But those critiques are for the book itself. The ideology that informs it deserves a more serious pounding. Scouting baseball players is a lot like reading tea leaves. You can put your faith in all kinds of intangibles like "makeup" and "desire," etc., but all that truly matters is whether the guy can play. Since no objective way to measure intangibles exists, the scout relies on little more than instinct and guesswork when projecting a prospect's development and career trajectory. That's not too scientific considering the millions invested in player development.
I couldn't help but relate the lessons of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink to Scout's Honor. Scouts may be able to "thin-slice" most baseball talent but many will inevitably be seduced by Gladwell's "Warren Harding Error:" a prospect may look like a ballplayer, but it's worth learning if his appearance is supported by his numbers. And to draw another parallel with Blink, consider this SAT-style analogy: females are to symphony orchestra maestros as ballplayers are to scouts. Sometimes a veil is needed to shield the senses against prejudice and preconceived notions. This analogy befuddles like the "Teletubbies" if you've not read both books; my apologies to the nonplussed.
Shanks further disappoints in the way he treats his subjects with starry-eyed fanboy reverence. Atlanta's success has been impressive but Shanks never examines the shortcomings. For example:
- The scouting approach hasn't helped Atlanta win a World Series in 10 years.
- The scouting approach hasn't prevented some
truly terrible free agent signings. Rico Brogna, Albie Lopez, Vinny Castilla, Raul Mondesi, I'm looking at you...
Too bad Bill Shanks aimed to discredit Moneyball using the Braves as counterpoint. His uncritical approach left the curious reader wanting more. A compelling book on the Moneyball vs. scouting issue could still be written.