With apologies to Zack Cozart, who is a stellar defender in the middle of the infield, shortstop has become an offensive black hole for the Cincinnati Reds as they head to Spring Training in just 11 short days. In the days of the Big Red Machine, Davey Concepcion held his own at the plate, and, a decade later, the position became a run-scoring strongpoint. That development came courtesy of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, Number 11 on our Countdown Team.
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Larkin was a superstar in High School, at nearby Moeller, and in college, at the University of Michigan. He might have crafted an NBA career, but he decided to stick with the diamond after the Reds drafted him in the first round (4th overall pick) in 1985. Larkin was in the Major Leagues a year later and would become a staple in Cincinnati for nearly two decades.
Part of a youth movement that began maturing in the mid-1980s and helped the Reds reel off a string of second-place finishes before winning the World Series in 1990, Larkin was an All-Star by his third season and in MVP discussions as early as 1990. Along the way, he showed that he could hit for average and a touch of power, steal bases, take a walk and field the shortstop position with the best of them.
In 1994, Larkin won the first of three straight Gold Gloves, and, in1995, he took home National League MVP honors for leading a Reds team that was among the best in the game during a strike-shortened campaign.
The one drawback to Larkin’s game was that he was relatively fragile, rarely playing more than 150 games in a season (just four times) and frequently visiting the disabled list. Nevertheless, he was able to play enough to accumulate 2340 hits, 379 stolen bases, 198 home runs, 1329 runs and 939 RBI.
For his stellar production and as the heart of several good-to-great Reds teams, Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012.