Barry Larkin elected to baseball Hall of Fame
With Hall of Fame voters confronting the ultimate tests of their standards next year when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, they elected a safe, clean new addition Monday in 12-time All-Star and 1995 Most Valuable Player Barry Larkin.
Larkin, 47, a 19-season veteran (1986-2004) shortstop who played exclusively for his hometown Cincinnati Reds, received 86% of the vote in his third season of eligibility.
“It was absolutely an unbelievable … out of body experience,” Larkin told MLB Network of the induction telephone call. “
Those falling short of the 75% threshold for Hall of Fame induction included pitcher Jack Morris (67%), first baseman Jeff Bagwell (56%), closer Lee Smith (51%) and outfielder Tim Raines (49%).
Former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon received just five votes and will not remain on the ballot next year.
Steroid-stained first baseman Mark McGwire finished 10th, receiving 20% of the vote.
“My feeling is that whenever there’s an instance of definite proof, I’m not going to support the candidacy,” said Hall of Fame writer and voter Ross Newhan, formerly of The Times.
“In Bonds’ case, he acknowledged using a cream, saying he did not realize it was a steroid, but there’s so much evidence against him that he knew more, such a change in body structure,” Newhan said. “There’s no question he’d be an automatic qualifier [based on his pre-PED involvement numbers] but I don’t buy the argument that we should forget him for being a cheater over the second half of his career.
“A lot of people will vote for him, despite everything, even on the basis that there’s not enough proof, but he was a different player” from the time he hit a record 73 home runs in 2001.
Asked if he felt the same way about depriving Clemens of a vote, Newhan said, “Yep.”
The power pitcher was named in the Mitchell Report as a PED user in the second half of his career, as well, dominating with the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros while using banned substances, according to Clemens’ personal trainer, Brian McNamee.
Both Bonds and Clemens have been embroiled in federal prosecutions for allegedly making false statements to federal officials –- Congress in Clemens’ case -– about their PED use.
There was no such controversy with Larkin.
A 1985 first-round pick (fourth overall) from the University of Michigan, Larkin had a batting average of .295 and a .975 fielding percentage with 198 home runs and 960 RBIs in his career.
He also received three Gold Glove awards and nine Silver Slugger awards.
“All the things he brought to the table,” former Reds outfielder Eric Davis told MLB Network Monday. “It was not just his numbers … he was one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with. His ability to understand certain situations … his consistency … when you played with him day in, day out, you understood.
“There was nothing on the field that he could not do. His body of work was second to none.”
Larkin was a member of the Reds’ surprising 1990 World Series championship team and was National League MVP in 1995 when he batted .319 with 15 homers, 66 RBIs, 51 stolen bases and scored 98 runs. A year later, he exceeded that effort by batting .298 with 33 homers, 89 RBIs and 36 stolen bases to become the first “30-30” shortstop in the game’s history.
Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench said Larkin’s election was “deserved,” adding the shortstop “established himself” as “elite.”
Larkin will be inducted into Cooperstown July 22, along with “Golden Era” veterans’ committee selection, Ron Santo, the former Chicago Cubs third baseman; writer Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun and broadcaster Tim McCarver.
Photo: Barry Larkin. Credit: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images