When you poll as much as 62.1 percent of the vote as former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin has–and there are no automatics on the new candidate list–then you must be taken very seriously as a Hall of Fame prospect.
That’s where Larkin finds himself as the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America begin deliberations for the 2012 Cooperstown class which will be announced Jan. 9. Larkin, 47, played 19 seasons in the majors, 1986 and 2004 inclusive, and has a lot going for him as a Hall contender.
The baseball writers have until Dec. 31 to mark their ballots and they can vote for up to 10 players. This may not mean they believe all 10 should be accepted into the Hall this year, but rather that they think they should remain under consideration. The group is never going to vote in 10 guys at one time. But in order to stay on the ballot for future years a player must receive five percent of the vote.
In order to get into the Hall a player must receive 75 percent of the vote and that’s no easy task. Although baseball is not as controversial as global warming, funding overseas wars, or cutting taxes, in this day and age getting three out of four people to agree on saying Happy New Year without suspicion is a reach.
It is a rarity for the baseball writers not to send forth a single honored candidate for induction, but some years are easier to recognize who it might be than others. When a superstar’s five-year waiting period is up, the odds favor immediate acceptance. But there are no fresh players eligible this time, a year after Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven (long overdue) were elected.
This should benefit Larkin. He garnered significant support and attention last time around and his credential are quite good. Among other pluses, he has that longevity of 19 seasons in the bigs. He was a 12-time All-Star. That is an accomplishment that should score a lot of points. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner and a nine-time Silver Slugger winner.
That recognition demonstrates that he was the National League’s premier batter at his position for a long time. Shortstops tend to have the lowest averages of those selected for the Hall of Fame, but Larkin’s lifetime batting average is .295. His all-around offensive numbers are first-class for a middle infielder, with 2,340 hits, 198 home runs, 960 runs batted in, and 1,329 runs scored. He also stole 379 bases. He once hit 33 homers in a season and five in a two-game span, not the traditional power performance for a shortstop.
Not the least of Larkin’s baseball achievements was winning the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1995. As further testimony to what type of guy he was, Larkin, who was born in Cincinnati, learned Spanish to be able to better communicate with Hispanic teammates and he won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1993 for his charitable contributions and community service.
When the Reds won the 1990 World Series, their most recent title, Larkin batted .353. Larkin, currently a TV broadcaster, has excelled at bat and in the field. He has been an All-Star choice more than he has fingers. When he got to a World Series, he produced.
Barry Larkin is definitely a worthy candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Be sure to check out Lew’s other Hall of Fame profiles.