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How many scouts actually played pro ball?

Jan 9, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

the scout

Here’s an interesting column from Conor Glassey over at Baseball Prospectus: he looks into how many baseball scouts actually played professional baseball.

I had no idea. If you had asked me before I read the story I might have said, oh, I dunno, 75%. On the basis that who is better to recognize a good pitch or a good hitting approach than someone who actually had one or was at least trained to have one. But the number is not 75% — go read the story to see the real number — and the number varies greatly depending on which organization’s scouts you look at too, which Conor breaks down.

A good takeaway comes here:

It all comes down to judging talent, regardless of your background . . . Most of the famous music executives didn’t have successful careers as musicians. That’s true for John Hammond, a talent scout with Columbia Records, who is credited with discovering and/or signing Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billie Holliday, Leonard Cohen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others. Lorne Michaels wasn’t a famous comedian, but as the creator of Saturday Night Live he has put his stamp of approval on a huge percentage of the people responsible for laughs you’ve likely enjoyed over the years.

Scouting works the same way.

I think that applies to baseball analysis and broadcasting too. Yet, for some reason, “you never played the game” is a pretty common retort from players who just got criticized and the single best predictor of who shows up as a talking head on ESPN, MLB Network, Fox and ESPN is whether or not they were a big leaguer.

Oh well.

  1. frankgarrett - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    How many writers on this website actually know what they’re talking about ?

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 7:49 PM

      Everyone on HBT and no one on PFT.

      As to the readers – 100% of the readers are smarter and more comprehending than you.

  2. tfbuckfutter - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    I love the notion that you have to physically do something to be able to mentally understand it better than someone with the physical capabilities to do it.

    “Pff, why’s this robot-voiced guy in a wheelchair telling us about space? He couldn’t even go to space if he wanted to. Like NASA has handicapped space shuttles. Get out of here you nerd.”

    • 18thstreet - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Get this: Harry Truman signed off on the Berlin Airlift EVEN THOUGH HE COULDN’T FLY A PLANE! Hypocrite.

  3. pizzadawg - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Oh wow

    The Scout is available on Blu Ray?

    • nategearhart - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      I was JUST thinking “I can’t get Toy Soldiers in widescreen on DVD, but The Scout is available on Blu Ray?!”

      • grumpyoleman - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        Will this Blu Ray thing fix my VCR from flashing 12:00 all the time?

  4. tfbuckfutter - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Oh someone’s too fancy for VHS.

    Or may I suggest this DVD copy of Boy Soldiers?

    • tfbuckfutter - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      Well damn….

      That neither appeared as a reply OR as just simple links.

      Sorry everyone.

  5. dw3dw - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Interesting story. I always assumed there were more scouts working in each organization than these numbers show.

  6. moogro - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    The words people have to say in that “Scout” script are problematic.

  7. dinofrank60 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    First ,this war will never end, it seems.
    Second, I think college experience counts for something. Guys can know the game without having to play at AA.
    Third, it’s been decades since I paid attention to SNL. Is it still funny?

  8. anxovies - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    And don’t forget that John Hammond, in addition to discovering the likes of Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, et. al, produced a son who is also named John Hammond and who is one of the great blues guitarists.

    • pizzadawg - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      He also cloned dinosaurs in a negligent attempt at opening a theme park

      • crackersnap - Jan 10, 2014 at 1:26 AM

        But give him credit. He spared no expense!

  9. Maxa - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    I suspect that the conceit persists because a large portion of people have played sports (if not professionally). No one would suggest that one must have experience making films to be a film critic, or have served in office to write political commentary, because there are so few filmmakers and politicians that that standard is obviously absurd. By contrast, most of the people in these discussions have played sports at one level or another, and so it’s easier for them to see themselves as insiders and to discredit putative outsiders.

  10. bennoj - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    David Lander (Squiggy on Lavern & Shirley) has scouted for the Angels and Mariners. Not sure if he still does as he was diagnosed with MS in 1999.

  11. skipcastaneda - Jan 9, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    About twenty years ago when I was in college I tried to get into scouting. I would talk to the scouts at local college games and ask if the needed help (a bird dog scout). I was always told no. After hearing no so many times, I gave up. It’s a hard business to get into, reliant on the Buddy System. “Hey buddy, I need a job.” You have to know the right people to get into scouting.

  12. jdillydawg - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Ok, so I’m managing a Little League team and we’ve spent a couple weekends already evaluating talent before the draft in a few days. Based on 3 fly balls, 3 ground balls, 5 swings and a run around the bases, I get to see if I can pick who I think the best 12 are.

    Honestly, I don’t even remember half of them and the scores I wrote on the sheet all blend together now. I iasked a guy who’s been doing this for 4 years how he did it and he says, “You know, I usually don’t know who I drafted until they show up the first day of practice and I think – ‘oh, I remember that kid!”

    Maybe it never changes. I mean if Clint Eastwood’s daughter can find the next Clayton Kershaw simply by hearing the sound the ball makes when it hits his little brother’s glove, then really, how hard can recruiting be?

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