Making his way to the writer’s ballot for the first time next year, Larkin looks to have a decent shot of getting in on his first ballot. A twelve time All-Star and a multi-talented threat that could beat you with the leather or the lumber, Barry might have to write an acceptance speech in 2010. Of the new names on the ballot, he and Roberto Alomar stand the best chance of enshrinement.
Barry broke in with the Cincinnati Reds in 1986 about the same time fellow shortstop Kurt Stillwell debuted with the Reds. They were both top prospects – first round picks – and the Reds knew one of them had to go. They opted to deal Stillwell to Kansas City, thus keeping Larkin and allowing him to patrol short in Cincy his entire career.
In his rookie season, Barry flashed some speed and power but wasn’t the star he was destined to become. Putting an adequate rookie season behind him, Barry busted out in 1988. He received his first All-Star nod and won the Silver Slugger Award at his position. He led shortstops with a .296 batting average, .429 slugging average, 91 runs and 174 hits. With men like Cal Ripken Jr., Barry showed folks that shortstops didn’t have to be all-field-no-hit players in the mold of Mark Belanger.
The injury bug, which bit Larkin quite often during his career, took its first bite in 1989. Despite missing action to the disabled list, Barry hit .342. Healthy again in 1990, Barry was the only .300 hitting shortstop in the National League. Everyone knows that a great team must have a stellar shortstop and Barry was just that for the Reds. He carried them to the NLCS, scoring five runs in the contest and made mincemeat of Oakland in a World Series sweep, hitting Athletics pitching at a .353 clip.
His power, which had abandoned him in 1990, made a return in a big way during the 1991 season. With Cal Ripken Jr., Barry was one of only two 20 homerun hitting shortstops in the Major Leagues. His slugging average in ’91 was a robust .506 and in ’92 he was the only NL shortstop to slug over .400. Although he had regained his power stroke, his wheels didn’t suffer. In 1994, Barry led all Major League shortstops with 26 steals and stole 51 in his MVP season of 1995.
Barry led the Reds to October action in ’95, winning the NL MVP Award in the process, by hitting .319 and winning his second straight Gold Glove Award. He put on a show in the postseason, hitting .383 in a Divisional Series victory over the Dodgers and .389 in an NLCS loss to Atlanta. Although he copped the MVP Award in ’95, he was even better in ’96.
Barry had his highwater mark in homeruns during the ’96 season, swatting 33 balls over the fence. He led NL shortstops in homeruns, runs scored (117), RBI (89), stolen bases (36) and slugging (.567). Off to a solid start in ’97, Larkin was hindered by injury again and played in only 73 games. But he was amazing in those 73 games, posting an astronomical on-base percentage of .440.
Larkin was the only .300 hitting shortstop in the National League during the 1998 season. He honed his batting eye to perfection in 1999, drawing 93 walks (more than any other NL middle infielder) while only striking out 57 times. The injury bug bit again in 2000 and seemed to clamp down on Barry from then to his retirement. He played a full season in 2002 but his numbers weren’t what they used to be. After another injury plagued season in 2003 it looked like it was time for Barry to call it quits, but he redeemed himself, like Ted Williams, finishing his career on a high note. His last season, 2004, Barry was elected to the NL All-Star team for the twelfth time.
G 2,180/R 1,329/H 2,340/2B 441/HR 198/RBI 960/BB 939/SO 817/SB 379/BA .295/SA .444