Writing twelve years ago (while he was still playing), Bill James not only named Larkin the sixth best shortstop of all time, but also suggested that he was “one of the ten most complete players in baseball history.” With a reputation for great defense, and a career .371 OBP matched with a .444 SLG, he’s certainly as deserving of entry as any other eligible former player.
And that’s sort of the problem. He’s just as deserving as Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, who got 56% and 49% of the vote respectively. And all three of those guys are far more deserving than Jack Morris or Lee Smith, who got 67% and 51% of the vote respectively.
|Barry Larkin||495 (86.4%)||3|
|Jack Morris||382 (66.7%)||13|
|Jeff Bagwell||321 (56.0%)||2|
|Lee Smith||290 (50.6%)||10|
|Tim Raines||279 (48.7%)||5|
|Alan Trammell||211 (36.8%)||11|
|Edgar Martinez||209 (36.5%)||3|
|Fred McGriff||137 (23.9%)||3|
|Larry Walker||131 (22.9%)||2|
|Mark McGwire||112 (19.5%)||6|
|Don Mattingly||102 (17.8%)||12|
|Dale Murphy||83 (14.5%)||14|
|Rafael Palmeiro||72 (12.6%)||2|
|Bernie Williams||55 (9.6%)||1|
|Juan Gonzalez||23 (4.0%)||2|
|Vinny Castilla||6 (1.0%)||1|
|Tim Salmon||5 (0.9%)||1|
|Bill Mueller||4 (0.7%)||1|
|Brad Radke||2 (0.3%)||1|
|Javy Lopez||1 (0.2%)||1|
|Eric Young||1 (0.2%)||1|
|Jeromy Burnitz||0 (0%)||1|
|Brian Jordan||0 (0%)||1|
|Terry Mulholland||0 (0%)||1|
|Phil Nevin||0 (0%)||1|
|Ruben Sierra||0 (0%)||1|
|Tony Womack||0 (0%)||1|
75% required for induction. 5% required to remain on the ballot
And don’t even get me started on the lack of support for Allan Trammel despite his similarities to Larkin.
It’s subjective. And it’s meant to be subjective. I get that. But dependence on subjectivity results in two rather unwanted outcomes. The first of which allows hockey bloggers who have somehow maintained their right to vote in the procedure to select Don Mattingly and only Don Mattingly. And it also allows for far too many biases for and against certain players, based not on how they played the game, but rather what they’re alleged to have done or how they treated baseball beat reporters.
From a rational perspective, it’s frustrating to watch something revered as a definitive say on the legacy of former players get treated with an unwillingness by its gatekeepers to look past their own narrow viewpoints. Of course, as I’ve written before, this is the last time we’ll probably mention such things for a while, as next year those voting on the Hall of Fame will render themselves completely irrelevant, when Jack Morris, given his 13% rise from last year, gets in, while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get stiffed.
In their quest to erase their own involvement, if not implicit participation, in the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs from the history books (while simultaneously imagining an obviously non-existent moral code for members of the club that they act as gate keepers for) baseball writers will render themselves irrelevant in a little over a year’s time when they refuse to allow Barry Bonds (the greatest baseball player many of my generation, and quite possibly any generation, have ever seen play the game) into its no longer hallowed Hall.
In fact, the only reason that this post is being published is that Larkin is due some honour for having such a fantastic career, that even with his 1995 MVP, might be devoid of the single season highs that some of his contemporaries boast. It’s somewhat fitting that this is the case, because it’s similar to Larkin’s characteristics as a player.
While his defense at shortstop was fantastic, he wasn’t a finesse player. Although he hit 33 home runs in a single season, he wasn’t a power hitter. And even with well above average walk rates during his peak, he isn’t especially known for his patience at the plate. When James writes that he’s one of the most complete players in baseball history, it makes complete sense. He doesn’t necessarily excel in any one are, he’s just supremely talented in everything.
Now, if only those deciding who got into the Hall of Fame could exhibit similar abilities in their collective selections.
Several writers made their votes public, which is admirable. For a list of those writers and their justification for who they voted for, check out this link provided by the BBWAA.