Did HOF fix its 'unwieldy' process with new criteria?

RSS

For a game that lives and dies with its numbers – be they on scorecards, points lists or world rankings – this one doesn’t add up.

The new selection process for the World Golf Hall of Fame, Hall chief operating officer Jack Peter explained on Sunday at Bay Hill, was the byproduct of a system that had become too “unwieldy.”

“We looked at this deep and we looked at this wide and we looked at this from a variety of different angles,” Peter explained. “And we came to the conclusion that as the landscape of media coverage continues to evolve and change around the world, we felt that the current voting body of almost 300 people was beginning to get a bit unwieldy.”

As a result, a system that had included some 300 voices, many of whom were media types but also included members of the Hall of Fame and various golf administrators, has been whittled to a commission of 16.

Full disclosure, while we lament the loss of the golf writer’s voice in the selection process, this is not personal. Your scribe has never had a Hall of Fame vote, only an interest in the institution and the incongruities in Peter’s explanation.

The new 16-member commission – which includes Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez, as well as three golf writers – is the Hall’s answer to that “unwieldy” balloting process.

Lost in this explanation, however, are the facts.

While golf’s Hall seems to struggle with the simple math of an up-or-down vote from 300 selectors, the Baseball Hall of Fame – arguably the benchmark for all sport’s Halls – seamlessly manages nearly twice as many votes.

For the 2014 Hall of Fame class bound for enshrinement, 571 votes were cast and Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were granted entry into Cooperstown, N.Y. It’s difficult to argue with those results or the math.

“There would be people who argue that the baseball writers aren’t as inclusive as they should be, like radio and TV announcers are not included. But within the confines of the writers we are very inclusive,” said Joe Posnanski, a columnist for NBCSports.com and a baseball Hall of Fame voting member.

The vote for the annual Heisman Trophy is even more “unwieldy.” In 2013, 928 ballots were cast, including 870 from members of the media, to select Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Heisman officials even added a fan vote to the balloting in 1999.

Pro Football’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, may be the closest model to golf’s new selection process, but it is still more inclusive than what the folks in St. Augustine, Fla., concocted.

For enshrinement into the football Hall, nominees are chosen by a 46-person selection committee comprised of 33 media members and 13 at-large delegates, a group made up mostly of current of Hall of Fame members.

Among the other sweeping changes made to golf’s induction process, the minimum requirements for male players to receive consideration for induction were increased to 15 international victories or two majors or Players Championships.

Davis Love III, a likely candidate for induction when the new commission meets later this year, is as good a reason as any to make the process more inclusive, not less so.

“The LPGA Hall of Fame was so strict. How do you know 20 years from now it might be hard to win 30 tournaments, so putting a number on it is kind of restrictive,” Love said. “That’s why it might be good for 400 people to vote on it because they kind of know who is eligible for the Hall of Fame without putting certain numbers on it.”

Nor does it seem likely the new system, as some have suggested, will help alleviate the politics from the selection process. With such a small sample – an inductee needs 75 percent, or 12 of 16, of the commission’s vote – the likelihood of a “personal” conflict is magnified.

“Those veteran’s committees (for baseball’s Hall of Fame) were about the same size and they turned out to be extremely political,” Posnanski said. “Small panels have tendency to be like that.”

Officials also hope the new system will inspire current Hall of Famers to become more involved in the selection process and by default the induction ceremony, which hasn’t exactly been a must-see event in recent years. Yet the new selection system, which includes just four members of the Hall, limits their voices just as much it does the media.

In a letter sent this week to the 300 or so former voters, Peter explained the new process and thanked everyone for their “support, passion and dedication over the years.”

“Your involvement has been extremely valuable and I sincerely appreciate the time each of you have given to this great institution,” he wrote.

While the letter was well intended, it came off sounding like a pink slip and a numbers game that just doesn’t add up.