appreciated by the mainstream media on both sides of the border, and by his employers, hasn't changed the hockey goalie who liked to hoist a few Kokanees after a game.

It's no secret that Walker used to sleep off his previous night's activities on the trainer's table while less gifted Expos took BP, and only in his mid-30's did he attempt to reduce his partying and get a bit more serious about his conditioning. How many productive years this will cost at the end of his incredible career remains to be seen, and will be hard to distinguish from the physical toll of his almost reckless style on the diamond. My point is, Larry's Larry. He isn't a philosopher or an intellectual, he's an uncomplicated man who happens to be a superb baseball player, and now that the attempt to move him has failed, I doubt the fences will ever be mended with his current boss.

I admire Walker as one of the greatest OF I've ever seen, and a hitting genius, so I want him to flourish somewhere for a few more years, and join Fergie Jenkins in the Hall of Fame. He doesn't deserve O'Dowd, and vice versa. I wish I could spin a plausible scenario that made him a Blue Jay, but I cant. If the perfect-fit D-backs are out, where does he end up? Not many teams can afford to take on $50 million. If Jeff Kent leaves, Larry might interest SF, but my money's on Brian Cashman to sweet-talk O'Dowd into something that corrects his biggest mistake -- Mondesi -- plus White and/or El Duque and a couple of stalled prospects, a payroll-balancing deal that puts Walker in pinstripes, the Yankees back in the driver's seat, and Colorado futher down the toilet. As always, I look forward to the opinions of others.