I don't have fancy stats or even very good writing skills, but here's what I wanted to say about Barry Larkin, and why he should be in the Hall of Fame.
The Reds had scheduled a "Barry Larkin Day" for October 2, 2004 to celebrate the career of their captain and Hall of Fame shortstop. However, Larkin called off the festivities since he hoped to play one more year. It didn’t happen. Larkin retired that offseason and didn’t get his farewell celebration until July 20, 2008 when he was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame.
Guess what kids? It’s Barry Larkin Day!
Bandwagon jumper that I am, I started following the Reds in 1990, so I missed out on the true glory days of Eric Davis. Instead, Barry Larkin was immediately my favorite player from the beginning. He could get to every ball, make every throw, and seemed to have at least one hit every game. In fact, Larkin finished that magical championship year with a career high in hits (185) and games played (158).
In October, there were more visible heroes (Rijo, Hatcher, Bates), but Larkin had a stellar World Series batting leadoff, OPSing .950. In my room, I still have the Wheaties box with the champion Reds on it, and Larkin is there front and center.
Larkin continued to dominate the ‘90s. He made 8 All-Star teams that decade, won 7 Silver Sluggers, 3 Gold Gloves, the Clemente Award, the Lou Gehrig Award, and 1 MVP. On June 28, 1991, he hit three home runs in a game against the Astros. I remember listening to that game on the radio and running out into the yard after every at-bat to tell my mother that, "Larkin hit another one!"
Barry Larkin and Cal Ripken, Jr. changed what it meant to be a shortstop. They could now be big and quick, and a force offensively. Unlike Cal, Larkin never had to move away from the position. He played 19 years, all for the same team – his hometown team! – and all at shortstop. The Reds had just had two decades with Davey Concepcion, their best shortstop ever, and immediately transferred into two more decades with a player that was even better.
In many regards, Larkin is similar to Derek Jeter, and deserves to be fawned over as much as Jeter is. People talk about Jeter’s intangibles, but Larkin was every bit the leader Jeter is. Larkin was also the captain of his team, and learned Spanish to communicate better with all of his teammates. They both represented their country, Larkin at the 1984 Olympics and Jeter at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic. Larkin was a coach on that 2009 WBC team. Both had baseball scholarships to Michigan. On Baseball Reference’s similarity scores, Jeter is Larkin’s third closest comp. In fact, if not for Larkin, Jeter might have been a Red. In the 1992 draft, the Reds chose outfielder Chad Mottola with the fifth pick, and the Yankees took Jeter with the sixth. (Also of note is that Larkin was the fourth pick of the 1984 draft, two ahead of Barry Bonds.)
It comes down to this. Barry Larkin is my favorite baseball player of all time. People point out flaws (his durability, and ironically in that light, that he played too long), but they’re trivial to me. I’m glad we had him as long as we did, and I’m glad he only played for Cincinnati. He’s a great human being, a hell of a baseball player, and will soon be recognized as what we’ve known him to be for a long time – a Hall of Famer.