Granillo: Asking about first-ballot Hall of Famers

From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Nation on December 5, 2013:

Readers of the Chicago Tribune were given a poll question this week:

Greg Maddux should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. What about Frank Thomas?”

Those of us who follow the the annual debates over the Baseball Hall of Fame know that question all too well: “Is so-and-so a first-ballot Hall of Famer?” It’s a question with a very specific subtext. A “first-ballot Hall of Famer” isn’t just another baseball star who made it to Cooperstown. He’s a baseball legend. Other Hall of Famers look up to him.

Take a look at the names of some first-ballot Hall of Famers. In the last 30 years, the 26 first-ballot Hall of Famers have ranged from Brooks Robinson to Rickey Henderson, including Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, and Cal Ripken. (Only Kirby Puckett and Dennis Eckersley seem to be outliers, and each has his own special set of circumstances.)

Meanwhile, the 22 Hall of Famers who have been elected after their first try in the same period include Juan Marichal, Carlton Fisk, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and Barry Larkin.

Both lists are filled with legitimate Hall of Famers, but there’s a clear line between the legends of the former — many like to call it baseball’s “inner circle” — and the merely “great” of the latter.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: December 5, 2013. Last Updated: December 5, 2013.