I am a big fan of Greg Walker. I have been since my first days of following the White Sox back in 1983. Walker has come under serious criticism on this blog, the mainstream media and even Kenny Williams. It may be the end of the line for Walker, as according to Joe Cowley, he is about to be ousted with Jeff Cox and Joey Cora. Before that story gets written, I wanted to take a look back at Walker's contributions to the White Sox during his time here.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round in 1977. He came over to the White Sox as part of the 1979 rule 5 draft and in 1980 immediately began to tear up the minor league system at Appleton where he hit .280/.401/.472 with 21 homers and 98 RBIs. In 1981 at AA Glen Falls, he hit .321/.412/.524 with 22 homers and 86 RBI. In 1982 it was on to Edmonton, where in 35 games he hit .360/.465/.496. He teamed with Ron Kittle in the minor leagues to give the Sox a couple of major hitting prospects. Kittle had hit 90 homers in '81 and '82.
Walker got the call to the big club in September of '82, and did well in his cup of coffee hitting .412. In 1983, he split time at first with Tom Paciorek and Mike Squires and hit 10 homers with 55 RBI's for the Winning Ugly Western Division Champions. Walker had a big year in 1984, hitting .294/.346/.532 with 24 homers and 75 RBI's. In 1985, he played in every single one of the teams 163 games and while his average fell to .258, he still hit 24 dingers and knocked home 92. Hand and wrist injuries plagued him in 1986, as he only played in 78 games, but he still OPS'd .838, with 13 homers and 51 knocked in. In 1987, Walker pounded out 27 homers and 94 RBI's as he showed his power wasn't effected by his hand injuries. Unfortunately, this would be his final season as a regular.
On 7/30/88 he suffered a seizure while fielding grounders during batting practice. Walker, who was 28 at the time, didn't have a history of seizures and to this day still doesn't know what caused it. Unfortunately, Walker only played in just over 100 games the rest of his career, the last 14 with the Baltimore Orioles, before retiring at age 30. I remember hearing about his seizure on the way to the game and being upset, because Walker was one of the very few guys we had to cheer for in those days. Walker had a beautiful left handed swing, and is one of only 18 players in the history of the White Sox franchise to club over 100 homers (113). Only 7 players reached that number in the 80 seasons the White Sox called the original Comiskey Park home. It is a shame that his playing career ended in such a fashion.
After he retired, Jerry Reinsdorf tried to convince him to join the team as a hitting instructor. Walker finally took him up on his offer in 2002, when he served as a hitting coach for the Charlotte Knights. When Gary Ward was fired in 2003, Walker was called upon to replace him. During his time as hitting coach, he saw the Sox hit 242 homers in 2004... good for 9th most in Major League history. In 2005, they led the league with 53 sacrifice hits while still hitting 200 homers and eventually winning the World Series. In 2006, the Sox led the Majors with 236 homers and had Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome pair up as the most productive duo in team history. In 2008, Carlos Quentin tapped into his potential and was a temper tantrum away from winning the MVP for the Central Division champs. He has also been given credit from Paul Konerko for his success in the latter part of his career.
Greg Walker's days as a member of the White Sox staff may be coming to an end soon. A lot of fans have been calling for his departure for a while now. Just as people tell me when I call for Ozzie Guillen's head, be careful what you wish for. Do any of you remember Bill Buckner (96-97), Von Joshua (98-01) or Gary Ward's (01-03) tenure? I didn't think so.