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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keltner List: Barry Larkin

  1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball? Yes. Barry Larkin had a career year in 1996 where he hit .298/.410/.567 with 33 home runs, 36 stolen bases, and won the N.L. Gold Glove at shortstop.
  2. Was he the best player on his team? Most definitely.
  3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position? He had a couple of years where he was considered one of the best at his position. He was the star shortstop in the National League as Ozzie Smith was in full decline mode when Larkin became the starter in Cincinnati.  He became overshadowed in the second half of his career by the young shortstop trilogy of Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Derek Jeter.
  4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races? Barry Larkin only played in two post-seasons as the Reds were mostly mediocre during his tenure there. In 1990 they won the World Series where Larkin hit .353. In 1995 he was the only guy who showed up against Atlanta in the NLCS. In four career postseason series he hit .338/.397/.465 with no home runs and eight stolen bases in 17 games.
  5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime? Yes, but as he grew older his health became even more precarious.  When he played he was very good although those stints on the disabled list became longer and more frequent. Injuries made it easy for him to call it a career.
  6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame? No, that distinction falls to Jeff Bagwell or Mark McGwire. Tim Raines was also a better player.
  7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame? Larkin's counting stats are probably a bit short due to the amount of time he missed in his career due to injury. In fact, in 15 seasons he only managed to play 140 or more games in only seven of them. That being said his .295/.371/.444 slash line is very impressive for a shortstop.
  8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards? See above.  As an infielder his stats do exceed those set by many other Hall of Famers.
  9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics? Not really. Defensive metrics probably don't to him any justice though since he was an elite defender in his early years.
  10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in? Tough one. I think yes. Alan Trammell is a close second.
  11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close? Larkin had several good years in the early to mid nineties but only one was really worthy of the MVP Award--and he didn't win it! Larkin won the MVP in 1995 when the award probably should have gone to Mike Piazza. But he then followed it up by setting career highs in nearly every offensive statistic in 1996. Other than 1995 that he only finished in the top ten of MVP voting one other time and that was a seventh place finish in 1990.
  12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame? Larkin played in 12 All-Star games as he was the premier shortstop of his era.
  13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant? In his prime, yes, and they did win it all in 1990.
  14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? Not to my knowledge.
  15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider? As far as I can recall, Barry Larkin was considered one of the ultimate good guys and was a leader on his team. Sportswriters liked him and the fans of Cincinnati loved him.
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