Interesting article. FWIW, this was written in 2005, but still a good read.
by Todd Coppernoll
9 Silver Sluggers
3 Gold Gloves
1995 NL MVP
1 World Series Ring
Number of Similar Batters on his Baseball-Reference.com page in Hall of Fame 3 (4 not yet eligible)
Next up in the series is former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. Drafted in the second round by the Reds in 1982, Larkin chose to attend the University of Michigan. Three years later the Reds called again, this time taking him 4th overall in the ’85 draft (two spots ahead of Barry Bonds). The ’84 Olympian, two-time Big Ten Player of the Year signed with his hometown team and never left, playing his entire career in Cincinnati.
While most would agree Larkin was a very talented player, there are many who question whether he should be remembered as great. I see three reasons for this, first, the injuries that kept him off the field far too often (100 or fewer games played in five different seasons), second, the fact that he never left the Reds for a major media market, and finally, most significantly, The Ripken Factor.
Prior to the 1980’s shortstops were typically smaller men, quick on their feet, primarily asked to play defense first, offense was a nice bonus, power almost never came with the package. As a child, I can imagine Larkin idolizing Dave Concepcion right there in Riverfront Stadium. Concepcion was terrific with the glove, and handled the bat well for his position, which at that time meant he ran well, knew how to work the count, could bunt, could execute the hit and run, but was seldom expected to drive the ball and produce runs. While Larkin would one day execute those same skills to the tune of 2340 hits, a .295 career batting average, and 379 stolen bases, a funny thing happened on his way to the spotlight... in 1982, shortstop Robin Yount hit 29 home runs and won the AL MVP. The following year, Cal Ripken turned the same trick, while hitting 27 homers. Suddenly, shortstop was a place where it was ok to crush the ball and be a team’s best run producer.
If you ask anyone who was the best shortstop during the late 80’s and early 90’s, you can expect them to answer “Cal Ripken.” Cal had The Streak, Cal hit the homers, and Cal changed the common perception of the shortstop position forever, but did you know...
Larkin won 9 silver sluggers from 1988-1999, meaning he was the best hitter in his league, at his position 75% of that time?
In the last 40 years, Larkin and Ripken are the only shortstops who have won both a World Series and an MVP award? Sorry A-Rod, and Jeter, and Nomar, and Tejada, and Yount, and Trammell.
Larkin was the first shortstop ever to have a 30 home run / 30 stolen base season?
Larkin batted .300 or better nine times?
Larkin is the only shortstop EVER to top 2000 hits, 150 home runs, and 350 stolen bases?
From Robin Yount to Michael Young, the American League has hogged the spotlight at the shortstop position over the last 25 years. Time and again the big city reporters rambled on and on about Jeter, Nomar and A-Rod. While all of those others certainly deserved high praise, many forgot to check what was happening in that other league. There, in a smaller market, embarrassed first by Pete Rose, then by Marge Schott, overshadowed by Eric Davis as a young player, Jose Rijo in the World Series, then by Ken Griffey Jr during his final seasons, was a GREAT shortstop... Barry Larkin.
Barry has four more years to wait until he is eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame, I think he deserves to be there... do you?