With March Madness in full effect, we are holding Cincinnati Reds Madness. Leading up until Opening Day, Blog Red Machine will post matchups of all-time greats and let you, the readers, decide who is the greatest Reds player of all-time.
Our first-round matchup is a battle of former MVPs. The No. 4 seed, Barry Larkin, goes head-to-head with the No. 5 seed, Frank Robinson. The two Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famers each won an MVP during their illustrious careers. Robinson took home the trophy in 1961 and Larkin in 1995.
Barry Larkin’s Cincinnati Reds career is extremely impressive. The Cincinnati-native and Moeller High School grad spent 19 years playing for his childhood team, giving him a special connection to the club.
Larkin was an important part of the 1990 World Series championship team that went wire to wire. Larkin swiped 30 bags and had a .301 average, earning him a Silver Slugger and a couple MVP votes that season. His status as a Cincinnati Reds great lies in his legacy with this team.
Although he was never much of a power hitter, Barry Larkin recorded the Reds’ first ever 30/30 season in 1996 with 33 home runs and 36 stolen bases. The previous season, Larkin won the National League MVP award after leading the Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Even with a season shortened due to injury, he was still one of the best players in the league that year.
Frank Robinson only spent half of his 21-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, but made his mark in the Queen City. His career .554 slugging percentage with the Reds is a franchise record and his .943 OPS is first among non-active players (Joey Votto is the franchise leader with .957).
Robinson was a power hitter and one of the best. In his 10 years with the Reds, he hit 324 home runs, just over half of his career 586. He led the league in both slugging and OPS in 1960, 1961, and 1962, winning the MVP in 1961. It was the first of Robinson’s two MVPs. The other one came in 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles, making him the first player in MLB history to win an MVP in both leagues.
Since Robinson played in the 1960s, he was around before the League Championship Series. His only postseason experience with Cincinnati was the 1961 World Series, when the New York Yankees defeated the Reds in five games. Despite having better numbers with the Cincinnati Reds, Robinson won two World Series titles in Baltimore.