Thursday, April 28, 2005
April 28th, 1964
Barry Larkin Born
Stan Musial, whom I've written about before, is underappreciated for a few simple reasons. For one thing, he's a pretty modest guy, not relentlessly self-promoting. For another, he played in St. Louis for all of his career, a relatively small place compared to the center of the baseball world then (and arguably even now) New York, which leads into the last reason, the media coverage around his career was less both on account of the location and the different nature of media in those days. Barry Larkin in contrast, will likely be underrated in small part on account of having played most of his career in Cincinnati, but it really comes down to one simple reason. Actually, four simple reasons: Cal Ripken, Jr., Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra. Larkin was an amazing talent, a fantastic hitter and a pretty good fielder, but had the misfortune of having his career correspond with the man who redefined the position (Ripken) and three who--to varying degrees thus far--took that refinement to a heretofore unseen degree.
Larkin's career numbers are pretty good, .295/.371/.444, good for a 116 OPS+, although even those are slightly deceptive as Larkin's late career numbers bring down the lifetime totals as he struggled through several mediocre seasons. He finished his career with 190 home runs, 2340 hits and 379 stolen bases aganist just 77 times caught, an excellent 83% sucess rate. Larkin also won three Gold Gloves (1994-96), nine Silver Slugger awards (given the best hitter at each position), including five in a row 1988-92 as well as the MVP in 1995. He posted an OPS+ of 125 or better--an impressive feat for shortstop--eight times. Larkin is a better player than all but a few shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and probably deserves to join them there, and while he probably someday will, it is a shame that he will be remembered not as the elite talent he was, but instead as the "other man" of the great shortstop era of the 80s and 90s.