Larkin hopes to take another step toward Hall

By Mark Sheldon
Updated: December 31, 2010

CINCINNATI — Since the results from his first time on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot were encouraging, it will be interesting to see if Reds shortstop great Barry Larkin keeps moving in the right direction toward Cooperstown.

In January, when the Hall of Fame election results were revealed, Larkin was named on 278 of the 539 ballots for a respectable 51.6 percent of the vote.

Players need to be on 75 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots to gain election. But considering that Larkin received more votes than many first-timers, it’s an indication he won’t have as steep a hill to climb as others to be inducted.

In comparison, contemporary shortstop Alan Trammell received only 22.7 percent of the vote last time on his ninth attempt. Larkin’s Reds shortstop predecessor, Davey Concepcion, spent the maximum 15 years on the writers’ ballot and never reached higher than 16.9 percent.

Concepcion’s only hope to gain entrance is via the Veterans Committee ballot.

A native of Cincinnati and a graduate of Moeller High School, Larkin was a 1985 first-round Draft pick of his hometown Reds and would spend his entire career with one team. From 1986-2004, he had a lifetime average of .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases. He was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a member of the 1990 World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player.

Although Larkin’s offensive numbers lacked the benchmarks of 500 home runs or 3,000 hits, he is getting serious consideration because of his excellence both as a hitter and fielder.

Larkin replaced another Reds great in Concepcion and continued a tradition of strength at the position. Nationally, he assumed the mantle held by Ozzie Smith, who was considered the preeminent shortstop of the 1980s — but, like many shortstops of the previous generations, was known not only as a tremendous fielder but also a light hitter.

Along with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., Larkin is credited by many for starting a new era for shortstops with more offensive prowess.

“I got more recognized as an offensive threat and multi-dynamic player by hitting home runs and for average and stealing bases while playing good defense,” Larkin told in 2007 after his election to the Reds Hall of Fame. “I see myself as a trailblazer. It’s expected now that if you play shortstop in the big leagues, you have to do well in both sides of the game.”

During the Reds’ championship season in 1990, Larkin batted .301 with 67 RBIs and 30 steals and went on to bat .353 in the four-game sweep over the A’s in the World Series.

Larkin was named the NL MVP in 1995 after he batted .319 with 15 home runs, 66 RBIs and 51 stolen bases. While his offensive numbers weren’t the best of the league that season, his all-around play was considered pivotal in the Reds’ run to a NL Central division title.

In 1996, Larkin became the first shortstop in Major League history to be a 30-30 player, when he had 33 homers and 36 steals during that season. He was rated by baseball historian Bill James as one of the “10 most complete players in history” and the sixth-greatest shortstop ever. The Reds named him their team captain in ’97.

Now 46 years old, Larkin is currently a television analyst for MLB Network. He returned to the Reds organization in a more formal capacity for the first time last spring, when he was a Spring Training instructor for a few days.

“I had the opportunity last year to talk to [2009 inductee] Jim Rice. He got in on the 15th try,” Larkin said after learning the results from his first time on the ballot. “He said there isn’t anything you can do. You’re just happy to be considered. The numbers are the numbers and you did what you did. There’s no going back to do anything different.

“If they decide to put me in, they’ll decide. It’s gratifying to be considered and an honor to be on the ballot. To be inducted would be even greater.”