Last week, shortstop Barry Larkin gained acceptance into the Baseball Hall of Fame after 19 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Larkin, a University of Michigan attendee, won the 1990 World Series with the Reds and won the 1995 NL Most Valuable Player award. Although his numbers alone were never among the elites in the league, which may have swayed some voters to refuse admission, Larkin’s statistics rank among the best all-time for shortstops, especially when compared to other Hall of Famers.
Strictly on numbers alone, Larkin’s .295 batting average ties him for 8th among the 21 Hall of Fame shortstops. His 1,329 runs scored rank him 8th, and his 198 home runs place Larkin 4th among Hall of Fame shortstops. He also ranks in the top half of Hall of Fame shortstops in hits (2,340), on-base percentage (.371), slugging percentage (.444- total bases/at-bats), and stolen bases (379).
But what made Larkin so worthy of the Hall of Fame was not necessarily his career statistics, but the way he played the game and his incredible job as the leader and captain of the Reds. Sure, Barry had decent numbers that adequately stack up to other Hall of Famers, but he played the game with such class and enthusiasm, which set him apart from most others of his era. Consider his MVP season of 1995. Larkin ranked higher than 5th in just one major offensive category (2nd in stolen bases); meanwhile, Dante Bichette of the Colorado Rockies led the National League in hits, home runs, runs batted in, and 3rd in batting average for the 2nd place Rockies. Those kinds of numbers would normally secure an MVP award, but Larkin’s leadership on the first place Reds, combined with his stellar statistics both at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field, earned him the honor.
Larkin retired after the 2004 season with 3 Gold Glove awards (best fielder at each position), 9 Silver Slugger awards (best hitter at each position), and 12 All-Star Game appearances. In 1996, Larkin became the first shortstop ever to record 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, a remarkable feat considering how many players had played the game prior to that season. Even more remarkable is Larkin’s career Wins Above Replacement, which measures how many more a player would give a team as opposed to another player at the position. Of all players to play the game of baseball, Larkin ranks 90th all-time at 68.9 WAR.
The effect that Barry Larkin had on the Cincinnati Reds was clear during his 19-year career with the team. As one of the most respected and liked individuals in baseball, not to mention talented, Larkin deserves this Hall of Fame nomination.