Tag Archives: Jim McLaughlin

Choice Quotes from Dollar Sign on the Muscle.

Don’t want to break any copyright laws, but there is some awesome stuff in this book.

Dollar Sign on the Muscle is a book on scouting, written in 1984. It’s very well-written, it’s got some excellent stories, and Kevin Kerrane, the author, has done an excellent job (as far as I’ve read) on telling the full story, from the gut-feeling scouts to the scientific measurements used to the inexact science

I’m reading Dollar Sign on the Muscle, written ~1981 and there’s some really, really good stuff in this book. It gushed early and was more or less a platform for scouts to tell their stories with a few interesting tidbits. Then around Ch. 3, it started getting really interesting, talking about player make-up and the necessary psychological information, which is HUGELY important, according to scouts. Makes sense.

From Lou Gorman, who worked in Kansas City’s scouting department as the director of player development.

Ewing Kauffman used to say: ‘We have to be more definitive [about scouting]. Scouting has always been just an inexact science.’ Well, it has. And it probably always will be. You can try to make it a science, but it’s really more of an art form.

He said, ‘But why can’t you scout more like football people do? They do all these workups, strength tests, and all that.’ I said, ‘Mr. Kauffman, we can use a Cybex to measure ratios of muscle strength, even get a computer to graph them, but what that spots is physical flaws not physical abilities.’ Look at Ernie Banks. Shit, he was weak. But he could hit the ball as far as anyone in the game. Good hitters depend more on bat speed than strength.

So Kauffman said, ‘You tell me bat speed’s important. All right, let’s get a goddamn machine to measure bat speed.’ I said ‘Bat speed is important, but what’s more important is when the bat speed occurs.’ He said ‘Then we can do reflex tests and eye tests.’ I said ‘Fine, Mr. Kauffman, but there’s so many skills involved here that you’ll never have the machines to isolate them all and tell you everything you need to know. Because so much of baseball is psychological, like lack of fear at the plate.

Jim McLaughlin was a scouting director in the ’60s and ’70s for the Orioles and Reds. He “mapped out the strategies of draft-era scouting” and quoted Shakespeare.

When Fred Hoffman scouted Brooks Robinson, he saw the whole ballplayer. Brooks was just an average runner, he didn’t have a great arm, his frame was still kind of frail, his hitting was still a question mark, and he was playing at second base. But Fred visualized him as a third baseman. He said, ‘This boy’s quick even though he’s not fast, and he’s gonna be just like a vacuum cleaner in the infield. Fred saw the soft hands, the live body, the great reflexes that allow you to project hitters. He was able to see the masterpiece in its entirety. Not just the total coordination in that body, but the total coordination in that person–beyond what could be seen with the eye.

The book talks about “the good face,” which is a quality some scouts use to describe a player who has the kindly, Je-ne-sais-quoi in him that just screams “he’s gonna be in the pros some day.” McLaughlin continues:

I used to hear scouts talk about ‘the good face’–as if they could tell about a kid’s makeup just by looking at him, instead of taking the trouble to get to know him, or studying the results of a psychological test. I used to hear those ‘good face’ stories and they’d drive me up the wall. Scouts can be so damn unscientific! At one time, it was the conventional wisdom that a black kid couldn’t become a successful big-league pitcher, because he wouldn’t have any guts when he walked out to the mound, because he’d be only sixty feet, six inches from home plate. There was no basis for that. It was just prejudice–or fantasy, or myth, whatever you want to call it. I was the scouting director and I had to listen to this bullshit.

More later.


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