By my lights, Barry Larkin ranks among the 10 greatest shortstops who have ever played. Or if not one of the 10 greatest, then one of the dozen greatest. Either way, it seems a good qualification for Cooperstown. The question isn't why Barry Larkin's getting inducted into the Hall of Fame; the question is why it didn't happen two years ago. In 2010, Larkin was named on just 52 percent of the BBWAA voters' ballots. That figure jumped to 62 percent in 2011, then skyrocketed to 86 percent -- clearing the 75-percent bar with ease -- this year.
Hey, better late than never. Just ask Ron Santo.
Oh. Right. Sorry. I meant, just ask Ron Santo's family. Because they're still alive.
Sunday's going to be a good day, though. For Ron Santo's family. For Barry Larkin and his family. And for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is adding a couple of richly deserving members in Santo and Larkin.
Santo's qualifications have been discussed for some decades now. Larkin, as I mentioned, ranks among the dozen or so best shortstops ever. Larkin was a 12-time All-Star, a solid defensive shortstop, an excellent baserunner, and a lifetime .295 hitter who had mid-range power and finished his career with more walks than strikeouts. He played until he was 40, and the only negative thing you can say about Barry Larkin is that he wasn't particularly durable, playing more than 140 games in only six of his 19 seasons in the majors.
That last is merely a quibble, though. Larkin's solid. And it's a good thing he made it, because otherwise there wouldn't have been a single new Hall of Famer who could speak for himself.
Then again, Cooperstown's City Fathers might find themselves wishing, a year from now, that the voters would have held off some before electing Larkin. Because a year from now, there might be tumbleweeds rolling down the Village's streets.
The top holdovers -- purely in terms of past support -- will be Jack Morris (67 percent), Jeff Bagwell (56) and Lee Smith (51). But the first-timers next year are going muddy things up real good. In order of Wins Above Replacement, that list includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and Sammy Sosa.*
* Also Kenny Lofton, though he's likely to be ignored by the vast majority of the voters.
Among those five players, only Biggio and Schilling have been untouched by public allegations of steroid use. And considering that Biggio did clear 3,000 hits and Schilling did accomplish some amazing feats, it's possible that one or both will be elected next year.
It's also possible that neither will be elected. And that nobody else will be, either. With all those fellows on the ballot, it's going to be difficult for one or two fellows to garner support from 75 percent of the voters.
Oh, and the next year? In 2014, whoever doesn't make it in 2013 will be joined by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, and Frank Thomas. Oh, plus Jeff Kent (who's going to draw some support). Maddux will almost certainly be elected, even with all those other candidates. You might assume that Glavine's a lock, too. But he wouldn't be the first 300-game winner who had to wait a few years.
Anyway, there are a lot of players who probably deserve to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame next summer. But to this observer, it sure looks like it will be Biggio or bust. Now, all the City Fathers can do is hope, and pray.