As the old saying goes, “Christmas comes but once a year.” Know what else comes once a year? The controversial ignorance of some voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
There are a multitude of players I strongly believe worthy of being voted into the Hall of Fame but remain on the outside looking in. Such players include Bert Blyleven, Fred McGriff and Tim Raines. I was stunned to see Roberto Alomar failing to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Likewise, I was stunned to see Barry Larkin suffer the same fate.
Larkin is living proof that voters can be biased. The voters tend to favor hitters with great home run totals and ignore other stats. Sometimes they will take other stats into account, but only when popular contact hitters like Derek Jeter come to mind.
I think we can safely agree that shortstop Derek Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when his time comes. The voters will surely disregard the fact that Jeter wasn’t a powerful home run hitter and vote for him anyway. Cal Ripken Jr. was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Despite his 12 All-Star appearances, three Gold Glove awards, nine Silver Slugger awards, 1995 NL MVP and having numbers similar to Ripken and Jeter, Larkin received only 51.6% of the votes on his 2010 ballot. Let us observe the career numbers of these three shortstops.
Larkin won three consecutive Gold Glove awards (1994-1996). Larkin likely would have won several more if not for the presence of Ozzie Smith in the NL. I am of the opinion that Smith rightfully belonged in the Hall of Fame; however, it is obvious that Smith was not voted in for his offensive abilities. Smith was voted in for his incredible defense at shortstop.
Before Larkin won three consecutive gold gloves from 1994 to 1996, Smith won 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1980 to 1992. Larkin was a rookie in the 1986 season. Jay Bell won the NL Gold Glove award in 1993 and then Larkin won three in a row.
Career Home Runs
I have no doubt Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when his time comes, despite the fact that he did not display the power Ripken displayed. The bias for power is obvious in that Ripken was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Ripken’s 431 home runs dwarf Larkin’s 198; however, the voters clearly neglected the fact that Larkin had a significantly better AVG, had good gap power (hence his nine Silver Slugger awards), a higher OBP than Ripken and a higher OPS than Ripken.
If Larkin had 431 home runs, a much lower AVG than Ripken and the MLB consecutive games record, he likely would have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame already because the voters love home runs. But the voters will conveniently disregard their bias towards power once they vote for Derek Jeter when his time comes.
You can think what you want about whether or not Larkin belongs in the Hall of Fame. I do not begrudge people of their opinions; however, I do not tolerate obvious bias and hypocrisy among the voters. Ripken was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer (anybody who thinks otherwise about Jeter is delusional).
What did Larkin do to cause voters to look the other way in his case? Oh, that’s right: Larkin only failed to hit 400+ home runs (which Jeter will also fail to do) and failed to play for the New York Yankees. Forget matching Ripken’s 431 home runs or his consecutive games; if Larkin posted his actual career numbers as a Yankee, I think he likely would have been voted into the Hall of Fame last year.
Larkin better not suffer a Blyleven-like fate in regards to the Hall of Fame. When you compare the careers of Ripken, Larkin and Jeter, the evidence is very damning of the voters’ inconsistency and bias.
Christopher Wenrich is a fantasy baseball columnist for BaseballDigest.com.