Let me start with this: Barry Larkin is my favorite player of all-time.

For some time now, Redleg Nation has urged the Reds to “Bring Barry Back” to Cincinnati. Today, the Enquirer picks up the drumbeat:

Barry Larkin is here, but only for the day, which is too bad. His deal with the Washington Nationals, as a special assistant to general manager Jim Bowden, expires at the end of this year. Larkin should be back with the Reds in 2009, in whatever capacity he desires. Larkin lives in Orlando but remains of Cincinnati, in ways having nothing to do with roots. He owns a Cincinnatian’s humility, workmanlike sensibility and aversion to bright lights.

Indeed. Before tonight’s game, the Reds are going to induct Larkin — along with Cesar Geronimo, Joey Jay, and Garry Herrmann — into the Reds Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor for all these gentlemen, and well-deserved.

Larkin, however, will be eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame very soon. It’s my position that he should be a no-question first-ballot Hall of Famer.

You will recall that America’s Best Sportswriter Joe Posnanski recently wrote about Davey Concepcion’s Hall of Fame credentials. Well, he’s done the same now with Larkin. His conclusion:

In my book the guy’s a Hall of Famer for sure. He was a Gold Glove shortstop, he had a 116 OPS+, he won an MVP award and he was better the next year. He stole a lot of bases, won nine Silver Sluggers, won a Clemente and Gehrig award, and while I don’t think All Star Games are the end all … he did play in 12 of them. That’s pretty remarkable … only three shortstops have played in more (Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio — Ernie Banks played in more too but not as a shortstop)….

Plus, Larkin is a guy whose advanced stats show that he was even better than that. His 271 runs created above average (I would prefer using base runs here but I don’t have access to those) is fifth all time among shortstops. And his 488 runs created above position — that is runs created vs. other shortstops of his time — actually ranks THIRD all time behind only Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughn. And his lifetime .291 EqA (is better than Cal Ripken’s (.283), way better than Ozzie Smith (.261), way, way, way better than Luis Aparicio (.244), better than Phil Rizzuto (.259) or Pee Wee Reese (.271) or even Ernie Banks (.286). It’s also better than Alan Trammell (.282), my pet Hall of Fame candidate.

His fielding stats are also excellent — he had 101 career defensive Win Shares.

So, from my vantage point he should be a sure thing.

I’m afraid Larkin is going to have some initial difficulty with the voting, but as the numbers above indicate, he shouldn’t. He’s one of the greatest shortstops that ever lived, and he needs to be back with his organization — the Cincinnati Reds.

Pay attention, Mr. Castellini: Bring Barry Larkin back to Cincinnati!

16 Responses

  1. Bill

    I couldn’t agree more…the best quotes in the article come from Byron, Barry’s brother.

    What an athletic family…Barry, Byron (all time leading scorer at Xavier), Mike (who played LB at Notre Dame), and Stephen (who played minor league baseball). Pretty amazing.

  2. Mr. Redlegs

    I believe one of the issues with Larkin’s HOF candidacy will be the number of games missed due to injuries. If you look across his years, there are gaping holes of games and ABs missed because of injury. It’s about four full seasons.

    The counter is that he still put up some of the best numbers for shortstops and he should only be gauged against his peers. But there has long been a curious and quirksome evaluation when it comes to shortstops compared to other positions, and now it’s more pronounced because of the offensive numbers put up by people like Yount, Ripken, A-Rod, etc. Generally, shortstops are pushed back to more serious consideration by the old-timers committee.

    Larkin has the ring, the awards, and for the most part, the stats. But I don’t sense other writers feeling he’s an HOFer. If Trammell isn’t in yet, I don’t think Larkin gets in very soon, if at all.

  3. Steve

    I’ve always been afraid of the very things that Mr. Redlegs points out.

    I never thought he was going to be a first-ballot guy (though, in my opinion, he deserves it), but I thought he’d definitely get in when comparing him to the other the other SS throughout history.

    Then again, that’s exactly why I think Concepcion should be in, too, as he compares favorably with a guy like Aparicio, but look where that’s gotten him.

    I sure hope Barry doesn’t suffer from a similar fate, especially with this new breed of offensive monsters at the position – continuing even more recently with guys like Hanley Ramirez.

    Even so, Larkin’s numbers are still ridiculously good overall…..

  4. Chris

    I agree with you, Mr. R. Though the BBWAA hasn’t always treated similar players similarly. Sutter vs. Lee Smith, or Sandberg vs. Whittaker. Meaning, there’s a chance that Larkin could somehow get votes that Trammell was denied. FWIW, I think both Trammell and Larkin are deserving.

    I also loved Larkin as a player, but still resent the way he acted from 2000 on. It was one thing to veto the trade to the Mets, but I never appreciated the way the longtime Orlando resident suddenly turned back into “Mr. Cincinnati” when he could exploit fan sentiment and manipulate Lindner into that crazy contract extension.

    I always thought Larkin was John Allen’s white whale.

  5. Steve

    Oh yes, Larkin definitely turned me off near the end of his career with his seemingly imperious attitude that apparently often comes with being “the man” for so many years – uh, sound like anyone on the team now, perhaps?

    Even so, most of my memories of him will be positive – as I hope will be the same with “Mr. I Must Hit 3rd”, though I doubt it since I got to see Barry’s great years right here at home as opposed the other guy (who I otherwise greatly appreciate and admire, end of career self-delusional tendencies aside).

    Chad’s right, though. Mr. C needs to end in any lingering negative feelings that might exist between the team and #11 and bring him back next year.

    It’d be a big PR shot in the arm for a franchise that needs as many as it can get.

  6. Phill

    It would certainly fit into what Castellini has been trying to do and really if I was Barry Larkin I’d be trying to get out of dodge with the recent trouble in Washington about money skimming.

  7. Mike Martz

    Since I grew up with the Big Red Machine it was hard for me to see Larkin as one of my favorite players but he was a close 2’nd.
    He deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.
    I also agree that he should come back to Cincinnati and join the REDS front office in some form.
    Since he played an entire career in Cincinnati it’s only natural he should be here as long as he’s still a part of MLB.

  8. Mr. Redlegs

    Honestly, I don’t think Larkin gets into Cooperstown for a long, long time–if at all. The numbers may say one thing, like for Jim Rice or Jim Kaat, but I just don’t sense other writers leaping off the dais to bump Larkin. Most everyone knows Scooter never gets in unless he spends a million years as a Yankees broadcaster and the old-timer’s committee, spurred by Berra, gets him elected.

    Larkin was a terrific player but he didn’t have a national market, nameplate, or face. He never had the big endorsements deals or recognition that created buzz around him.

    Rightly or wrongly, when you have a borderline candidate like Larkin and a few years have passed by, the player needs an intangible that raises his awareness to another level above his stats. Larkin just doesn’t have that widespread “recognition” factor with the committee, especially the younger generation of voters.

  9. brublejr

    They have to bring Barry back now!

    Also, he is a no brainer HOF. There is no way he can be left out, even on the first ballot. He would have twice the gold golves if it weren’t for Ozzie.

  10. Steve

    brublejr. is right there, he SHOULD be a no-brainer, regardless of the points about small-market, national endorsements, etc. which are all legitimate fears.

    Frankly, it’s unforgivable if he doesn’t make it, and I’m hoping his ring, MVP, multiple all-star appearancese, gold-glove, and silver slugger awards end this , IMO, pointless argument.

    The guy was simply one of the best SS to ever play.

  11. Chris

    There’s a difference between should and will.

  12. AnnapolisRed

    Larkin should be a Hall of Famer and I agree with some of the others that he might not get in. My all-time favorite Reds.

    1. Pete Rose
    2. Barry Larkin
    3. Eric Davis
    4. The Nasty Boys as a group
    5. Tom Seaver

  13. Andrew

    Jim Rice isn’t a HOF, even though he’ll undeservedly get voted in this year.

    Putting him and Barry in the same sentence is doing a disservice to Barry.

  14. Mr. Redlegs

    Obviously you didn’t see Jim Rice play, even though I don’t think he belongs in the Hall.

    If Larkin is a Hall candidate, then it’s not a pointless argument. As a member of the BBWAA, I’m telling you both sides of the case for Larkin. Whether you believe them or not . . . well, frankly, fans don’t get to vote.

    I’m on the fence for Larkin. Why? I don’t think he belongs before Concepcion. Call it prejudice, but Davey was the undisputed best all-around shortstop of his era. He redefined several aspects of defense and was the first of the offensive shortstops that are so common today.

    Larkin was not the best shortstop of his era. He was very good, no doubt. But he was in a pack of the greatest defensive and offensive shortstops of all time. He gets lost.

    Then, there’s the issue of so many injuries and missed games. So if you’re thinking Larkin is a roundhouse dunk for Cooperstown, it’s simply not the case.

  15. GregD

    You think Larkin belongs, only if enough of your peers vote Concepcion into the HOF?