Join Date: Oct 2000
Joe Posnanski on Larkin
Iím here in beautiful Cincinnati getting ready for the emotional ďCesar Geronimo going into the Reds Hall of FameĒ weekend. It should be great Ö lots of Big Red Machiners coming back. Hey, did I mention I was writing a book on those guys?
One thing I know I mentioned is that Geronimo is not really the headliner this weekend Ö Cincinnati native Barry Larkin will also be inducted into the Reds Hall. And it reminds me that Iíve long meant to put together a list of great players who grew up in the city where they played their whole career. This is what Iíve come up with so far Ö
Cincinnati: Barry Larkin (Pete Rose does not technically fit because he played a few years in Philadelphia and had those few games in Montreal Ö but I think he was in CIncinnati long enough to be on the list in spirit).
Baltimore: Cal Ripken. Duh. Left this off the first time thanks to a brief brain fog. Born in Havre de Grace, Md., grew up in Aberdeen, Md., played for the Orioles his whole life, the conversation begins with him.
San Diego: Tony Gwynn. You know, I had been led to believe that Gwynn was born and raised in San Diego Ö but Iím looking now and apparently thatís not right. He was born in LA and grew up in Long Beach, which is a good 100 miles away. He did go to San Diego State, but thatís not quite what weíre talking about here.
Kansas City: Frank White. A lot of people donít know that Frank was booed some in his early days Ö people in Kansas City had grown to like second baseman Cookie Rojas and were not ready for him to get replaced Ö especially because Frank REALLY couldnít hit in his younger days.
New York: Lou Gehrig. Born in New York, grew up in New York, went to Columbia, played for the Yankees, died in Riverdale. In many ways he ó more than DiMaggio or Ruth or Mantle or Reggie or Jeter or anyone ó should be considered the ultimate Yankee.
Minnesota: As suggest by several reader, Kent Hrbek. Born in Minneapolis, drafted out of Kennedy High in Bloomington, crusher of 293 home runs, wrestling fan even before the state elected one governor.
Los Angeles: Garrett Anderson. Hereís one I had not really thought about but he sort of fits ó I mean, he didnít grow up in Anaheim (Granada Hills about 50 miles away) but itís generally the same big city, and he has played his entire career for the California Angels, and heís had a very nice career too. *
*Brian Downing might fit here but, as every good Downing fans knows, he was actually signed by the Chicago White Sox and spent the first few years of his career scuffling for that confused organization. And he ended his career in Texas. How about a career 122 OPS+ for Brian Downing ó did you realize it was that high? I realize it was different time, he played a different position, and Iím not trying to knock anyone (Iím really not) but do you realize that Derek Jeterís career OPS+ is 121?
Boston: Could have been Jeff Bagwell. Could have been. Carlton Fisk might count as a New Englander, I guess, but ó and I have to say this surprised me a little ó he played A LOT more games in Chicago than in Boston. He actually played 1,421 games with the Sox and 1,078 in Boston. He was a better overall player in Boston (.281/.356/.481) than in Chicago (.257/.329/.428) but he hit 214 of his 376 home runs with the White Sox.
Detroit: Willie Horton. Excellent suggestion from brilliant reader Kyle. Does not precisely fit the topic because after playing in Detroit for 14 years and a game (he was traded after playing ONE GAME in the Ď77 season) he played in quick succession for Texas, Cleveland (I recall that ó didnít go well), Oakland, Toronto and Seattle. But Detroit native who started for the Tigers and was, of course, instrumental on and off the field during the championship run in 1968.
Chicago: Did not really find a good candidate Ö unless you want to talk about Chicago native Charlie Comiskey.
Philadelphia: Jimmy Dykes played with the Philadelphia Athletics for 15 years, but I doubt he counts (plus he finished his career in Chicago too).
Pittsburgh (from brilliant reader Mikey): Hereís a good one. Honus Wagner. Born in Pittsburgh, played his whole career with the Pirates, died in Pittsburgh.
Anyway, those are the ones who come to mind Ö Iím probably missing some obvious ones. Iím sure you will let me know.
* * *
Back to Larkin Ö I have a buddy who grew up in Cincinnati just about the same time that Larkin was growing up here. My buddy cannot stand Larkin. Part of it is the way Larkin, at the end of his career, griped about the Reds mistreating him. My buddy hasnít lived in Cincinnati in quite some time, but this really set off his Cincinnati sensibilities (Cincibilities?). The way he (and a lot of people in Cincinnati, I suspect) saw it was that the Reds had paid Larkin 27 million smackolas between 2001-2003, during which time Larkin played a total of 260 games, and hit .257/.328/.372. My buddy was not one of the more extreme ones who thought Larkin should give the money back (though he would have appreciated the effort*), but he certainly had no interest in hearing Larkin whine about the Reds at the end of that. I can see the point.
*OK, hereís an ethical question Ö and Iím asking it seriously. Youíre Barry Zito. No, come back here. Youíre Barry Zito And because youíre Barry Zito, we can assume two things:
1. You still have five and a half years left on your $126 million deal.
2. You suck. And while thereís always reason to hope that things will improve (youíre a lefty, youíre crafty, you could always find the Fountain of Moyer), realistically, thereís a pretty good chance that since youíre 30 and a couple of scouts say your stuff is two grades worse now hat it was even two years ago, well, realistically you may continue to suck.
So Öhereís the question. Letís say you continue to suck. Letís say it becomes clear in the next year or so that you will never again be that pitcher. Would you renegotiate your deal and take less money?
Hey, Iím just asking. It goes without saying that you donít have to do that ó even more than that, nobody would even think about asking you to do it. But Iím asking the question because you know the score. You know how poorly you are pitching. You know what you were implicitly promising by signing that big deal Ö and youíre not living up to it. There has to be at least a little guilt hefting that gigantic check to the bank, no?
Of course, on the other hand, you also know that you earned that contract by how well you pitched earlier (and by the grace of GM Brian Sabeanís bout with contract malaria). You also know the playerís union might send Navy Seals to disarm and immobilize you should you even think about cutting your own throat. You also know that if you were to suddenly become Walter Johnson reincarnated, and you went 30-2 each of the next three years with an 0.48 ERA, that the club would feel no real need to renegotiate your contract to the plus.
So, what would you do?
Anyway, my buddy despises Larkin (he never really liked the way Larkin yawned and said ďIt doesnít matter where I play, I just want to play ball,Ē whenever people asked him how he felt about playing ball in his hometown). And so shortly after i wrote on the blog that Larkin should be a slam dunk, first-ballot Hall of Famer, my friend said: ďHow in the world could someone who has never scored 100 runs in a season be a Hall of Famer?Ē
I said: ďThatís not true. He scored 100 runs in a season.Ē
He said: ďLook it up.Ē
So I did. And, yeah, I was right. Larkin scored 100 runs in a season twice. Still, I have to say Ö it was only twice. And Larkinís numbers at first blush donít exactly blow your mind ó 2,300 hits, 200 homers, .295 batting average, three Gold Gloves, nice but probably now eye-popping.
Donít get me wrong ó my opinion has not changed one bit. In my book the guyís 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 donít think All Star Games are the end all Ö he did play in 12 of them. Thatís pretty remarkable Ö only three shortstops have played in more (Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio ó Ernie Banks played in more too but not as a shortstop).
I did some figuring and found that only 35 players have played in 12 All-Star Games or more. And of those 35, only three whose five-year waiting period has passed are not in the Hall of Fame. Go ahead and try to name those three.
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 donít have access to those) is fifth all time among shortstops. And his 488 runs created above position ó that is runs created vs. other shortstops of his time ó actually ranks THIRD all time behind only Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughn. And his lifetime .291 EqA (is better than Cal Ripkenís (.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). Itís also better than Alan Trammell (.282), my pet Hall of Fame candidate.
His fielding stats are also excellent ó he had 101 career defensive Win Shares.
So, from my vantage point he should be a sure thing. But I will say after hearing to my buddy rant and after looking up his stats, donít know if it will work out that way. My buddy, fortunately, does not get to vote.