The Evolution of Baseball Evaluation (Part 5)

This is the fifth part of my report:

The biggest change the scouting profession has ever had to endure was the installation of the first-year amateur draft in 1965. Now, regardless of which organization saw a player first, had a better relationship with his family or promised more money, each organization, at least theoretically, had a chance to sign that player. In this new process, each organization would be given a draft slot and take turns drafting players. The organization that drafted the player had exclusive rights to negotiate with him, and it was up to scouts and management to convince a player to sign. This was a major shakeup to the scouting world and organizations had no choice, unlike during prior changes, but to reinvent they’re scouting departments. Because a draft pick was so valuable organizations needed to make sure they were selecting the right player, and making a big decision based on one scout’s recommendation was not logical. Before the draft, a scouting department consisted of area, or territorial, scouts and a scouting director. In the decades following the draft a new level of scouts was created called cross-checkers [4]. Organizations varied on their implementation of cross-checkers, but today most organizations have national and/or regional cross-checkers. The role of a cross-checker is to see the top prospects of any given year and follow up on the recommendations given by area scouts [4]. Cross-checkers usually have many years of scouting experience and provide the scouting director with an extra set of eyes before he makes the final decision on a draft pick. The main reason for the implementation of an amateur draft was to decrease the bargaining power of amateur players [1]. Signing bonuses had gotten so expensive, and bidding wars between clubs became so intense, that the owners were forced to take action. However, as is usually the case with a major change, there were unintended consequences. There became less of an incentive for an organization to spend time and money getting to know a player’s family and competition between scouts cooled off dramatically [1]. The end goal of scouting completely changed; no longer was signing a player an individual achievement. Drafting and then signing a player became an organizational achievement with multiple scouts having their say on which players should be drafted. Scouts no longer had to sell their organization to the player; rather, scouts had to sell the player to their organization [1]. The draft did exactly what it was intended to do; it constrained an amateur player’s bargaining power and signing bonuses dropped off dramatically. A few years later, in 1974, the owners got together again to implement another major change in the scouting profession, the Major League Scouting Bureau (MLBSB). Originally, the MLBSB was an independent group supported by the participating organizations as a way to save money [2]. The Bureau made scouting more cost-effective and more complete in the coverage of territories [4]. In 1985 the Bureau was brought under the control of the Commissioner’s Office by then commissioner Peter Uebberoth [2]. However, the Bureau too had consequences as hundreds of full-time scouts across the league lost their jobs during its implementation [1]. But it became increasingly necessary for organizations to look for new ways to save money. During the 1960s Major League Baseball’s reserve clause, which bound players to one team and thus eliminated market competition for their services, began to be challenged by the players. Controversy between owners and players ensued and in 1965 the Major League Players Association (MLBPA) hired Marvin Miller as their Executive Director of their union. After years of court rulings, and the terrible publicity the game experienced, the owners and the MLBPA agreed to a collective bargaining agreement that allowed players with six years of experience to become free agents [3]. With the Bureau in place and players finally allowed to sign with other teams, a new area of the scouting profession was formed; professional scouting. Professional scouting had been around for decades but it was not until the 1990s that it became a greater focus for scouting departments. Professional scouts follow players in the minor leagues from other organizations as well as their own [1]. This increasingly became an important aspect of the success of an entire organization, and soon advanced scouting was part of every scouting department around the league. Advance scouts travel ahead of the big league club and scout their club’s upcoming opponents [4]. Advance scouts play an important role in determining the game plan that will be used by both the team’s pitchers and hitters.  Professional scouting coincided with advanced technology being instituted into the game. Technology provided massive amounts of data, which never existed before, that could be analyzed by scouting departments. This new data brought with it a whole new dimension to evaluating ballplayers. This new dimension became known as sabermetrics. Sabermetrics was met with much resistance during the beginning of its implementation, and even today there is still some amnesty between traditional scouts and proponents of sabermetrics. Still, the most effective way to run a baseball organization is to combine both scouting and sabermetrics, and the organizations that can be most effective at doing this will be successful.

The Evolution of Baseball Evaluation (Part 4)

This is part four of my report:

Organizations that refused to get into the bidding wars for amateur talent in the United States developed other ways of acquiring the talent needed to replenish a farm system. In 1911, during his time as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Clark Griffith brought the first two Cuban players to the big leagues [4]. Starting in the 1930s, as owner of the Washington Senators, Griffith began sending his only full-time scout, Joe Cambria, to pursue talent on the island of Cuba; thus laying the foundation of international scouting. International scouting was, and still is, very much like scouting was before the amateur draft was established. Every organization has the opportunity to sign a player; it just depends on how much an organization is willing to pay for them. In Cuba, Cambria applied original scouting techniques such as the bird-dog system and the concept of “quality out of quantity”, which was the philosophy Branch Rickey used when first employing the strategy of a farm system. Cambria hosted massive tryout camps and in a ten-year span signed over 400 players from Cuba [1]. During the winter of 1939, Griffith and Cambria sent some of their players to play in the Cuban League, to gain experience, making the Senators the first organization to season players in a winter league [4]. Another important individual in the development of international scouting was Cuban American Alex Pompez. Since the beginning of organized black baseball in the United States, Pompez was one of its leaders and he established a team called the Cuban Stars, which became one of the main importers of Latin talent to the United States [4]. In fact, after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the Cuban Stars signed an agreement to join the New York Giants organization. They ended up being the only black team ever to affiliate with a big league club. Once the Cuban Stars folded, as all Negro League teams did during the years following integration, Pompez joined the New York Giants front office and opened the big league door to talent in the Dominican Republic [4]. The first Dominican players to play in the big leagues came through the Giants organization and Pompez was responsible for signing six of the first thirteen big league players that hailed from the country [4]. In 1942 the Brooklyn Dodgers hired Branch Rickey away from the St. Louis Cardinals. Once Rickey arrived in Brooklyn he asked the owners for permission to scout and sign “colored” players [4]. World War II had depleted much of the Dodgers farm system and Rickey saw this as a cheap and effective way of replenishing it. In 1943 Rickey instructed Tom Greenwade to scout and sign Silvio Garcia, a shortstop from Cuba who was currently playing in the Mexican League [1]. This was a secret mission with the hopes that if anybody did get suspicious of Greenwade’s trip that he or she would come to the realization that the Brooklyn Dodgers desired to build a Negro League team [4]. Rickey had hopes of breaking the color barrier that had existed in Major League Baseball since its inception, and to do it successfully he needed to not only find a good player but one with an even better makeup. He needed a player with the ability to withstand unimaginable criticism and pressure. However, after Greenwade spent some time observing Garcia he came to the conclusion that Garcia did not have what it would take to play in the big leagues [4]. Two years later on August 28, 1945 Rickey signed Jackie Robinson out of the Negro Leagues, and less than two years after that Robinson was excelling in the big leagues. During his time as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates Rickey used the Rule 5 draft to steal away Roberto Clemente from the Brooklyn Dodgers. Once realizing the talent Clemente possessed Rickey instructed one of his best scouts, Howie Haak, to explore the Caribbean. Haak would be credited with opening up all Latin countries to big league scouting as he ended up scouting multiple countries in the Caribbean along with countries in Central and South America [1]. Over his career Haak signed players from countries that include: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Virgin Islands [4]. Epy Guerrero was another important person in the development of international scouting. He helped evolve international scouting as he was the first person to come up with the idea of maintaining a baseball academy outside the United States. In 1977 he established a baseball academy in the city of Villa Mella with the intention of housing, feeding and teaching players baseball skills [4]. English instruction was also part of the academy in the hopes that players would then be better prepared for life in the United States; and in 1981 the Toronto Blue Jays began to use the complex [2]. This was a very unique concept, the first of its kind, and today most big league organizations have at least one baseball academy located outside the United States. As is usual with big league baseball some organizations were slower at adopting these new ideas and ways of scouting. Organizations that adopted these ideas early on gave themselves a competitive advantage over those organizations that refused. However, after the amateur draft became entrenched in 1965, and the economics within the game began to change, those organizations that were slow to adopt soon did.

The Evolution of Baseball Evaluation (Part 3)

This is part three of my report:

After World War II big league organizations added much more scouts to their scouting departments and assigned them to cover smaller territories [1]. The scouting profession was about to go through more change. The profession had already gone through a big change with the development of the farm system, shifting the focus from minor league players to amateur players, and now with more scouts, and thus more competition, it was changing again. During the period after World War II, and before the establishment of the amateur draft in 1965, a successful scout not only needed to have a keen eye but good salesmanship skills. During the next 20 years scouts competed directly with one another, as they always had, but now the premium prospects were better well known by each organization. Finding a legitimate amateur player that no other organization knew about was more difficult and hiding a player from competing scouts was no longer realistic. Therefore, scouts during this era needed to sell the organization they worked for to both the player and his family. A typical amateur player usually received contract offers from multiple teams and so a scout had to persuade the family into believing his contract was the best choice for the boy. The primary condition to scouting successfully during these decades was to first develop a friendly relationship with the boy and his family, before even thinking of offering a contract [1]. During this era the good scouts really got to know the boy and his family, and it was something scouts needed to do. Signing bonuses were on the rise and management all around the league began investing more and more into these amateur players. An accurate opinion on an amateur player’s ability, as well as his character, was becoming increasingly more valuable. The bidding wars for amateur players got hot in the years leading up to World War II and intensified even more in the years directly after the war. Because of the competition, big league owners had to keep increasing the size of signing bonuses, much to their dismay. Therefore, for the 1947 baseball season, the owners got together and developed a rule that they hoped would reduce the salaries of amateur players. They also hoped that it would prevent the wealthier teams from stockpiling talent. The rule, called the Bonus Rule, did not establish a dollar limit or minimize how many players a particular organization could sign, but it did impose limitations on a team’s capacity to farm-out players who were given a large enough signing bonus [5]. The dollar amount for an amateur player to qualify as a “bonus baby”, as they were often referred to, varied from year to year. The rule sparked much controversy and was abolished in December of 1950, only to be brought back in December 1952 by a committee headed by Branch Rickey. This new version of the rule would be much stronger and was in place from 1953 through 1957.  Under the new form of the rule a bonus baby was now required to be immediately placed on the active big league roster and remain on the roster for two calendar years from the day of signing [5]. Regardless, organizations still found ways to get around the rule by placing players on the disabled list or paying part of a player’s signing bonus under the table. Because of this, the owners once again decided to remove the rule for the 1958 season. However, because the bidding wars for amateur players did not slow down and both leagues had expanded, by 1962 the rule was back in place. This time organizations were only required to keep a bonus baby player on their roster for one full season [5]. The rule never worked out for anyone involved. The owners were never satisfied with the rule, and took attempts to get around it, but more importantly, the players on the field never liked it. Most players had spent years roughing it out in the minors and most of them would never see the type of money these bonus babies had already received. And they received this money before evening touching the field. Many players also felt that these bonus babies were taking up roster stops from more deserving veterans in the minor leagues. This was a big problem for the game and something concrete needed to be done about it. Soon, rumors of an amateur draft began to surface and it was becoming increasingly apparent that Major League Baseball needed to follow the lead of other competing professional sports and develop an amateur draft. During this time of skyrocketing signing bonuses some organizations, especially the less wealthy ones, could not compete directly for white amateur talent and needed to find other ways to supply their minor league teams. Organizations began to look internationally for cheaper talent as well as opening their eyes to the great black talent already in the United States.

The Evolution of Baseball Evaluation (Part 2)

This is the second part of my report:

The ideas that were first implemented by Bob Quinn in the early 1900s would soon be combined into one overall strategy, a business strategy, with the intention of saving the organization money. This strategy was the development of the farm system, and even in today’s game it is still the most cost-effective way to building and maintaining the success of a big league franchise. Branch Rickey was the first to put this strategy into full effect. After serving in World War I, Rickey returned to the St. Louis Browns, a team for which he had played for at one point and then managed in the years leading up to the war. However, when Rickey returned he bumped heads with the team’s new owner and instead left for the St. Louis Cardinals to become the organization’s president, general manager and field manager. Rickey felt that the organization would save money if it grew its own players, rather than constantly bidding against other major league teams for minor league players [1]. The after effects of the war hit the minor leagues hard and many leagues struggled financially, which gave Rickey an opportunity to implement his farm system strategy. In 1919 the Cardinals purchased controlling interest in minor league teams in Houston and Fort Smith, thus establishing major league baseball’s first farm system [1]. The development of the farm system had a profound effect on the scouting profession. The St. Louis Cardinals organization was now going to own more than just one team, therefore, they needed to sign more players. Stocking teams with talent all purchased from minor league teams would be too expensive, so the Cardinals began sending their scouts out to look for amateur talent. Amateur talent could be purchased much more cheaply than minor league talent which was great for the organization; the problem was finding it. This put an end to the bird-dog system and brought on a whole new set of challenges for professional scouts as they began searching for talent in the heart of the United States. Scouts now spent their time exploring the American landscape for any resemblance of a ball field, hoping to discover the next superstar. Scouts often spent their time taking in baseball games played on sandlot fields where local town and mill teams would compete against one another. There were still not very many full-time scouts during this time and the ones that did exist had to cover a tremendous amount of territory. However, this would be the scouting industry’s most wide-opened era, where physical stamina was the key to the job [1]. During this time a professional scout was only limited by his will, and to be a successful scout one had to be both physically and mentally tough. Also, the way scouts looked at ball players would have to change. Instead of looking for and projecting a fairly mature minor league player, scouts would now be looking for boys who had not yet physically matured. Instead of visualizing what a player would look like in a year or two, scouts now had to project what a player would look like five or six years down the road. This required scouts to intently focus on a player’s “tools” because tools are what ultimately got a player to the big leagues. Branch Rickey and his right-hand man Charlie Barrett believed that the most important tool was running speed. To Rickey running speed was the only common denominator between offense and defense and the strongest indicator of big league potential [1]. In 1919 Rickey and Barrett hosted the first tryout camp ever run by a big league team and these camps would become signatures of the Cardinals organization over the next few decades. Rickey believed in the fundamental principle of “quality out of quantity”, and by 1939 the Cardinals controlled 32 minor league teams [1]. Having this much young talent competing for big-league roster spots not only drove competition between minor league players, but also kept the current big league players on their toes and the contracts they could demand at a minimum. The farm system strategy was very effective and big league organizations all around the league soon began constructing their own farm systems. By the 1930s most teams had begun developing their own farm systems, attempting to control at least one team at every level of the minor leagues [4]. The minor leagues adjusted to the business changes of the game during this time period by instituting more levels of competition, ranging from Class D leagues to Double-A leagues.  However, not everybody was happy with the farm system. Baseball’s first commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis viewed the farm system as a monopolization of professional baseball, and took many actions to end its implementation around the league. He feared that big league control of minor league teams would put an end to minor league baseball and took actions to grant “free agency” to many players who were trapped in the minor leagues. Ultimately, Kenesaw Mountain Landis discovered he could do very little about the farm system and that it would prevail. Ironically, the farm system would end up saving the minor leagues once the television era began. People living in small towns all across the country who used to have to visit a minor league stadium if they wanted to watch professional baseball could now simply watch games using their television from home. This led to a dramatic drop in minor league attendance and most minor league teams became dependent on support from a big league franchise. By the time World War II began every big league team had developed a farm system and with it a team of scouts. Teams that had the better scouts and the most money were much more successful than those with limited scouts and funds [4]. Increasingly, more and more scouts began bidding on the same amateur players, which increased the amount of money that player could demand. Soon, amateur players began demanding much wealthier signing bonuses than ever before and thanks to the economic success the United States experienced after World War II, those demands were most often met.

The Evolution of Baseball Evaluation (Part 1)

This is the first part of my report:

Before the turn of the 20th century major and minor league teams used a network of local people to recommend talent who were commonly referred to as “bird dog scouts”.  These bird dog scouts followed players but did not work for any team and therefore could not sign them [4]. The managers of these major or minor league teams often scouted and signed these recommended players personally. Before the fall of 1900 when Ban Johnson went against the National Agreement between the National League and minor leagues, declaring his American League a “major” league, the amount of major league teams varied between eight and twelve per year. Because of this there were much more minor league teams than major league teams, and many of these minor league teams played in small towns around the country. At this time, minor league teams operated independently and on occasion they would sell a player to a major league team. However, during this time the relationships between major and minor league teams were primarily based on personal ties, rather than business endeavors. Making it to the major leagues during this time was basically an “accident”. The normal path to the major leagues for almost every player who played before World War I was to be discovered and signed by a local minor league team and then sold to a major league team once seen by a representative from that big-league team. However, there were very few major league representatives and until about 1909 none of them worked full-time [1]. It was around this time that organizations began adding scouts to the payroll. Even so, most of them hired only one or two scouts to cover the entire United States [4]. Scouts during this time period were first generation scouts. They defined this brand new profession and set the foundation for the future of baseball scouting. Some of the most well-known scouts during this era were “Sinister Dick” Kinsella, Larry Sutton, Ted Sullivan, Eddie Herr and George Huff. At this time, the professional scouts that did exist roamed the lower minor leagues looking for promising prospects that could be purchased by the big league club. However, scouts did not just wonder around the country looking for any random ball field, rather they were responsible for following up on tips about minor league players given to the organization by bird dog scouts; a job that was originally performed by the organization’s team manager. During this time every big-league team used the bird-dog system and it would define the initial years of scouting. First generation scouts were usually given free rein in the signing of ball players, and as long as they kept the contract under a specific amount of money they did not need to have input from the organization or any other scout that may have been affiliated with the team [4]. Because of this, scouts during this time were almost single-handedly responsible for assembling an entire baseball team. For example, at one point during the 1916 season the Brooklyn team, who would go on to win the National League Pennant that year, had 11 players who were all found and purchased by the team’s lone scout Larry Sutton [1]. The tools and methods used to evaluate a ball player during this time varied from scout to scout. There were no stopwatches, radar guns or replays. A scout had to use his individual knowledge, experience and intuition when it came to determining which players he believed were worth purchasing for the big league team. Characteristics of the scouting profession such as obscurity, constant travel, loneliness and second guesses from management developed during this time and still continue to this day [1]. In the early 1900s major league scouts established informal agreements with minor league teams which allowed the scouts to place a specific player on a minor league team so that the player could gain more playing experience before taking on big league competition; essentially, “farming” out a player. Under these types of agreements the scout would be given the first opportunity to sign that player if the situation arose. The first person to successfully implement the idea of “farming” out players was Columbus Senators business manager Bob Quinn. During his time with the Senators Quinn developed the idea of owning farm teams, hiring a group of scouts and managers and having multiple players under option to different teams in the same league [4]. Bob Quinn was one of baseball’s greatest innovators and during his time as Columbus’ business manager, another future baseball innovator, Branch Rickey, was influenced by his ideas.

*From the National League’s inception in 1876 through the 1891 season the league consisted of 8 teams. Before the 1892 season the National League agreed to bring aboard some teams from the struggling, but one-time competing professional league, American Association. For the 1892 through 1899 seasons the National League consisted of 12 teams. The league consolidated back to 8 teams for the 1900 season.

DSM= Dollar Sign on the Muscle

CHP= Can He Play? SABR

The Evolution of Baseball Evaluation (Introduction)

Before I graduated from California State University San Marcos this past May, I took an Independent Studies in Management class to receive college credit for an internship I had with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2013-14 basketball season. The report I wrote for this class is titled, “The Art and Evolution of Baseball Observation”. This is the introduction to the report I developed:

The first legitimate attempt at organized baseball in the United States occurred when a convention, consisting of 16 New York City clubs, took place in 1857. This convention, which would eventually become an annual affair, established the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). Prior to the American Civil War there were many variants of “baseball.” These included “town ball” played in the Philadelphia area, the “Massachusetts Game” played in New England and the “New York Game” played in New York. During the 1860’s, with help from the Civil War, the New York version of the game grew tremendously and, aided by the NABBP, became nationalized. This was the first time in the game’s history that baseball was organizationally played under a specific set of rules that all teams must follow; along with official scoring, scheduling and a championship. The National Association was created on the principles of amateurism, but since it began many teams had secretly paid players; creating an unfair advantage. To combat this problem, and restore integrity to the game, a professional category was established within the organization for the 1869 season. Most of the stronger clubs declared their teams “professional” and by 1871 many had broken away from the NABBP to establish a new all professional organization called the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP). The NAPBBP lasted through 1875 when many of the league’s teams broke off to form yet another professional league, called the National League, for the 1876 season. During the 1869 and 1870 seasons the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who were the first to declare its team “professional”, demonstrated that professional baseball could be a successful business enterprise. There was now a monetary interest within the game and finding the best players would not only help a team win, but also draw the interest of paying customers; therefore, fostering the initial roots of the scouting industry.

 

* The only surviving organization from the NABBP is the Chicago Cubs who played their first season in 1870 and were nicknamed the Chicago White Stockings. The organization moved to the NAPBBP the following year. The Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first all professional baseball team in history, disbanded after the 1870 season. Harry and George Wright, along with a few other members of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, started up a new professional team in Boston for the 1871 season. This organization, which began play in the NAPBBP and is now called the Atlanta Braves, and the Chicago organization are the only two organizations remaining from the NAPBBP. The team established by the Wright brothers in Boston, called the Boston Red Stockings, dominated the NAPBBP winning four out of the five total championships, which became one of the many reasons for the failure of the league and the creation of a new professional league, the National League. (This was not part of my report).

“Why Try to Fit in When Your a Standout?”

“Sometimes if the leader walk slow enough, he fuck around and get lost in the crowd

But he ain’t gotta speed up, everything will pan out

(Why?) Cause they’ll spot you from far when you a standout.”

 

– Joe Budden

 

This is one of my favorite verses from my second favorite rapper, Joe Budden. People always enjoy telling others what he or she cannot do, especially people they don’t even know. I have been hearing these kind of things for years, ranging from my father and closest friends to people I have not even been properly introduced to. You can’t, and I will never, listen to them. I know what I am capable of and what I have the ability and desire to do. That’s what really matters. Because when it’s all said and done, you are the only person that has to live with yourself. So do what you want, and do not let other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. There has never been anybody designed like me, I’ve designed myself, and there never will be again. I’m an individual. A human being. My name is Jeremy Rochford and I will be a great “baseball man.”