Get rid of Larkin

Saturday, December 12, 1998

HOT QUOTE
"I'm tired of all his bitching and complaining. Get him the hell out of here."
-- Marty Brennaman on Barry Larkin
Barry Larkin wants out. This time without equivocation.

This time, Larkin isn't blaming his agent. He isn't cowering behind legalistic, semantic distinctions like a certain inhabitant of Pennsylvania Avenue. He isn't insulting our intelligence. This time, the Reds shortstop is speaking in declarative sentences instead of circles.

"If they can trade me," he says, "please do it now."

This represents a significant step forward for the Cincinnati captain, a career politician who has heretofore couched his complaints for maximum obfuscation.

Usually, Larkin has a hard time expressing what's on his mind without weighing the consequences, checking which way the wind is blowing and consulting his thesaurus for euphemistic synonyms. But there is no mistaking his mood at the moment. Larkin is unquestionably bitter and uncharacteristically blunt.

"I've been lied to constantly," Larkin told the Dayton Daily News. "I've heard 'Rebuild, rebuild, rebuild to get better.' If that's the case, I should see some light at the end of the tunnel. All I see is a tunnel filled with water . . .

"I feel as if I'm being held hostage by a team with no immediate plans to be competitive. I'm a pawn in their chess game, or whatever game it is they're playing."

A dead issue? True to form, even as his cranky plea to play somewhere else was being reported, disseminated and debated Friday, Larkin was again waffling. He said - for what seems at least the 10th time - that the possibility of a trade was now a "dead issue," and that he was prepared to honor his contract.

From one day to the next, it's tough to tell where this guy stands. But it's pretty clear now that it's about time he was moved.

Larkin's persistent gripes are counterproductive to club chemistry. His impact on attendance is negligible, and his contributions were insufficient to lift the Reds above fourth place. His $5.3 million salary might be better spent on player development. He will be 35 years old in April, and he may be of little use by the time the Reds reach their new stadium.

Plus, people who are not quite so privileged grow weary of his whining. Barry Larkin should be remembered as the best shortstop the Reds have ever employed, a hometown kid worthy Hall of Fame consideration. Instead, he seems determined to be remembered as a chronically malcontented millionaire.

"I've often questioned Barry's leadership abilities," Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman said Friday. "He leads by example on the field. But as far as I'm concerned, it's pretty much over when the game is over . . .

"I'm tired of all his bitching and complaining. Get him the hell out of here."

Cites Boone trade

Larkin's latest broadside was launched as a belated shot at the five-player trade that cost the Reds second baseman Bret Boone and brought them pitcher Denny Neagle. Larkin's contention is that the team can not be improved by trading one of its best position players, and that Pokey Reese is ill-prepared for a shift to second base.

This is an interesting argument, but it is by no means airtight. First, Larkin seems to assume Boone will replicate his career year and not the two miserable seasons that preceded it.

Second, he appears to place little value on starting pitching, which is only the most indispensable asset in his sport.

Third, Larkin seems to forget the Reds won the 1990 World Series with strong pitching and despite Mariano Duncan at second base. Fourth, where does it say that any player who agrees to a long-term contract is entitled to a change of scene when his team hits a tailspin? Roger Clemens was able to negotiate the right to demand a trade when he went to Toronto, but Barry Larkin has no such leverage.

What he does have is the ability to make a nuisance of himself. It's a good reason to get rid of him.

Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

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