Larkin takes big step toward Hall, finishes third

Larkin takes big step toward Hall, finishes third

Larkin takes big step toward Hall, finishes third
CINCINNATI -- If there was ever reason for encouragement after not making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, Barry Larkin should have plenty of it.

In his second year on the ballot, Larkin earned 361 votes of the possible 581, or 62.1 percent, from the Baseball Writers Association of America on Wednesday. It was a significant jump from last year during his first time on the ballot, when he received 51.6 percent of the vote. Candidates are required to be on 75 percent of the ballots to gain election.

While he fell short, the former Reds shortstop great is now quite close to the Cooperstown area code.

In the 2011 Hall of Fame vote, Larkin finished in third place behind the two newest elected members -- second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven. Alomar received 523 votes for 90 percent and Blyleven had 463 votes, or 79.7 percent.

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"It's just an honor to be considered, first of all," Larkin told MLB Network from Orlando, Fla., right after the announcement. "I think Robbie Alomar and Bert Blyleven -- that was the right call, definitely. I'm just happy to be in the mix."

The only other player to eclipse the 50 percent mark this year was former pitcher Jack Morris, who received 311 votes (53.5 percent).

The results weren't so rosy for former Reds star outfielder Dave Parker, who garnered only 89 votes (15.3 percent) in his 15th and final year of eligibility on the writers' ballot. Parker's only chance to gain entry is now through the Veterans' Committee vote, which has become a much more difficult path in recent years.

All signs point to 2012 as the year that should see Larkin enshrined. There will be nine holdovers from this year's ballot, including Morris and Jeff Bagwell, but the first-time eligible players on next year's ballot are likely to get little or no voting support.

Larkin distinguished himself during an era that was shared with current Hall of Fame shortstops like Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. A native of Cincinnati, he spent his entire career with the Reds from 1986-2004 and had a lifetime average of .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases.

Like he did last year after not being elected, Larkin recalled the advice of Hall of Famer Jim Rice, who was elected in 2009 during his 15th and final try.

"You did what you did. You played as well as you could. You know what, hopefully it's good enough," Larkin said Rice told him. "I'm just happy to be in consideration. Hopefully it will happen soon, though."

Also on the resume for Larkin is his being a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a nine-time Silver Slugger winner, a member of the 1990 World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player.

In 1996, Larkin became the first shortstop in Major League history to have a 30-30 season, hitting 33 homers while swiping 36 bases.

During his 1995 MVP season, Larkin batted .319 with 15 home runs, 66 RBIs and 51 stolen bases. While his offensive numbers weren't the best in the league that season, his all-around play and intangibles were considered pivotal as the Reds claimed the NL Central title.

It's the intangible portion of Larkin's career that means the most for the 46-year-old.

"I think those are the things I'm really, really happy people are talking about," Larkin told MLB Network, his current employer. "I talk to players all the time about baseball. I tell them it's not about hitting home runs. I spent my entire career getting the guy over, being a support guy. Just to be out there and have the numbers I do, obviously, but to be recognized amongst the best with that being my approach, that's what I'm very proud of."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.