DENVER — Sometimes in life, the simplest of questions result in the simplest of answers that lead to the simplest conclusion.
Our tale begins with a simple question I couldn't get out of my head: Why haven't the Colorado Rockies retired Larry Walker's No. 33?
Having made the case in various formats long ago, I haven't been at all surprised that as the more bright minds around baseball began to dig deeper into his career, the more momentum has built for Walker's Hall-of-Fame induction.
What did strike me as odd was that no parallelled momentum seemed to arise for the retiring of his number.
At first, it made sense to wait until after Helton had achieved the honor. For all the arguments that can be made about who was the better, or more valuable player in their prime, Helton was forever and always a Rockie. So, fair enough.
It still seemed likely that Walker's jersey retirement would soon follow, though, but it didn't. Or hasn't.
As I began to ask around to multiple people in and around the Rockies organization about why that was, something else peculiar emerged.
We can, and should, continue to point to the overwhelming statistical, empirical and circumstantial evidence that logically dictate Walker should make the Hall on merit, but the lack of national attention to this point is echoed on a local level to some degree and that has to be addressed.
Why it took so long to connect these dots, I cannot say, but it became clear that the question needed reframing. Why should a national audience accept Larry Walker as a true Hall-of-Famer if his own team — and by extension home state and fans — haven't proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they believe he is?
It's true, Walker played for the Montreal Expos at the beginning and St. Louis Cardinals at the end of his career, but none of that was by choice. You can't pick who drafts you (especially if they don't quite yet exist) and he was famously emotional when traded away from Colorado despite joining a far more successful organization.
That Walker isn't seen as the face of the franchise may be one of the main barriers to his HOF case. But again, that was not his fault and evidence suggests he would have been more than happy to finish out his playing days in the Rocky Mountains. He is also clearly more tied to this place than any other and still had, statistically, the second-best career of anyone to ever don purple pinstripes. And it's a comfortable second place.
So why not retire the number? I couldn't stop asking.
While there are an abundance of rumors regarding the reasoning, one thing is clear, there is some disagreement between the two parties on this issue. In speaking with the Rockies, they insisted there is no rift between the team and Walker, but also declined to offer any reasoning as to why the number has not been retired. As for Walker, despite our best efforts, he could not be reached for comment.
Either way, the number ought to be retired with haste.
You could argue that doing this for Walker might open up the floodgates and have the fans of Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette picketing for those numbers on the wall as well. Those camps should feel free to present their arguments, but there is a reason that the club itself has been pushing so hard for Walker's entry to the Hall and that logic ought to be cross-applied.
The Rockies must retire his number to create that final push that puts Larry Walker in the Hall-of-Fame... Where he belongs.
The reasons it has not yet been done, however justified on both ends, can be overlooked in acknowledgment of this truth and the prestige it would rightfully bring to both the man and the organization.
He recently attended a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the team and couldn't have been in a better mood. Though, he did make it abundantly clear that he had been enjoying his time away from the game. And the media. And perhaps the politics.
Meanwhile, the Rockies have a well-earned reputation for being a player-friendly organization and have done a phenomenal job celebrating their past in the last few years with numerous events and honors.
So, it's time to put any doubt to rest about how wholeheartedly the club supports Walker's Hall-of-Fame case.
If he falls short this go-round, and it appears he will, there will be just one more year to get him in on the traditional vote, an honor he deserves.
He also may get there without a new plaque on the wall at Coors, but he deserves that, too.
It is time, perhaps well past time, that Larry Walker and the Colorado Rockies publicly embrace each other in one ceremony so that they can attend another, finally hang a purple jersey in Cooperstown.