Hall of Fame Debate: Barry Larkin

Today's debate for Hall of Fame worthiness centers on Barry Larkin. Playing his entire 19 year career for the Cincinnati Reds, there's no denying from anyone at FBJ that Larkin was a great player, outstanding shortstop, and great ambassador of the game. The question looms does he break down the HOF wall based on talent, numbers, and impact to deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown? This debate has pit Hersh and I on opposite sides of the fence. We both agree he was a great player, but HOF candidacy is where the line in the sand has been drawn. It would seem baseball writers are equally split on this issue, although Larkin's stock is rising. In 2010, Larkin received 51.6% and in 2011, he received 62.1%.

Pro (Hersh)

Barry Larkin was a top shortstop of his era. A 12 time All Star, Larkin also had 9Silver Slugger awards, 3 Gold Gloves, and an MVP in 1995. One knock on him against induction to the HOF centered on his many injuries, thus he missed a lot of games. In fact, he surpassed 150 games in a season only 4 times. In the games he did play in, however, he was one of the best. He might not make the top 10 shortstops of all time, but he would have to be included among the top 20. One of the criteria I use to determine Hall of Fame worthiness involves whether or not the player was one of the best at his position when he played. Larkin most definitely meets that criteria. As for the comparisons to Ozzie Smith, Ozzie was at the end of his career for most of Larkin's time in the league. Barry out-hit Ozzie and, offensively, was much better. He can't match Ozzie with the glove, but then nobody could. There were arguably some shortstops in the AL during Larkin's career that could be considered better all around players. However in the NL, Larkin was the best of the 1990s, and in my opinion a Hall of Fame talent.

Con (Mc)

It's no secret that the Hall of Fame has become somewhat watered down of late. Back in the day, you had to be heads and shoulders above everyone else to be even considered for Cooperstown. It took Dimaggio 4 tries to get inducted. As our introduction stated, Larkin was a great player and his longevity with the Reds should be both admired and considered for this debate. I have a few major problems with Larkin.

First, he was overshadowed for most of his career by Ozzie Smith (I'd argue Ozzie doesn't belong in HOF either). Of the 12 All Star selections Larkin has, he only started in 5 of them. To me, that shows the fans viewed him as among the best, but not THE best. Ozzie retired in 1995, whereupon Larkin took the helm as best NL shortstop. That year, Larkin seemingly put it all together to win an MVP trophy which is a great feather in his cap for HOF legitimacy. I'd argue that there were better MVP choices that year, although I'll admit many of them may have been helped by PEDs.

Second, Larkin's numbers to me are above average, not exceptional. He never led the league in any offensive categories, not even during his MVP campaign. He has no 100 RBI seasons and only 2 x 100 Run seasons. To me, you're either producing runs by driving them in or scoring them. I know 100 is an arbitrary number and doesn't necessarily equate to impact, but it's a barometer that often gets used to judge player effectiveness.

Finally, I think there were stronger contemporaries to Larkin in baseball during his career. I'll concede that after Ozzie retired, Larkin was the best in the NL. However, stronger cases can be made (as to who dominated the position) for AL guys like Robin Yount and Cal Ripken during Larkin's early career and Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (if you get past PEDs) in Larkin's latter career. I don't differentiate who was better in the NL or AL at a position. To do so would double the amount of Hall of Famers inducted further watering down the relevance of the honor. I think if you let in Larkin, then you have to let in Alan Trammell, Omar Vizquel, Dick Groat, and other great but not exceptional shortstops.

Which side of the fence do you fall on? For or against Barry Larkin's induction to the Hall of fame.


  1. The players Mc compares Larkin to are all Hall of Famers, and Yount and A-Rod played less at shortstop. Further, shortstops don't lead the league in offensive categories, though Larkin did great in steal ratio and -- except for limited playing time (he did play on Cincinnati's brick artificial surface) -- he matches Jeter, Ripken, and Yount as a batter.

    Check out win shares. Larkin qualifies.

  2. I'm for Vizquel, that's for sure. he suffers for not having played in a big media town. Some of Jeter's GGs rightly belong to Omar, who has over 2800 hits, and counting.


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