Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Barry Larkin

He was born in Cincinnati and played his entire Major League Career with The Reds. Arguably, one of the finest shortstops of his era. He became a team leader for his hometown club and helped lead Cincinnati to the 1990 World Series Championship. His 18 Year career ended after, not only capturing that elusive ring, but being named a 12 time All-Star, the 1995 Most Valuable Player and Three Gold Gloves. Barry Larkin was a great player. A legitimate Hall of Fame Candidate--when he becomes eligible in the year 2010. Now, nearly four years after retiring--he's a Special Assistant to Our General Manager. Specifically, one of Larkin's major tasks, is to tutor and mentor Our Franchise Player--Ryan Zimmerman. Barry Larkin is quite the affable man and for two years running--has been kind enough to speak with me, for a few minutes, about Our Number 11.

With that, here we go.

Like last year, I know you are working with Ryan Zimmerman on his foot movement---what does Ryan Zimmerman need to do to bring his game up a notch or two? (SBF)

“Well, I think he just needs to continue working on that foot work. There is no magic pill or secret. He needs to continue to work on everything that made him successful last year. He had a great year last season, despite the errors. Its just a matter of being consistent and continuing to work. One thing about Ryan is that he is not afraid to go out there and put in the time and put in the work. So, I think he will continue to be successful—because he has a professional approach.”

When a player is as talented as Ryan Zimmerman is, how much is God given ability and how much is learned skills? Can you actually quantify that? (SBF)

“A lot of his talent is natural. Everyone has played baseball at some point in their life, maybe—probably. But, when you get up to this high level (The Major Leagues), you have to be able to be consistent in your approach. Then, your results will be fairly consistent. No one is successful on talent alone. He (Zimmerman) works hard and he works hard each and every day. He is very diligent about it and that’s why you see the results that you do. And, you will continue to see those results from him.”

When Ryan had that odd couple of weeks last season—when he appeared to blank out mentally over throwing a ball—is that part of being young--in a funk and having to readjust? (SBF)

“Well, its not just a young person (laughing). I did it late in my career. Everyone has those moments—it just happens—it's one of those things. Those who play the game and understand the game realize how tough it is to play. Every day is a grind, a mental marathon. It’s tough to go out there and be perfect every day. That is not going to happen. The important thing to understand is that you are going to make mistakes. He let that go (he forgot about his mistakes) and finished up strong and became a better player for it.”

Personally—last year you were telling me how The Nationals were slowly becoming "HOME" for you (after playing his entire career with Cincinnati). Are you completely comfortable now? (SBF)

“Yes, I believe so. Someone asked me the other day if I was ready to go back to Cincinnati? And, I asked the question—‘Am I not in Cincinnati now??! (chuckling) We (The Nationals) have so many guys from The Reds Organization over here, from Kearnsy (sic) to Felipe, Jose Rijo—Jim Bowden up top—Bob Boone and now all the Boone Brothers—its just amazing man. I am very comfortable here. And the thing about it is The Front Office people—Stan Kasten, even The Lerners—this is a very laid back and inviting atmosphere. They all make it very easy to come to work. They make it nice. They have not spared any expense. They have made it a very nice situation for the players. The New Stadium is going to be absolutely beautiful. They (Ownership) are spending money on the team. They are re-investing back into the team and building up the farm system. They are doing it the right way. Eventually, we are going to get there and when we get there—we are going to stay there (on top of the standings) for years to come. What is not to like about that?”

You sound just as excited about baseball today, as you did as a player? (SBF)

(Laughing) “Well, the thing about it is that I can stand here and talk about it without having to go out there on the field AND PLAY!! (both of us busting out laughing)”

“You well know, I love the game!! This is home now. It’s all good!"

This is one fun guy. I love Barry Larkin's confidence and especially his expressions. Here is a man that appreciates all that baseball provides in life. Over 20 Years in The Great Game--and still--Mr. Larkin receives great joy from it. And still looks like he could lace up the spikes and go nine innings--even today. Our Washington Nationals are fortunate to have such a tutor for Ryan Zimmerman.


Chuck B. said...


Thanks for the Larkin piece. I really enjoyed it.

Growing up in NoVA a Reds fan until the Nats came, Larkin and Bench were my all-time favorite Reds. He is a Pro and always appeared to be having fun out there just playing a kids game.

SenatorNat said...

I think that we are very fortunate that the Nationals acquired Kasten when the Lerners got the team, and that Kasten saw the value in sustaining Bow-Bow and his entourage, many classy and devoted ex-Reds like Larkin and those Barry ticked-off like Rijo and the Boones.

Then, the two put their sights on Manny Acta, and the three keyed on building the pyramid of success from the ground-up. There is real value in this kind of consistency and continuity and shared values. Listening to Phil Woods interview with Lee MacPhil this AM, it is now obvious that he is trying to do something similar in Crabtown; but, it is a lot easier to instill it when the foundation of a franchise is being layed than thereafter.

The Nationals may not be doing everything perfectly, of course, as Boswell suggests today - the red seats in the bleachers may be very overpriced, and I have been hammering about the iconic baseball in center "disappearing" without explanation, as two related examples - but it is evident that they are united in one common goal - get to the top by building from the ground-up, and staying there for years.

Some may say this is a pipedream, and that they are masking the real aim, which is to return a percentage profit on their investment every year by containing costs rigorously. Indeed, I would surmise that the 2008 payroll will not be double last year's,as some Nats officials had suggested in the off-season as a probability, but only 50% higher, or about $45-48 million. And they have not locked up the face of the franchise - Z-Man - to boot.

But, overriding the Green Eyeshade mindset of Cohen, et al, is the prevailing sense that you only waste time and money with big name signings and investing in The Churn, a la their football counterparts: a view that a perpetual winner has to built the "Atlanta Braves Way." thus, for the foreseeable future, until the Stars appear and mature, they may be able to have their cake (a good team on the rise) and eat it, too (relatively low payroll). I, for one, am drinking the Kasten Kool-Aid, and enjoying it!

And, those red-seats look attractive to me, albeit $27-39. - I shall definitely go to a couple of games out there, for the novelty and perspective and the experience...

If the team hovers around .500 this season, I see season attendance easily breaking 2.5 million, which is probably what the Nats brass is using as their financial mark. Make any kind of a competitive threat to be a Wild-Card, and 2.75 million not out of the question at all. Minimum season attendance if all goes poorly - 2.25 million. Not New York, Boston, LA, or Chicago, certainly: but good enough to keep the Plan intact, I would think...

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

paul said...

Where can you listen to Phil Wood during the week?

Jim said...

I miss Barry Larkin. I'm a homegrown Reds fan, and as I got older I came to the realization of what an amazing career Larkin made for himself, despite the hassles of playing for Cincinnati in the 90s. I'm glad to hear he's still involved in and enjoying the game, thanks for the interview.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article, but being from Cincinnati myself it is so weird to see Barry in a National's jersey. It was terrible the way the Red's handled the end of Barry's career. Hopefully this weekend's induction is a step in the right direction by the new management to start mending that.

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering how many seasons will Barry Larkin be helping out? I went to Nats Spring Training for the last few years. I exited the gift shop and I saw Barry Larkin standing right in front of me. I was very excited and he was kind enough to sign an autograph for me.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Larkin is no longer with The Nationals. His contract was up and he declined the opportunity to become first base coach for 2009 or other more defined duties within the team. He said he wanted to be more with his family. Barry just recently took an analyst position for the new MLB Baseball Network. I will miss him. I thought he was a good addition to the franchise. Thanks.