Friday, July 11, 2008

Dave Concepcion And Barry Larkin Are Mammals!

The more I read the Kansas City Star's Joe Posnanski, the more I think he's the written version of Marty Brennaman - i.e., insanely loyal local fan base, well-known nationally but not on the level he deserves.

I've only been reading Posnanski for about a year now, and it's not been on a regular basis; it's usually when Rob Neyer links to him (which is often).

Neyer linked to Posnanski again this morning and I took the bait. The topic: Dave Concepcion's case for the Hall of Fame, and how it favorably compares to Omar Vizquel's eventual case. (Note: Posnaski is working on a book about the Big Red Machine.)

Two important things before moving forward:

1. I don't care about the Big Red Machine. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it went down in my fair city, but it happened before my parents decided a fifth child was a good idea--I was negative five-years-old when Fisk hit the home run--therefore it's nothing but a bunch of old war stories. Okay, maybe that's a little harsh - I enjoy some of those old war stories, particularly the ones told by Brennaman or Pete Rose. But again, I didn't experience I'm either jealous or bored. Perhaps both. Whatever it is, I don't really care. Which means that every time I hear Marty Brennaman clamoring for Dave Concepcion to make the Hall of Fame, I'm indifferent. I'd like to see him make it (the Cincinnati thing), but I didn't see him play. I have no opinion.

2. I love Barry Larkin more than you loved your first car and first girlfriend combined. Multiplied by infinity.

Within Posnanski's post--which is probably riveting (or whatever) for those who remain obsessed with the Big Red Machine--he brings up Larkin's name quite a bit. He even considers Larkin to be a "slam dunk, first ballot guy," which is something I think about far too often. I can't tell you how upset I get at the thought of Larkin never making the Hall of Fame, much less on the first ballot.

But anyway, Larkin...why is he forgotten? Why am I the only person in Cincinnati who remains outraged by the way the organization handled his retirement? The guy might be a Hall of Famer...he's unquestionably the best shortstop in Reds history...he's a Cincinnati kid, born and raised...and it's not like he played in the 1890's - he was patrolling the area between second and third as recently as 2004! So why does it go unnoticed when the great Barry Larkin comes to town as a member of the Washington Nationals' organization? (And no, it doesn't count when George Grande mentions Larkin's return in the same breath as Jim Bowden and Wily Mo Pena). Shouldn't we be celebrating the guy? It's not like Reds fans have had much to cheer for in the last fifteen years.

Facts: Bill James ranks Larkin as the sixth best shortstop, and the ninth most complete player of all time. Read that again. SIXTH! NINTH! IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL! Are you smarter than Bill James?

(Note: Not only are Posnanski and James firmly in Larkin's corner, but Jayson Stark wrote at length about Larkin in The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History, so maybe I worry too much about Larkin's legacy. But anyway...)

Barry Larkin was a fixture with the Reds for almost two decades, and fans don't remember him the way supporters of a small-to-mid market franchise should. Why? Is it because he removed his captain C for a brief moment after Lenny Harris was traded in '98? That can't be the reason, can it? I'll assume it's not race-related, although a fundamentally perfect player like Larkin is the wet dream of the I Heart Ryan Freel Fan Club.

I need answers, dammit!

Venting session is over.

One last thing: Back in winter, just as I was returning from Vegas, and right about the time the Mitchell Report was released, Craig and I podcasted a little about both. One of our recordings never made it to "air." Because of everything you just read, I decided to put it on the podcast archive page - and now you can listen to it! It's less than two minutes long and it's appropriately titled barry larkin might cure cancer. It was about Craig Biggio, and how I hoped his name was mentioned in the Mitchell Report. The reason: Because I am a psycho who somehow compares Biggio and Larkin, even though they played different positions. I always considered Biggio overrated but still pretty great, just not as brilliant as Larkin.

As stated earlier, I love Barry Larkin more than you loved your first car and first girlfriend combined.

-Brad Spieser (


daniel said...

I understand how important barry larkin was to the reds. i enjoyed watching him play, but he isn't in the same discussion as biggio. Biggio has 700 more hits, 100 more home runs, drove in 200 more runs, and was a better defensive player. He went from catcher to 2nd base to outfield. They both played about the same amount of years and biggio came out with better numbers. Also, look at how tough of a player he was. Larkin was hurt alot in his career, just look at the games played in every season. Biggio played through alot and was more durable. Now when you talk about the importance to their team, i think that larkin is right up there with biggio. Also, most of biggio's career was played in the astrodome, not minute maid park.

Twin Killing dot Com said...

I'll get to this in a minute

daniel said...

and...i wanna know your take on the brett favre situation

Twin Killing dot Com said...

"Isn't in the same discussion as Biggio" silly.

As stated, Biggio was great. I just felt he was a little overrated during his career. Wheteher that's true or not isn't really the issue. Who's better, Larkin or Biggio...that's the issue.

Biggio has a few things going for him - more hits, remarkable versatility at important defensive positions and ability to stay healthy.

But that's about it.

And before I tackle the offensive numbers, let's get something out of the way: Larkin was the better defensive player, regardless of a 4-to-3 edge in Gold Gloves. Larkin was robbed of a few Gold Gloves by an aging Ozzie Smith while Biggio stole Gold Gloves from Bret Boone and Pokey Reese because we has far superior offensively.

Anyway, here goes nothing...

Larkin won the 95 MVP; Biggio's best finish was fourth.

Larkin was the first shortstop in history to go 30-30; Biggio never really threatened a season with both - by the time Enron/Minute Maid gift wrapped him a 26 HR season he had lost his base-stealing prowess (11 SB that year).

Barry Larkin was an established All Star on a World Series champion; Biggio's Astros were swept in their only World Series.

Larkin was a career .338 hitter in the postseason; Biggio, .234

Larkin, nine silver sluggers; Biggio, five. Just saying.

Both were highly prductive (and intelligent) base stealers - Biggio stole 35 more bases than Larkin, but Larkin swiped bags at an 83% clip, while Biggio finished with a 76% rate.

Both had two full seasons of .900 OPS (Larkin in '96 and '98, Biggio in '97 and '98)...BUT...Larkin had his '97 season cut short and it's not ridiculous to assume he would have thrown up another .900 season (he ended with an OPS of .913 in 73 games)

(Putting things in persective: Believe it or not, current All Star and former MVP Miguel Tejada, the man who has a 34 HR, 150 RBI on his baseball card, has never had a .900 OPS season.)

Larkin played in 12 All Star games; Biggio, 7. Important note: Only five times did Larkin win the popularity contest to start the game, which means smart people knew the truth and added him to the roster as a reserve - Biggio started in four of his seven games.

Larkin finished his stellar career with a better OPS (and, predictably, OPS+) than Biggio. Ditto for batting average (.295 to .281). Plus, he played a more important position on the field.

Do you still think Craig Biggio was a better player than Barry Larkin?

This was fun.


Chris Wesseling said...

Nice response.

The idea that Biggio was a better defensive player than Larkin is laughable . . . and there should be no doubt that Larkin was a better all-around player, a far better post-season player, and a more decorated player. Barry Larkin was a winner and possibly the most fundamentally perfect baseball player you will ever lay your eyes on.

Biggio obviously has him on health, longevity, and counting stats. And whoever it was that wanted to punish Biggio for playing in Minute Maid Park is a dolt . . . as daniel pointed out: he played most of his career in the best pitcher's park of the modern era.

daniel said...

look...i a second everything you say about larkin being important to his team and being a winner. but the stats you threw back, didnt mean much. Justin Morneau won an mvp. the mvps, how many more all star games, and silver slugger awards are all for the media to eat up. It doesnt make one athlete better than another. And alot of your stats just showed that they were either equal or a little better, so my statement that they weren't in the same discussion was a little strong. But biggio is better. You point out that biggio had way more hits, his defensive ability, he had way more doubles and runs scored. He had better numbers...period. But we are both bias. I live 45 minutes away from houston, you reside near the reds. i'll leave it at this...i love them both. I just gotta hope that it never comes out that biggio reached in bagwell's bag a few times to enhance his performance