Saturday, September 27, 2003

C is for Captain

Barry Larkin: Allen's insult

Forget the money. Forget the injuries. Remember the class.

Barry Larkin's on-the-field accomplishments should be good enough to earn him a spot in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame after he retires: eight All-Star games, League MVP, World Series champion. During his 18-year career with the Reds Larkin never embarrassed the organization or himself. He was respected by his teammates for his work ethic and class.

But ultimately major league baseball is a business, and Larkin's finish with the team was a business decision.

Which makes the insult served up by Reds Chief Operating Officer John Allen last week all the more baffling.

During negotiations, Allen reportedly asked Larkin's agent, Eric Goldshmidt, whether Larkin needed to remain team captain, saying he never understood what being team captain meant.

Talk about a slap in the face. If Allen was serious, the question is a clear indicator that he doesn't know much about his business. If the question was the gratuitous show of disrespect that it sounded like, then Allen made the mistake of getting personal when he should have stuck to business.

Larkin is a good guy. He showed his generous nature this week, even as his days with the Reds were numbered.

He gave Reds clubhouse manager Rick Stowe a $37,630 Mercedes-Benz C320 convertible just for doing his job well. The gift was a surprise to Stowe. "It knocked my socks off," he told the Enquirer. "I was speechless."

Said Larkin: "For 17 years, this guy has done everything I asked him, for nothing in return." It's nice to know you are appreciated and have something to show for it.

Larkin rejected a $500,000 contract offer this week. But it wasn't about the money. Larkin is a very wealthy man and doesn't need the cash. It was more about respect, loyalty and the Reds' refusal to see Larkin as part of the team's future, both on the field and in the front office.

Considering that Larkin has spent his entire baseball life with the Reds, it's possible he could have helped the team's return to glory with his knowledge of the game. No one is saying he could have been general manager tomorrow, but what's wrong with training Larkin on the business side and slowly making him into an executive?

Larkin said he hasn't shut the door on returning to the Reds, but it now looks as though he will leave the team without much fanfare and probably play somewhere else next year. The Reds' season ends Sunday against a Montreal Expos team led by Frank Robinson, another great Red, who went on to find fame and management opportunities elsewhere. It's ironic how history repeats itself. And that's a shame.

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