Barry Larkin will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the third time in January 2012 and is a good bet to make it in. This past year he had 62.1% of the vote and just needs to bump up to 75%.
Larkin played his entire 19-year career with the Reds and was one of the preeminent hitting shortstops of the 1990s.
He was a 12-time All Star, 9 time Silver Slugger winner, and won the 1995 NL MVP.
He was a part of the 1990 World Series champions and hit .338/.397/.465 in 4 post-season series.
Let's take a look at some of the arguments for and against Larkin entering the Hall of Fame.
First off, let's talk briefly about the card featured here. It's 1987 Donruss Opening Day #191. This set was issued late in 1987 to commemorate the players who starting on opening day of that season. The design closely follows that of the regular-issue 1987 Donruss cards, except replacing the black border with a maroon one.
The card back is quite similar, but forgoes yearly stat lines for a lengthier player bio. The back of Larkin's card reminds us of the battle between he and Kurt Stillwell, who many thought would become the longtime Reds shortstop. After Larkin beat out Stillwell, the Reds traded the latter with Ted Power for Angel Salazar and Danny Jackson, who became an important part of the Reds' championship team a few years later.
Now, back to Larkin and his candidacy.
For Barry Larkin in the Hall of Fame:
It's easy to forget that Larkin was ahead of the curve in terms of offense from the shortstop position. Over the 5-year stretch (1988-1992) before the Steroids Era, check out the best OPS+ among shortstops with at least 1,000 plate appearances:
Everybody remembers Ripken, but Larkin was the class of all shortstops from an offensive perspective. And this came from a position that put up only 5 guys who had an OPS+ of at least 100.
When the Steroids Era came, Larkin did even better, putting up an OPS+ of 126 from 1993 to 2000 (over 4,171 plate appearances.)
Although he won the MVP in 1995, he probably didn't deserve it, with Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, and even teammate Reggie Sanders as better choices. However, he backed that up with a far better 1996, a very rare season by a SS that qualified for a batting title with an OPS+ of at least 150:
Rare, that is, until the triumverate of A-Rod, Jeter, and Nomar came along. Those 3 are remembered as the guys who revolutionized the SS position into an offensive threat, but in truth that was all part of the Steroids Era. Larkin and Ripken rewrote it while those three were still making out in the backs of cars.
With the help of his bat as well as his glove, Larkin amassed a career WAR of 68.9, good for 61st among position players. His nearest neighbors:
59. Luke Appling+ (20) 69.3 R 60. Brooks Robinson+ (23) 69.1 R 61. Barry Larkin (19) 68.9 R 62. Tony Gwynn+ (20) 68.4 L 63. Jesse Burkett+ (16) 68.0 L
Throw in all the All-Star selections, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and a Word Series championship, and this guy is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
Against Barry Larkin in the Hall of Fame:
The biggest argument against Larkin in the HOF is that despite his long career, he doesn't rank in the top 100 for any major offensive categories other than stolen bases (87th career).
In the year he won the MVP, 1995, there were at least 5 more deserving candidates, and he didn't rank higher than 7th in the MVP voting in any other year. How can a player who was never the best in the league be a Hall of Famer?
Tough to come up with a lot else against Larkin...
Here's the back of the card above, and then please vote in the poll at the very end.