Re: Barry Larkin's HOF chances
Barry Larkin is one of the top shortstops of all time. Maybe he didn't have quite the offensive numbers that some of today's shortstops put up. However, he signifies the change in eras for baseball at the position. He, Cal Ripken and Alan Trammell led the way in making SS not just a defensive position, but an offensive position as well. Before them, shortstops who could hit were often moved to other positions (see Yount, Robin). From what I recall, there was such a premium placed on defense at SS that guys with a stick could be moved to other positions to improve the defense and the team could just put another good glove player in that SS spot. Larkin could not only hit, but was so good with the glove that the Reds would have been fools to move him to another position.
Others have already noted it here and it has been well documented that Larkin played in a transitional period between two different eras for the shortstop position. I think we've gone from one extreme to another. Changes in stadia, nutrition and steriods has made teams focus on offense to such a degree that teams are willing to leave a guy with a big bat at shortstop even if his defense is not up to par. In the past, many of these shortstops would have been moved to another position. So now guys who would have been third basemen, first basemen, or outfielders at the start of Larkin's career are having their offensive numbers compared to his without any consideration of Larkin's superior defense.
In "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract," James ranked Larkin as the #6 all-time shortstop, behind Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughan, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, and Ernie Banks, and just above Ozzie Smith, Joe Cronin and Alan Trammell. Looking only at what he had done only through the 2000 season, James said "Larkin is one of the ten most complete players in baseball history (emphasis his). He's a .300 hitter, has power, speed, excellent defense, and is a good percentage player. He ranks with DiMaggio, Mays, and a few others as one of the most well-rounded stars in baseball history."
Granted, James noted that it was too early to rate Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and A-Rod. But still, can anyone say that any of these guys, or Tejada for that matter are as complete all-around players as Larkin was? I would say that they may better Larkin in some of the offensive categories, but just aren't the all-around player that Larkin was. Is Larkin better than most of the shortstops already in the Hall of Fame? I don't have time to run the numbers, being a new dad and getting ready for year three of law school, but I think he would compare favorably to all but three already in.
Burn down the disco. Hang the blessed DJ. Because the music that he constantly plays, it says nothing to me about my life.