Let me start with this: Barry Larkin is my favorite player of all-time.

For some time now, Redleg Nation has urged the Reds to “Bring Barry Back” to Cincinnati. Today, the Enquirer picks up the drumbeat:

Barry Larkin is here, but only for the day, which is too bad. His deal with the Washington Nationals, as a special assistant to general manager Jim Bowden, expires at the end of this year. Larkin should be back with the Reds in 2009, in whatever capacity he desires. Larkin lives in Orlando but remains of Cincinnati, in ways having nothing to do with roots. He owns a Cincinnatian’s humility, workmanlike sensibility and aversion to bright lights.

Indeed. Before tonight’s game, the Reds are going to induct Larkin — along with Cesar Geronimo, Joey Jay, and Garry Herrmann — into the Reds Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor for all these gentlemen, and well-deserved.

Larkin, however, will be eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame very soon. It’s my position that he should be a no-question first-ballot Hall of Famer.

You will recall that America’s Best Sportswriter Joe Posnanski recently wrote about Davey Concepcion’s Hall of Fame credentials. Well, he’s done the same now with Larkin. His conclusion:

In my book the guy’s a Hall of Famer for sure. He was a Gold Glove shortstop, he had a 116 OPS+, he won an MVP award and he was better the next year. He stole a lot of bases, won nine Silver Sluggers, won a Clemente and Gehrig award, and while I don’t think All Star Games are the end all … he did play in 12 of them. That’s pretty remarkable … only three shortstops have played in more (Cal Ripken, Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio — Ernie Banks played in more too but not as a shortstop)….

Plus, Larkin is a guy whose advanced stats show that he was even better than that. His 271 runs created above average (I would prefer using base runs here but I don’t have access to those) is fifth all time among shortstops. And his 488 runs created above position — that is runs created vs. other shortstops of his time — actually ranks THIRD all time behind only Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughn. And his lifetime .291 EqA (is better than Cal Ripken’s (.283), way better than Ozzie Smith (.261), way, way, way better than Luis Aparicio (.244), better than Phil Rizzuto (.259) or Pee Wee Reese (.271) or even Ernie Banks (.286). It’s also better than Alan Trammell (.282), my pet Hall of Fame candidate.

His fielding stats are also excellent — he had 101 career defensive Win Shares.

So, from my vantage point he should be a sure thing.

I’m afraid Larkin is going to have some initial difficulty with the voting, but as the numbers above indicate, he shouldn’t. He’s one of the greatest shortstops that ever lived, and he needs to be back with his organization — the Cincinnati Reds.

Pay attention, Mr. Castellini: Bring Barry Larkin back to Cincinnati!