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Thread: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

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    Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Disclaimer: This is an exceptionally long post. Since this year's Hall results were announced, I originally set out to take a quick glance at Barry Larkin's Cooperstown credentials, but the next thing I knew a quick glance had morphed into a 12 page beast with links to other references, quotes, stories, etc. Nevertheless, I'm hoping the Larkin for Cooperstown campaign train fires up the engines on all cylinders, because he might need it. For now, here's the fruit of my labor. Enjoy

    --------------------------------------------------

    Larkin is one of the most complete players in baseball history. Heís a .300 hitter, has power, has speed, excellent defense, and is a good percentage player. He ranks with DiMaggio, Mays, and a few others as the most well-rounded stars in baseball history.
    Ė Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

    Does anybody remember August 13th, 1986? At a mere four years of age, this fan clearly does not, but those who do remember that night may remember it being a game featuring the likes of aging stars Pete Rose and Tony Perez, plus up-and-coming Giants first base slugger Will Clark. It also featured the debut of a lanky shortstop fresh off a hitting clinic to the tune of a near .900 OPS in Triple-A Denver in 1986 after being drafted 4th overall in the 1985 amateur draft.

    In the bottom of the 5th inning that night at Riverfront Stadium, with the Reds already trailing the San Francisco Giants 5-0, Barry Larkin stepped to the plate for the first of his 9,057 plate appearances. Nick Esasky led off the inning with a double, and two batters later after a Ron Oester walk, Larkin was summoned to the plate in a pinch hitting first-and-third situation with only one out.

    For Larkin, his first plate appearance was likely eventful and uneventful at the same time. He grounded out to short, but scored Esasky from third for the first run of the game and advanced Oester to second. He would then put the batting gloves away and watch as the Reds would ultimately mount a late game rally and come back to win 8-6.

    Larkin would make his first start two days later on August 15th, lead off with his first major league hit, a single to right, and eventually score on a Buddy Bell home run. He would then go on to start 35 more games that season, finishing the year with a respectable .722 OPS, which was impressive considering run scoring was much more suppressed then than it is now.

    The following season, 1987, Larkin struggled as he appeared in 125 games and put up a subpar .678 OPS. But in 1988, he took off with a .296/.347/.429 line to go along with 40 stolen bases in only 47 attempts. Larkin had proven he was an offensive force in the National League, and by the time of his retirement in 2004, he had amassed MVP honors in 1995, 12 All-Star appearances, nine Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Gloves and a World Series championship in 1990.

    All of which begs three simple questions Ö 1) where does Larkin rank historically among the gameís greatest shortstops, 2) should Larkin make the Hall of Fame and 3) what are the chances that he actually does make the Hall of Fame? One by one, letís examine those issues.

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    Using win shares, a system designed to wrap up a playerís total value in one simple number, Iíve compiled a rough list of 35 of the greatest shortstops in history. I did make allowances and give credit to players who missed playing time due to circumstances beyond their control, such as wars and strikes. For Larkin, I gave him 4 win shares of additional credit for his MVP season of 1995 and 8 win shares of additional credit for 1994, pushing his totals for those seasons to 34 and 27.

    Players in bold are Hall of Famers, with their year inducted and how they were elected listed. The categories and column headers are games, shortstop games, career win shares per 162 games, career total win shares, five year peak win shares and career OPS+. From the bottom up, hereís how Larkin compares to each shortstop Ö

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Herman Long        1874     1794     22.91      265        125      94
    Dave Bancroft      1913     1873     22.78      269        127      98   VC 1971
    Tony Fernandez     2158     1573     21.63      278        119     101
    Travis Jackson     1656     1326     20.64      211        111     102   VC 1982
    Al Dark            1828     1404     20.03      226        119      98
    Dave Bancroft and Travis Jackson have deceivingly impressive raw stats due to playing in the high-powered era of the 1920s and 1930s. They are often cited as being among the worst players in the Hall of Fame and are clear examples of past mistakes by the Veteranís Committee. Fernandez was a Larkin contemporary, and it was a widely held opinion that Larkin was vastly superior. Herman Long was a 19th century star, and contemporary to George Davis and Bill Dahlen, and Al Dark had a couple solid seasons for the New York Giants in the early 1950s.

    With Larkin, there isnít much comparison as he is rather obviously well ahead of all five.

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Nomar Garciaparra  1071     1024     28.29      187        141     132
    Bert Campaneris    2328     2097     19.48      280        120      89
    Dave Concepcion    2488     2178     17.52      269        117      88
    Maury Wills        1942     1555     21.11      253        128      88
    Joe Tinker         1804     1743     23.18      258        120      96   VC 1946
    People may wonder why Garciaparra is low on this list, and itís because his career simply isnít long enough yet. If heís able to come back with some more solid seasons, heíll fly up the list considerably, but it isnít a guarantee he can do that. Campaneris and Concepcion were contemporaries and very similar in being slick fielding/light hitting shortstops. Willsí best attribute was stealing bases, and Joe Tinker is in the Hall of Fame largely because of a Franklin P. Adams poem in 1910.

    Like the previous five, there isnít much comparision here with Larkin. Only Garciaparraís peak compares, but Nomarís career has only been half as long as Larkinís.

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Luis Aparicio      2601     2583     18.26      293        102      82   BBWAA 1984
    Rabbit Maranville  2670     2153     18.32      302        118      82   BBWAA 1954
    Bobby Wallace      2382     1826     23.45      345        122     105   VC 1953
    Hughie Jennings    1285      899     26.98      214        150     117   VC 1945
    Johnny Pesky       1270      591     24.04      253        132     108
    Five more shortstops, four of which are in the Hall of Fame. Aparicio and Maranville were both BBWAA selections, and both were slick fielding/light hitting shortstop varieties. Maranville was also an entertainer on the field and a heavy practical joker on and off it; in short, the guy was an all-around character. Bobby Wallace and Hughie Jennings were slight contemporaries, with Wallace being overshadowed by Honus Wagner during much of his career. Jennings was an outstanding hitter and fielder during his career, most of which was in the 19th century, however, his career was short with just under 1,300 total games. Johnny Pesky was robbed of three seasons due to World War II Ė though I did give him some credit Ė and was an on-base machine during his playing days with Teddy Ballgame and the Red Sox.

    How does Larkin compare? In career value, Bobby Wallace is close to Larkin but didnít produce at the rate at which Barry did, nor did he have a peak as remotely as good as Larkinís. Jennings had a peak that compares well with Larkinís, but doesnít have the career value Barry has. Aparicio and Maranville may have been better defensive shortstops than Larkin, but offensively they are not able to stack up with him.

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Ozzie Smith        2573     2511     20.53      326        128      87   BBWAA 2002
    Jim Fregosi        1902     1396     22.23      261        141     113
    Vern Stephens      1720     1330     24.96      265        141     119
    Phil Rizzuto       1661     1647     21.56      279        131      93   VC 1994
    Joe Sewell         1903     1216     23.58      277        131     109   VC 1977
    Three more Hall of Famers, and two guys in Fregosi and Stephens that have had Hall arguments in their favor at one time or another. We all know about Ozzie Smithís defensive genius, which is likely what landed him in the Hall as he is arguably the greatest defensive shortstop ever. Rizzuto was also an outstanding defensive shortstop for the Yankees in the 1950s and he also had a couple nice seasons with the bat, including an MVP in 1950. Sewell played alongside Dave Bancroft and Travis Jackson in the high-powered 1930s, though Sewell was a bit better than both and isnít a terrible Hall decision like they are. Fregosi is a guy who may have suffered a poor fate due to his era being pitching dominated as his raw stats are nowhere near as impressive as his era adjusted statistics. Vern Stephens was an alcoholic who had quite a few solid seasons, though some was against some of the war depleted competition during World War II.

    Cardinals fans will most likely always maintain that Ozzie was greater than Larkin, but donít believe it. True, Ozzie was better than Larkin with the glove Ė though Ozzie probably won a Gold Glove or three that really belonged to Larkin Ė but a small difference in the field simply cannot make up for the massive advantage Larkin had at the plate. Per 162 games, Larkin averaged 5 more win shares than Ozzie did, and that includes defense. Larkin amassed more career win shares than Ozzie, and he did so in about 400 fewer games.

    As for Larkin vs. the others, two of which are also in the Hall, Barry has them all rather easily in both career and peak value.

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Bill Dahlen        2443     2132     26.06      394        139     110
    Pee Wee Reese      2166     2014     23.85      383        137      99   VC 1984
    Alan Trammell      2293     2139     22.47      318        145     110
    Lou Boudreau       1646     1539     27.26      277        152     120   BBWAA 1970
    Derek Jeter        1525     1520     26.03      245        142     121
    Weíre into the top 15 now, and have now reached a group of players that includes Mr. Wonderful himself, Derek Jeter. Also included are two more Hall of Famers, Pee Wee Reese and Lou Boudreau, along with two other deserving Hall of Famers, 19th century star Bill Dahlen and Tigers star Alan Trammell.

    This is where it starts to get interesting for Larkin in the comparison camp. Lou Boudreauís peak is arguably greater than Larkinís, but his career value is short. Advantage Larkin. Pee Wee Reeseís career value is very close to Larkinís Ė Iíd take Larkinís due to his rate of performance Ė but his peak value comes up short. Advantage Larkin. Bill Dahlenís career value may in fact be slightly higher than Larkinís, however, Barryís peak advantage is substantial and enough for me. Advantage Larkin. Alan Trammell? Larkin has him beat in both career and peak value, but not a whole lot in either, which may be a factor for Hall of Fame voters, unfortunately. Still, Larkin has a real edge on Trammell. Advantage Larkin.

    That leaves us with Mr. Wonderful, the All-American boy whom many could perceive as being the greatest clutch hitter of all-time if youíre ever forced to listen to the oftentimes annoying diatribes of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Of course, Jeterís postseason statistics are neither better nor worse than his regular season stats, so what do Buck and McCarver really know?

    But Iím digressing here, whether or not Jeter is a clutch hitter doesnít pertain much to his comparison with Larkin. In Jeterís best season, 1999, he had 35 win shares and was one of the best players in the American League. Good for Jeter, but Larkinís MVP season of 1995 where he has an adjusted total of 34 win shares is arguably just as impressive. Regardless, for the sake of the argument, weíll call them a wash.

    How about Larkin and Jeterís next four best seasons? For Larkin, the win shares totals read as follows: 32, 31, 28 and 27. For Jeter, they are 28, 27, 26 and 26. Advantage Larkin. Their career rate of win shares per 162 games is almost identical through Jeterís career currently. If Jeter plays another four to five seasons at his current rate of play, he will match Larkin in career value. But will he top Barry in peak value? Maybe, maybe not, but to do so would require a few more seasons of win shares around the 30 barrier. Also, it is important to remember that Larkinís rate of 25.89 win shares per 162 games includes his decline phase while Jeterís rate of 26.03 win shares per 162 games does not include his decline phase.

    So who is/was greater? So far, itís still Larkin, and I believe it will still be Larkin for another couple seasons. Theyíve had very similar career paths and Jeterís current pace projects him to possibly follow Barryís career path well into his 30s. Not to downsize Jeterís accomplishments at all, but it is important to stress that so far he has not yet eclipsed Larkin in the shortstop ladder, and may never do so.

    And who really thinks Derek Jeter will not make the Hall of Fame?

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Cal Ripken, Jr.    3001     2302     23.08      436        160     112
    Robin Yount        2856     1479     23.99      423        164     115   BBWAA 1999
    Joe Cronin         2124     1843     25.40      333        163     119   BBWAA 1956
    Luke Appling       2422     2218     24.70      412        154     112   BBWAA 1964
    Ernie Banks        2528     1125     21.28      332        153     122   BBWAA 1977
    George Davis       2368     1372     27.23      398        142     121   VC 1998
    Into the top 10 now, and with six other shortstops listed next to Barry, it signifies that he belongs in this tier of shortstops for me. Whatís important to note here is five of the six are in the Hall of Fame Ė with Ripken to follow as a sure-fire bet in 2007 Ė and all of them are very deserving to be in the Hall of Fame. Not only that, but Robin Yount, Joe Cronin, Luke Appling and Ernie Banks are all BBWAA selections, leaving only the 19th century star George Davis as a Veteranís Committee selection, one of the best selections theyíve ever made.

    Where Larkin fits in with the above list is open for debate. George Davis has a slight edge in career value, but Larkin has an edge in peak value. The Baseball Prospectus stat, WARP3, has an era adjustment in it which pushes the favor to Larkin. Davis is largely underrated by many so it is difficult to understand his true placement among other shortstops, but I still prefer Larkin.

    Ernie Banks is another tough comparison with an extra caveat thrown in that half of Banksí career was at first base. Banksí peak was at shortstop, however, and thatís where he achieved his fame so itís proper to rank him among shortstops. His peak essentially also matches Larkinís peak in value, but in career value he appears to come up a bit short. Given a slight advantage in career value to Larkin and considering that Larkin played his whole career at shortstop while Banks did not, Iíll take Larkin.

    Regarding Luke Appling, thereís two important factors: 1) I gave him war credit for 1944 and 1945 and 2) his 1943 season of 40 win shares is likely inflated due to playing against war depleted competition (I did not adjust down for that in the numbers). That means that Larkin most likely does have a slight edge in peak value on Appling and Larkinís win shares per 162 edge on Appling may be a bit higher. Applingís career value is arguably greater than Larkinís, but does it outweigh Larkinís other advantages? Itís a tough call, but Iíll take Larkin while others may take Appling.

    Joe Cronin is also a very similar comparison to Larkin, and like Appling, you can make a case for one over the other. Larkinís career value is possibly slightly higher than Croninís, but Croninís peak value is slightly higher than Larkinís. In WARP3, both players are again too close to call. Larkin did play 242 more games at shortstop than did Cronin, which is good enough for me to break the virtual tie and rank Larkin one spot higher than Cronin. Still, itís a judgement call and a matter of preference, and I wouldnít argue with someone preferring to rank Cronin over Larkin.

    With Cal Ripken and Robin Yount, this is where Larkin begins to lose a bit of steam among great shortstops. Yount won an MVP as a shortstop, and a case could be made for Larkin over Yount due to the fact that roughly only half of Yountís career was at shortstop, but all Robin did was move to center field and go on to win another MVP. Yount has a bit more career value and a bit more peak value in my eyes, so Iím forced to take him over Larkin. Ripken is essentially the same way; slightly more career value and slightly more peak value. Cal had his share of merely above average seasons, but he also had quite a few phenomenal seasons. Like Young, I have to take Ripken over Larkin.

    Among the grouping of those seven players, this is ultimately how I would rank them: Ripken, Yount, Larkin, Cronin, Appling, Banks, Davis.

    Code:
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    
    Honus Wagner       2792     1887     38.01      655        238     150   BBWAA 1936
    Arky Vaughan       1817     1485     31.74      356        178     136   VC 1985
    Alex Rodriguez     1592     1272     32.46      319        180     145
    Not bad company here. Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop of all-time, hands down, and arguably the greatest player of all-time. Wagner was immensely popular in the first half of the 20th century in Pittsburgh, where he dominated in the Dead Ball Era from the late 19th century until World War I. In 1917, Wagnerís final season, Pittsburgh and several other National League cities, including Cincinnati, held Wagner Days to honor the legendary shortstop. After retirement, Wagner coached with the Pirates for several years and one of his pupils was none other than Arky Vaughan. Vaughanís 1935 season of .385/.491/.607 is one of the greatest seasons ever by a shortstop. Unfortunately, the BBWAA shafted Vaughan for the Hall, and it wasnít until the Veteranís Committee finally elected him in 1985 that Arky landed in Cooperstown.

    As for Alex Rodriguez, well, nothing much needs to be said about him. Heís already arguably the second greatest shortstop ever, and will likely retire firmly planted in the second slot behind only Wagner.

    To summarize and to illustrate just how great Larkin was, here is all 35 guys in one list together:

    Code:
    
    Player            Games   SS Games   WS/162   Career WS   Peak WS  OPS+
    
    Honus Wagner       2792     1887     38.01      655        238     150   BBWAA 1936
    Arky Vaughan       1817     1485     31.74      356        178     136   VC 1985
    Alex Rodriguez     1592     1272     32.46      319        180     145
    Cal Ripken, Jr.    3001     2302     23.08      436        160     112
    Robin Yount        2856     1479     23.99      423        164     115   BBWAA 1999
    
    Barry Larkin       2180     2085     25.89      358        152     116
    Joe Cronin         2124     1843     25.40      333        163     119   BBWAA 1956
    Luke Appling       2422     2218     24.70      412        154     112   BBWAA 1964
    Ernie Banks        2528     1125     21.28      332        153     122   BBWAA 1977
    George Davis       2368     1372     27.23      398        142     121   VC 1998
    
    Bill Dahlen        2443     2132     26.06      394        139     110
    Pee Wee Reese      2166     2014     23.85      383        137      99   VC 1984
    Alan Trammell      2293     2139     22.47      318        145     110
    Lou Boudreau       1646     1539     27.26      277        152     120   BBWAA 1970
    Derek Jeter        1525     1520     26.03      245        142     121
    
    Ozzie Smith        2573     2511     20.53      326        128      87   BBWAA 2002
    Jim Fregosi        1902     1396     22.23      261        141     113
    Vern Stephens      1720     1330     24.96      265        141     119
    Phil Rizzuto       1661     1647     21.56      279        131      93   VC 1994
    Joe Sewell         1903     1216     23.58      277        131     109   VC 1977
    
    Nomar Garciaparra  1071     1024     28.29      187        141     132
    Bert Campaneris    2328     2097     19.48      280        120      89
    Dave Concepcion    2488     2178     17.52      269        117      88
    Maury Wills        1942     1555     21.11      253        128      88
    Joe Tinker         1804     1743     23.18      258        120      96   VC 1946
    
    Luis Aparicio      2601     2583     18.26      293        102      82   BBWAA 1984
    Rabbit Maranville  2670     2153     18.32      302        118      82   BBWAA 1954
    Bobby Wallace      2382     1826     23.45      345        122     105   VC 1953
    Hughie Jennings    1285      899     26.98      214        150     117   VC 1945
    Johnny Pesky       1270      591     24.04      253        132     108
    
    Herman Long        1874     1794     22.91      265        125      94
    Dave Bancroft      1913     1873     22.78      269        127      98   VC 1971
    Tony Fernandez     2158     1573     21.63      278        119     101
    Travis Jackson     1656     1326     20.64      211        111     102   VC 1982
    Al Dark            1828     1404     20.03      226        119      98
    Does Barry Larkin deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Aaron Gleeman of The Hardball Times definitely thinks he does as he spells out a highly persuasive case for Larkin. Internet bloggers, such as Andrew Koch agree with Gleeman and have used other methods of evaluation to lay out their own case for Barry.

    Obviously, if any of the above statistics and comparisons are to be factored in, the obvious answer is not only yes, but that it would be an absolute travesty if Larkin did not make it to Cooperstown. I have Barry ranked 6th, as does Bill James, and arguments can be made to rank Barry anywhere from 4th down to 10th. Still, any player ranked in the top 10 of their position, and arguably in the top five, is a clear Hall of Famer. In fact, Larkin is also arguably the greatest shortstop the National League has ever seen since just after World War II when Arky Vaughan retired. Just think about that.

    --------------------------------------------------

    Whatís the nicest thing another player could say about you?
    ďThat whoever it is youíre speaking of gives his all every time out there,Ē Larkin says.
    That would be you. You that ďIím speaking of.Ē
    ďRight,Ē Larkin says. ďThat would be the ultimate compliment.

    -- Paul Daugherty, ďMr. ShortstopĒ, The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 20, 1995

    --------------------------------------------------

    In 2009, Barry Larkin will appear for the first time on the Hall of Fame ballot for the 500 plus writers on the Baseball Writerís Association of America. After a fairly well-reasoned assessment laid down to determine that Larkin belongs, the question for the BBWAA is will they get it right with Barry?

    Looking at precedents, the BBWAA has elected nine shortstops to the Hall of Fame, and Cal Ripken will be the 10th in 2007. Of those 10 shortstops, Larkin is clearly greater than four of them, compares very well to five others and is only clearly behind Honus Wagner. Unfortunately, that does not mean the BBWAA will automatically throw Larkin into the Hall. As seen with Arky Vaughan, they shafted a legendary shortstop during Vaughanís stay on the ballot and only the Veteranís Committee was around to correct that massive mistake. The BBWAA has shafted other players also, and if they can shaft Vaughan then they can also shaft Larkin.

    On February 15th, 2004, ESPN SPORTSNATION ran a poll on Larkin's candidacy for the Hall. With over 75,000 votes, only 53.8 percent of voters believed Larkin should be in Cooperstown. In the states of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Larkinís support dropped to 44.7 percent. Itís one thing for Larkin not to be around the required 75 percent for the BBWAA, but unfortunately in the minds of casual fans heís barely receiving half the support.

    After the 2003 season, John Erardi took a sample of 14 BBWAA voters and how they would vote on Larkin. Four said yes, four said no and the other six were undecided. When you take into consideration the 75 percent barrier required for election, thatís a rather disheartening set of results from that small poll.

    Alan Trammellís support from the BBWAA is another cause for concern for Barry. In the latest election results announced in 2006, Trammell received a scant 17.7 percent of the vote. Larkin was a better player than Trammell, both in career and peak value, but how will the voters judge the two? Will more than half of the voters who did not vote for Trammell see a clear, black line between the two and mark down a vote for Larkin? Trammellís support has been inching higher each year, but still remains far too low for it to not be a bad omen for Larkin.

    Per BBWAA voter tendencies, some points in Larkinís favor:
    • 1995 National League MVP.
    • 12 All-Star selections (1988-1991, 1993-1998, 1999-2000, 2004).
    • Nine Silver Slugger Awards (1988-1992, 1995-1996, 1998-1999).
    • Three Gold Gloves (1994-1996).
    • HOF Monitor score of 118.5 (likely HOFer is > 100).
    • First 30/30 shortstop in MLB history.
    • Was the Reds' best player during their 1990 World Series championship season.
    • .338/.397/.465 with eight stolen bases in nine attempts in 17 postseason games.
    • Played his full career as a shortstop, down to his last season.
    • Played for one team during his entire career.
    • While he preferred to stay out of the limelight, he wasnít disliked by the bulk of the press.


    Per BBWAA voter tendencies, some factors that may hurt Larkin:
    • A wide perception Ė maybe fair, maybe not fair Ė that Larkin was injury prone throughout his career.
    • Failure to account for 1986-1993 being a pitching dominated era as offense didnít boom until 1994, which was midway through Larkinís career.
    • The Rodriguez/Jeter/Garciaparra/Tejada perception that great shortstops should suddenly hit like first basemen or corner outfielders.
    • He wasnít adored nationally like Cal Ripken.
    • Ozzie Smith unfairly overshadowed him, and Smith may have won some gold gloves that deserved to go to Larkin.
    • Failure to account that more than half of Larkinís career was leading off or batting second, which hindered his RBI total and kept him below 1,000 career RBI (his lifetime total is 960 RBI). Thanks to Retrosheet we now know the lifetime batting splits for Larkin.
    • He doesnít have gaudy raw statistical totals, such as hits, runs, home runs, etc.


    --------------------------------------------------

    "As long as I've been a baseball fan, there have been 40-year-old pitchers who were very effective. Warren Spahn was 23-7 when he was 42. (Steve) Carlton was great when he was 40. There have been others who were very good in their 40s. But I don't know if I've ever seen a 40-year-old shortstop playing like he [Larkin] is."
    Ė Bill James, quoted by John Fay, ďReds InsiderĒ, The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 23, 2004

    --------------------------------------------------

    On October 1st, 2004, a friend and I made a special trip to Great American Ball Park to catch in person what would likely be the last time we saw Barry Larkin in a major league game. The Reds were hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates, and thanks to yet another disastrous season on the mound for the Reds, there really wasnít much at stake in the actual game. But I was down there anyway, not to check out young players to pin future hopes and agony on or to inform an entire section of fans how much I despised Dan OíBrien. I was just down there to see Barry.

    Go see Larkin now before itís too late and you wonít get another chance, my mind had been telling me during the final few weeks of the season.

    We drove down that afternoon, bought cheap seats and planned to move around the stadium as the game rolled along. By the bottom of the 7th inning, the Reds led 4-1 and Paul Wilson was in the midst of throwing a complete game, a surprising performance given the state of our pitching staff. The crowd had thinned a bit and we were sitting comfortably in the lower deck along the right field foul line, underneath the hangover from Club 4192. Felipe Lopez led off the inning by striking out, leaving the situation at one out, nobody on.

    In steps Barry.

    Larkin had struggled in his three previous plate appearances that night and walked to the plate 0-3 with a pair of groundouts and a strike out. Frank Brooks was on the mound for the Pirates, a late season callup who had made his debut a mere month earlier. Given that the Reds were leading in the game and had only five outs remaining until the 9th inning, it was likely that this was going to be Larkinís final plate appearance that night.

    ďThis is it,Ē I said to my friend. ďThis is probably Barryís last at bat tonight. Letís see if he can give us something.Ē

    I donít remember the pitch, nor do I remember the count, but I do remember Barry sticking the bat out over the plate and sending a line drive deep into right field. All in one moment you could feel the entire ballpark gasp as Rob Mackowiak turned around, and with his back facing the plate, darted to the wall.

    ďGet out! Get out!Ē fans roared as the ball was still in flight. Mackowiak, racing back, was confused, not sure if the ball was going to leave the yard or bounce back to him. The ball was cold-cocked out to right on a low trajectory and quickly slipped into the right field seats.

    The crowd erupted, as loud as a smattering of 15,000 fans could erupt, and everybody, everybody, was on their feet. Larkin bounded around the bags like he always did when he drove one to the seats, but the aura of the park was vastly different. The fans, now as vibrant as ever that night, grew louder as Larkin touched the plate and headed for the dugout. His 198th career home run acted as a type of metaphor for a farewell tour, and the few lucky fans still at the park ate every bit of it up.

    A curtain call would soon follow, resulting in another eruption of happiness from the crowd. It was one of those moments that allowed you to forget everything negative, even if it was only very temporary. Gone at that instant was the aggravation with Dan OíBrien, the annoyances with a historically bad pitching staff and the scarring of Jim Bowdenís recent amateur drafts. That very moment that night was all about recognizing and appreciating Barry and everything he had done for the Reds during his career.

    Did Reds fans collectively take for granted the immense amount of value he provided during his career? Perhaps so, perhaps not. Sometimes itís difficult to recognize what you have until itís gone. Granted, his contract extension from 2001-2003 likely held the club back financially, but who knows how and where Bowden would have otherwise spent the money. Until 2005, all I ever knew at shortstop for the Reds was Barry Larkin. No free agent acquisition, no question marks whatsoever about the level of production, and until Larkinís final years, no up-and-coming youngster set to supplant him. It was Larkin at shortstop, one of the greatest ever at his position, and that was that.

    Right now Iím only hoping to have to make plans to head to Cooperstown in July, 2010.
    Barry Larkin - HOF, 2012

    Put an end to the Lost Decade.

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  3. #2
    You know his story Redsland's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    That's an amazing post. Truly professional quality work.



    Is Barry a Hall of Famer? I think so.

    Do the Baseball Writers of America think so? I doubt it.
    Makes all the routine posts.

  4. #3
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Does anybody remember August 13th, 1986?
    Living in Berkely I very likely saw that game (or listened to it on the radio), That was the closest I got to the Reds in the 80's except trips back east and to Candlestick, then ESPN kicked the door in.

    Good Stuff.

  5. #4
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    I'm a big fan of Davy Concepcion, yet I'm on the bubble as to him being in the HOF, as well as Ozzie Smith. My opinion is that if one of those two are in the other should be also.

    As this relates to Barry: IMO, Barry 'stretched' the SS position. He could hit, hit with power, run, throw and field. There were not too many SS's before him that carried the 'hit with power' tag and could still field with his range and smoothness.

    Barry may suffer from playing in the 'midwest' but if Bruce Sutter can get elected then there is hope for BL.

    Rem

  6. #5
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Bravo!

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    Member NDRed's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Very impressive work. Thank You!

    My guess is Larkin get gradually growing support and gets elected in on one of those lean years without any spectacular nominees.
    I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.- Stan Helsing

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Cyclone, fantastic work. Two quick points about Ripken and Yount. Ripken's advantage was all in durability. If you had to pick between Larkin at his best and Ripken at his for a series to save the universe, Larkin would be the pick. As for Yount, well, he wasn't able to hack the position past age 30. He played almost half his career in the OF. IMO that deserves some fairly massive deductions when comparing him against players who were able to handle the most athletic position in the field for most a their careers.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

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    Member Jpup's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    First of all, I want to say that Cyclone has graced us with a great post. It is one of the best, well thought out, well researched posts that I have ever read.

    As for Barry? 1st ballot Hall of Famer. Anything else would be a travesty.

    Who else is up for the Hall in 2009?
    "My mission is to be the ray of hope, the guy who stands out there on that beautiful field and owns up to his mistakes and lets people know it's never completely hopeless, no matter how bad it seems at the time. I have a platform and a message, and now I go to bed at night, sober and happy, praying I can be a good messenger." -Josh Hamilton

  10. #9
    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Quote Originally Posted by remdog
    I'm a big fan of Davy Concepcion, yet I'm on the bubble as to him being in the HOF, as well as Ozzie Smith. My opinion is that if one of those two are in the other should be also.
    My thoughts exactly, I don't think either should be in but it's wrong that one is without the other.


    Great write up Cyclone
    Go Gators!

  11. #10
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Great, great post. I have no doubt at all about Larkin's qualifications for the Hall of Fame: He clearly should be inducted on the first ballot. I do have great doubts about the voting wisdom of the writers, and suspect it will take Larkin several years on the ballot before he is finally elected.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

  12. #11
    Matt's Dad RANDY IN INDY's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    I do have great doubts about the voting wisdom of the writers,
    One of the travesty's of baseball. 13 blank ballots handed in yesterday. There should be a better mix of folks that are more qualified for the job of electing Hall of Famers.
    Talent is God Given: be humble.
    Fame is man given: be thankful.
    Conceit is self given: be careful.

    John Wooden

  13. #12
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Quote Originally Posted by RANDY IN CHAR NC
    One of the travesty's of baseball. 13 blank ballots handed in yesterday. There should be a better mix of folks that are more qualified for the job of electing Hall of Famers.
    Hall of Fame voting being given to some writers is an accident of history. Perhaps there was no better choice than to give it to the writers in 1936, but such is not the case anymore.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

  14. #13
    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    Outstanding post.

    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    ~ Mark Twain

  15. #14
    Puffy 3:16 Puffy's Avatar
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    2009: Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Dean Palmer, Dan Plesac, Matt Williams, Barry Larkin

    Henderson is a sure thing. Grace will get some support, but likely in the 25% category. Larkin is the wildcard.
    "I came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum... and I'm all out of bubble gum."
    - - Rowdy Roddy Piper

    "It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong. I am not a big man"
    - - Fletch

  16. #15
    Reds and 26.2's
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    Re: Cooperstown and Barry Larkin's place among All-Time Shortstops

    How's this for respect..the Hall of Fame site doesn't even list Larkin as a nominee in 2009...

    http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/ho..._elections.htm


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