Year Inducted: 2012 (BBWAA, 3rd ballot, 495/573)
Most of the old teams have had their fair share of entries here so far. The Giants, Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies and A’s have the most posts so far, but there is one of the old teams that hasn’t been mentioned much yet; the original team, the Cincinnati Reds. There have been only five posts about the Reds, and none since Bid McPhee about 40 posts ago. Why is that? Well, the Reds haven’t had many runs of being dominant unlike a lot of other teams. When the Reds had their biggest bout of dominance, the 1970’s Big Red Machine, the best players on the team were some of the best of all-time, especially Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. But, one of the other times they had a dominant team was the early 1990’s, with the Nasty Boys in the bullpen and Barry Larkin as the team catalyst.
Larkin manned shortstop for the Reds in every season of his 19 seasons as a Major Leaguer. In that time, he hit .295/.371/.444 with a wRC+ of 118. B-Lark collected 444 doubles, 76 triples and 198 home runs among his 2340 hits. Larkin spent a lot of time near the top of the batting order, so he only got the chance to drive in 960 runs, but he did manage to score 1329 runs by being an adept baserunner (379 steals, +43.4 runs on the bases). While he wasn’t as gifted a fielder as his contemporary Ozzie Smith (but who is?), Larkin was still a very good defender at short, being worth +132.5 runs defensively and winning a few gold gloves towards the end of Ozzie’s career.
As with many players, injuries caused a slow decline toward the end of Larkin’s career. In 2000 he suffered injuries in his fingers and his knee which limited his ability to play everyday (he had a good partial season, however). The next few years, however, would be rough on Larkin and his body. He suffered injuries to his groin, ribs, hamstring, shoulder, neck, toe, calf and a hernia in his last three seasons, which limited how much time he could produce and play at a high level. He did manage a solid final season, with a 99 wRC+ in about 100 games as a 40-year old, so not all was lost.
Much of Larkin’s career was overshadowed by being in the same league as Ozzie Smith, so Larkin never fully got his due as a great shortstop for the first chunk of his career. He also had to contend with two big shortstops in the American League in Cal Ripken and Alan Trammell, and as such would often fall into relative obscurity when the discussion of the best shortstop in the game would be broached. This is mostly why he wasn’t inducted until his third ballot to gain induction. Larkin is one that shouldn’t be overlooked-he may not be the best but he is definitely worthy of induction.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/2/2016:
#97- A big part of the Go-Go Sox, this shortstop was probably the best defender until Ozzie Smith
#96- The pitcher with the most wins all-time for a lefty.