NEW YORK — Barry Larkin wants to keep baseball's most exclusive club clean.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer after a 19-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, Larkin told The Associated Press in a phone interview Wednesday that players who cheat shouldn't receive baseball's highest individual honor.
"I think if you cheated, no, you don't deserve it because I know how difficult it was for me to get there and how difficult it was for me just to compete on an everyday basis," Larkin said. "I think if you cheated I think you made a decision and I don't think you belong."
Larkin was in New York to sign items that will be auctioned off as part of Steiner Sports' 25th anniversary. All the proceeds of the online auction will go to charities that are supporting families affected by Superstorm Sandy.
The 1995 NL MVP was speaking about a month ahead of the voting results for next year's Hall class. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are all up for selection for the first time.
Ultimately, Larkin thinks the players who used performance enhancers will be kept out of Cooperstown just as Pete Rose has been denied admission because he is banned for life for gambling on the sport.
"I look at what has happened with Pete Rose. Pete Rose is not a Hall of Fame player, banned from baseball. But if you go up to the Hall of Fame all of his records, his bats, everything in is represented in the Hall of Fame – 4,256 (hits)," Larkin said. "I see a very similar thing happening with guys that are associated with or been accused of using steroids. I think they will recognize their accomplishments but I don't think those players will be admitted to the Hall of Fame."
Larkin spent nearly his entire career playing in the Steroids Era. And he doesn't want to jump to conclusions about the stars he played against. The three-time Gold Glove shortstop would like to see baseball offer definitive guidance on who has done performance enhancers and who has not before admonishing them.
"There can't be this hearsay. If you can prove it, then that's what it is," said Larkin, who will manage Brazil in March's World Baseball Classic. "If you can't prove it you're innocent until proven guilty."
These days, the 12-time All-Star discusses the dangers of steroid use with many of the young players he helps support through his Barry Larkin Charitable Foundation.
With a team in New Jersey, the Jersey City Reds, and two more on the way, one in Orlando – where he currently lives – and another in his hometown of Cincinnati, Larkin has ample opportunity to dissuade young athletes from using illegal substances.
"We talk about not cheating, we talk about shortcuts," Larkin said. "These kids are impressionable. They're very aware."