People talk about the Baseball Hall of Fame like it is one stable and uniform place. It is not. Oh, sure, you will hear people say all the time: "Oh, that guy's not a Hall of Famer," or "The Hall of Fame is incomplete without this guy."
But the truth is … the Hall of Fame is a total mystery. It has shifted and varied, adjusted and revised so many times through the years that you can back up pretty much any argument you want by simply using the people who are already there. Tom Yawkey is in the Hall of Fame. Candy Cummings is in the Hall of Fame. George Kelly is in the Hall of Fame. Al Lopez is in the Hall of Fame. Effa Manley is in the Hall of Fame. Jesse Haines is in the Hall of Fame. Bruce Sutter is in the Hall of Fame.
I'm pretty sure you could use those seven to make a compelling case for your favorite good player, whoever he is.
But there is a "Hall of Fame" standard that people reach for … the best of the very best. On my blog I broke down the Hall of Fame into several groups -- Contributors, Negro Leaguers, Old Timers, the Players Who Struggled to Get In and so on. And after all of that I was left with what I think you can call the Inner Circle of the Hall of Fame. These are the 32 players who were elected first ballot with at least 86 percent of the vote.*