I think Hall of Famers should be the best of the best, no brainers. If there can be a lengthy debate with valid points on both sides of the argument, then the guy is not a Hall of Famer. That's not a slight to those who are not in the Hall of Fame. It just should be about greatness, immortality. It's not all about the numbers, though they play into it. It's about how great they were at the time.
When I was growing up, Steve Garvey and Nolan Ryan were my absolute favorite players. Ryan went on to absolute greatness; he was larger than life, mythical, with an over powering fastball, seven no-hitters. Clearly a Hall of Famer.
Garvey was a multiple year all-Star, one of the most popular players of his era, among the league leaders every year in hits and rbi's. One of the cornerstones of a tremendous Dodger team of the 70's and arly 80's. He's not in the Hall of Fame... and I don't think he belongs there. He's definitely better than many guys who are there, but I think being one of the best guys every year for many years isn't quite the same as being the best.
Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton: guys you talk about with reverence and awe. Don Sutton was a very good pitcher, winning 300+ games, but does anyone ever say "I remember that day I saw Sutton pitch...".
Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lefty Grove. Again, no contest. Phil Rizzuto? A nice guy, integral part of many Yankee championships, but again, no Hall of Famer.
I'm also against retiring numbers. Hey, if they guy is memorable enough, the number will speak for itself. Seeing #44 on the basketball court was always a great reminder to me of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Derrick Coleman. Allowing the # to be something coveted by active players, now to me, that is the real honor. I know Syracuse doesn't actually retire the numbers; the ceremony is really more about hanging a jersey with a name on it. I hope they let the numbers be used again in basketball; I know its no longer going to be available in football, and that's a shame.