From now until the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2010 is announced, The Hall is going to be breaking down each candidate. Some write ups will be lengthy...some will be the opposite. Some will be brand new pieces...some will be re-hashes of previous pieces.
If you peruse the list of shortstops that grace the halls of Cooperstown, you won't find that many household names. You'll find even fewer modern day greats.
Sure, Cal Ripken Jr. is in there...as is Robin Yount, but they played a good number of games away from short. One of the most colorful (and recognizable) cats in the Hall is Ozzie Smith, but outside of a great glove, flashy smile and a gazillion All-Star Game appearances...his case could be debated.
Which leads me to Barry Larkin.
Ask anyone just north of Covington, Kentucky (and yes, that's a random shout out) and they'd say Larkin is every bit worthy of Cooperstown enshrinement. Ask anyone else and they'd be left scratching their heads.
I say "yes"...but that comes with a "but".
Larkin needs to get in before guys like Omar Vizquel, A-Rod, Derek Jeter and the like start banging on Cooperstown's doors. If not, Larkin's stat line of a .295 batting average, 2340 hits, 198 homers and a .975 fielding percentage starts looking paltry.
He also has that one MVP award, a Championship ring (he hit .353 in the 1990 World Series), was a member of the 1984 Olympic Team and even though the sheep at Baseball Think Factory don't think it matters...12 All-Star Game selections.
Getting back to the "Wizard of Oz"...you can compare his offensive stats to Larkin and they are comparable if not worse.
Smith's average was thirty points lower (.262 versus .295) but he managed 120 more hits. He also played in 400 more games than Larkin...getting close to 1400 more at bats. There really isn't an offensive stat (outside of stolen bases) where Smith outshines Larkin.
But as the argument goes...Larkin was an offensive presence, Smith made his money on defense. 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Whitey Herzog once said that "if (Smith) saved two runs a game on defense...that was just as valuable to the team as a player who drove in two runs a game on offense."
So what about fielding? Larkin carried a .975 fielding percentage, whereas Smith had a .978. Smith made it look effortless and easy, but as Larkin's three Gold Gloves will tell you...he was no slouch.
For kicks, I went to Baseball Reference to see where some other notables rank compared to Larkin. Omar Vizquel rating was 104 (they say a rating of 100 means you are a shoe-in)...Larkin came in at 118.
I guess I'm not alone with my endorsement.