icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

The Return of Kerrane's "Dollar Sign on the Muscle"

Lovers of baseball and a good read will be thrilled to learn that after a quarter-century a new expanded edition of Kevin Kerrane’s classic "Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting" has been released. The title comes from the ever-quotable Branch Rickey who coined that phrase to describe the key moment when a talent evaluator and his superiors must decide how much a baseball prospect is worth.

That the book has been re-issued by Baseball Prospectus in its first foray into book publishing is more good news because BP has built its reputation concentrating too often for my taste on nearly incomprehensible “advanced metrics.” It is nice to see that they are also appreciating the importance of traditional scouting. In fact, its editor Ben Lindbergh recently attended and graduated from MLB's Scout School in Arizona and wrote excellent pieces on the experience for grantland.com

Originally published in 1984, Kerrane brought to the table a splendid mix of skills as a University of Delaware literature professor (he still teaches at the Newark campus) and as a onetime amateur baseball player. For "Dollar Sign" Kerrane enjoyed unprecedented access to baseball scouts during what turned out to be the first major in-season baseball strike in 1981. Kerrane was even able to sit in on some of the Philadelphia Phillies’ pre-draft discussions.

A widely published author of several literary anthologies, Kerrane has a great ear for the vivid language of scouts. “He runs like he’s waitin’ for his blockers,” snorts one after observing an athlete who had more success as a football player than a baseball player. “Looks like Tarzan. Runs like Jane,” pipes up another. Another scout declares definitively, “87 per cent of baseball is played beneath the waist.”

A fascinating ongoing discussion in the book concerns the importance or irrelevance of “the good face,” an old scouting term about an athlete who exudes aggressiveness and confidence. The book also features a searching examination of the methods by which Branch Rickey built his great farm system.

The handsome new edition comes with a color cover photo of Tim Collins, the Kansas City Royals’ diminutive flame-throwing reliever that KC scout Mike Toomey helped pluck out of a minor league organization. Kerrane has also added two new chapters based on his recent scouting expeditions and conversations with football as well as baseball scouts.

My only criticism is that some of the minor historical errors in the original edition were not corrected. Branch Rickey did not leave the Dodgers in 1949 but after the 1950 season. It was catcher Mickey Owen, not Owens, and brilliant scouting analyst Jim McLaughlin was bounced out of the Orioles organization before the 1961 season not 1962.

Nothing should stop you, though, from getting this new edition of the best book to date on scouting and one of the very best on baseball in general. It combines insight with passion and as winter continues its inexorable path early in 2014 it will warm your baseball-loving hot stove league fires.

As colorful scout Leon Hamilton told Kerrane, “I love baseball. I hope to die, when my time comes, in a ballpark. And I just hope that I don’t fall on the guy next to me when the tyin’ and winnin’ run is on base and keep him from seein’ in.“

That’s all for now. Just remember always: Take it easy but take it!
 Read More 
Be the first to comment