If Barry Larkin ever has a recurring nightmare, it probably involves Dave Parker and Eric Davis walking ominously towards him with baseball bats. As a rookie he was abducted by the pair of outfielders and threatened if he didn’t develop confidence and give 110% on the field. Considering that Parker sometimes played in a face mask reminiscent of Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees, the “words of encouragement” had an added impact.
Larkin got the message. After playing three games at second base, he told his manager he should be playing shortstop and never left that position for the rest of his career. Not originally known for defensive skill, he showed noticeable improvement and became the first NL shortstop in a decade not named Ozzie Smith to take home a Gold Glove award. More advanced metrics back up this assessment, giving him almost a full win above replacement per 162 games played on defense alone.
Larkin is sometimes compared to Derek Jeter, an American League counterpart that began his career one decade behind the Cincinnati shortstop. A good debate about the merits of rate stats versus longevity can be conducted solely on the basis of these two players. Larkin played 19 seasons against Jeter’s 20, but the latter garnered 40% more plate appearances in that span. Larkin beat Jeter on most metrics per game played and was lightyears better on defense, but had difficulty staying healthy later in his career. Health and longevity are valuable assets, giving Jeter his inroad in the argument.
Like Jeter, Larkin put up exceptional stolen base numbers. Larkin swiped 379 bases in his career, 21 more than Jeter. What makes Larkin’s totals so interesting is the quality of that number. These stolen bases came in only 458 attempts, giving him a success rate of 83.1%. This is within sight of Tim Raines’ record 84.7% success rate and establishes Larkin as one of the greatest base thieves of all time.
A Larkin refractor for the cost of a PSA 8-graded common? Yes, please! This refractor is another card in a group of four medium grade stars that I chanced across and quickly added to my set. Centering and a microscopic print dot on the bottom border are its only detractors.