How many scouts actually played pro ball?

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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.