Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'First-Ballot' Hall of Famers

With the Hall of Fame elections to be released tomorrow, the faux-controversy over players being left out in their first year of eligibility should begin anew. As long as the media refers to players as 'first-ballot' hall of famers, and continues to hold those who are elected in their first year of eligibility in higher esteem, HOF voters should continue their practice. This isn't a matter of crusty old-media writers holding out retired players because they can, they are succeeding in creating a special level of HOF member.

Only 39 of the 232 players in the HOF were elected on their first ballot. If you look at this website: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/hof/hofstat.shtml, you'll notice that it's a pretty good list. No one on there is iffy. These are all First-Ballot Hall of Famers.

The baseball HOF is a topic of discussion here in Houston with Jeff Bagwell on the ballot for the first time. He would be the Astros first HOF member after 50 years as a franchise. Many here have said he would be a first-ballot electee if he weren't connected to the steroid era. I disagree. Was his career more Lou Gehrig or Tony Perez? Maybe that's a bit harsh, but his playing days didn't scream 'first-ballot'.

I doubt players care much if they make it on their first or second try. Current players have come up in this era of first-ballot selectivity. This article about Bagwell mentions that he doubts he'll make it on the first-ballot, and it doesn't sound like he cares too much.

Baseball writers will continue to weigh first-ballot status when voting on players. Media members outside the BBWAA will continue to complain, while referring to some current player as a 'first-ballot' hall of famer. Player's careers don't change in that extra year after they retire, but their places in history do.

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