The Braves are still two years away from beginning their big push to Cooperstown, but two of those likely bound for that 2014 Hall-of-Fame Class – former Braves manager Bobby Cox and pitcher Tom Glavine – gave rave reviews for the newest member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame: Barry Larkin.
The former Reds shortstop appeared on 86 percent of the ballots, well above the 75 percent required by the Baseball Writers Association, earning entrance in his third year eligible. The announcement was made Monday.
Larkin will be inducted July 22 along with the late Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who was voted in by the “Golden Age” Committee, Frick Award winner broadcaster Tim McCarver and Spink award winner Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.
“To me, Barry Larkin was a dream player,’” Cox said in a collection of statements released by the Reds Monday afternoon. “He was an outstanding leader who had great physical skills. When you look at his all-around talent and ability in the field, at the plate and on the bases, he might very well have been one of the top two or three shortstops of all-time. He really has all the credentials you think of when you talk about Hall of Fame players.
“If there had been a draft each year for clubs to build their team from scratch, Barry would have been the first or second pick each year over the course of his career,” Cox continued. “He was just so well-rounded and had all the skills.”
John Smoltz, who played against Larkin from 1988-2004 as a Brave, called him one of the most complete players he ever competed against. Glavine said Larkin was a pioneer at the position.
“He really changed the shortstop position in our generation because he was an all-around player,” Glavine said. “He was really a true five-tool player, with everything he could do to beat you.”
Glavine, Cox, Greg Maddux and Braves executive John Schuerholz are all eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2014. Both Glavine and Maddux, as 300-game winners, could be first-ballot entrants. Smoltz will be eligible for the first time in 2015.
Larkin, a 12-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover, won the NL MVP in 1995. He hit .295 with 198 homers, 960 RBIs and 379 stolen bases while playing his entire career with his hometown Reds.
Larkin’s appearance on 495 of a possible 573 ballots represented a 24.3 percent jump from 2011, the largest increase in one year since 1948. That might give some confidence to former Brave Fred McGriff, who like Dale Murphy, garnered enough votes to stay on the ballot but not nearly enough for induction. McGriff appeared on 23.9 percent of the ballots, up from 17.9 a year ago, while Murphy appeared on only 14.5 percent.
“You feel bad for those guys,” Chipper Jones said Monday. “They were icons of your organization, teammates. It’s really shocking to me that Murphy hasn’t gotten in yet because there for quite a while in the ‘80s, he was the premier player….It was tooth and nail between him and (Mike) Schmidt for a long time for MVP and home run races.”
Murphy has only one year remaining on the writers’ ballot, then his fate will be up to the Veterans Committee, which is now subdivided into the Pre-Integration, Golden and Expansion Era Committees.
Four former Braves eligible for the first time did not receive enough votes to remain on the ballot – Javy Lopez, Brian Jordan, Vinny Castilla and Terry Mulholland.
Larkin made a point to credit Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall, who coached Larkin as an assistant at the University of Michigan, when he was asked to name some of the biggest influences on his career during Monday’s teleconference.
“I remember drawing an imaginary line down the middle of your body and catching the ball in the left side, the glove side of the imaginary line from Danny Hall,” said Larkin, who credited his Michigan coaches with helping him with the fundamentals as well as the mental side of the game.