- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Bison Books (February 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080327789X
- ISBN-13: 978-0803277892
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 37 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,091,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting Paperback – February 1, 1999
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First published in 1984, this book on scouting was out of print for about 20 years. A number of baseball writers have referred to it as "a great baseball book" or "just about my favorite book ever," so I was pleased when Baseball Prospectus worked to have it republished in the fall of 2013. It's awful. The writing is terrible and the insights are not insightful. I'll break it down:
1) My biggest complaint is that it is horribly written. While I appreciate the time that Mr. Kerrane put into talking to scouts and observing the Phillies 1981 draft, the book is extremely difficult to get through. Mr. Kerrane is clearly enamored with many of the scouts and their stories, so he devotes page after page to quoting stories verbatim. These stories last anywhere from two to seven straight pages. One story often bleeds into the next, despite the fact that they are told by different individuals. It's often difficult to figure out who is speaking.
2) Even for the early 1980s, the scouts' views are often retrograde. Ellis Clary goes on a rant about how much money the MLB players are making in 1981 (page 184).
3) In a eulogy for a scout that was printed supposedly verbatim, Clary rambles for seven pages about the history of scouting and the problems of the modern game. He spends very little time on the man who is being buried. Deep into his rant, he complains about a current black player who doesn't know who Lou Boudreau was: "That monkey didn't know who Lou Boudreau was." (189). The use of the word "monkey" to refer to black players appears many times in the book. At no time does Mr. Kerrane attempt to correct the scouts or even make a ham-handed apology for them in the text (citing their age, lack of education, ignorance and limited world views). This was not published in 1850 or 1881, but in 1984. In neither the preface nor afterword of this reprint (2013!) is the racist language of the scouts addressed.
4) Atley Donald: "I'm not a union man and I think the players are flat-out greedy. I'm with the owners all the way. They have development costs you don't find in any other business. Look at all the minor-leaguers who never pan out." (191) While Mr. Donald is entitled to his views, it is hard to listen to him pontificate about sports economics. Additionally, this is a book about the expert insights of scouts that have spent decades in baseball and are supposed to have some special wisdom. Over and over, it becomes evident that they do not.
5) "But Chandler, like 90 percent of the scouts I interviewed, opposed the players and rooted for the owners to reestablish firm control." (194). Kerrane attributes it to a mixture of jealousy and being company men, and, much to his credit, states that he thinks they are wrong.
6) The scouts talk over and over about "the good face" (233). Many of them are like the caricatures of the worse/most foolish scouts in the "Moneyball" movie.
7) From a rambling scout that is quoted for pages (and is difficult to figure out who he is): "The players are ruining their own game, but they're too dumb to see it. I think they won the strike, don't you? But sooner or later that pyramid's gonna topple over." (251). This book full of quotes by men who are the baseball equivalent of conspiracy theorists who walk around holding up signs such as "The End is Near."
8) From a scout that was angry that HS players turned down bonus offers to go to college instead: "It wasn't the money. None of those shortstops said, "I want more money." I think they were just afraid to go out, didn't want to leave the nest and deal with the cruel world. They turned out to be meek" (263). Right - anyone who doesn't sign with the club that drafted them has deep characterological flaws and is a scared little boy who lacks maturity. Again...it's brutal reading a 300+ page book that espouses the wisdom of these people.
1) The parts on Branch Rickey and how he scouted and trained other scouts was excellent. I have not come across other books that give that much detail on Rickey's scouting ability.
2) The story of Harold Baines.
3) The epilogue from 2013 is Mr. Kerrane's best part of writing. He interviews a few interesting people (Eddie Epstein) that are smart, worldly and competent.
The good is massively outweighed by the bad. This is an awful book and one of the most overrated ones I have ever come across. Pass.