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Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Best Scouting Directors of the Draft Era

Anup Sinha        

Perfect Game contributor Anup Sinha has written a book with longtime MLB scout and executive Bill Lajoie entitled CHARACTER IS NOT A STATISTIC: The Legacy and Wisdom of Baseball’s Godfather Scout Bill Lajoie.

The book has been pre-released and is available through the bookstore(

Bill Lajoie was the architect of the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers as well as an indispensable right-hand man to John Schuerholz (1990s Atlanta Braves) and Theo Epstein (2000s Boston Red Sox) during their terrific World Series runs.

This excerpt comes from Appendix M in the “Wisdom” section of the book, entitled How Does Bill Lajoie Stack up Among the Greatest Scouting Directors of the Draft Era? We’ve excerpted pages 287-291, which includes the first four of the Top-10 Greatest Scouting Directors of the Draft Era.

We will post one more excerpt in the coming days.


In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to quantify draft success with complicated statistical formulas. Some of them are moderately interesting and others practically irrelevant. Most of these investigations are from researchers who don’t have a scouting background and are unsure of the process. They make sense to the uninitiated, but not to those inside the game.

This ranking makes no attempt for quantification. There’s no use putting down a formula to sum up a player’s or a scouting director’s career; this is a subjective ranking determined by a long-time baseball scout and historian. Not everything in baseball can be summarized in statistics. Subjectivity is necessary and inevitable in baseball, albeit less than consensus by definition.

So here’s one scout’s interpretation of the most productive scouting directors since 1965. In each instance, the scouting director was the major contributor to his franchise’s later success at the big league level. Included with each is a list of notable players they drafted and signed during their reign.

The players are subjectively separated into three groups: Impact, Solid, and Asset.

“Impact” includes players who were All-Star caliber for at least three years. They also had to be above-average major league starters for three or more seasons beyond that.

“Solid” is a player who was an average starter for 5+ years, or a very good backup for 10+.

“Asset” includes players who don’t fall into either of the above groups, but were clearly more than fillers at the major league level. They helped their big league club, whether in a minor role for 3+ years or in a bigger role (i.e. Mark Fidrych) for just one or two.

Players who made it to the big leagues briefly as fillers (i.e. cups of coffee) were subjectively excluded.

Players are listed in their order of subjective worth within their group. Their draft position and year are printed in parentheses.


1. Joe Bowman, Kansas City A’s, 1965-1967

Impact (7): OF Reggie Jackson (1st, 1966 June), RHP Rollie Fingers (NDFA, 1965), LHP Vida Blue (2nd, 1967 June), 3B Sal Bando (6th, 1965 June), 1B/3B Darrell Evans (7th, 1967 June Sec), OF Rick Monday (1st, 1965 June), C Gene Tenace (20th, 1965 June)

Solid (2): RHP Chuck Dobson (NDFA, 1965), LHP Dave Hamilton (5th, 1966 June)

Asset (4): OF Jim Holt (NDFA, 1965), OF Joe Keough (2nd, 1965 June), C Ken Suarez (NDFA, 1965), RHP Jim Panther (5th, 1967 Jan Sec)

Bowman was unique among his peers in that he had little trouble adjusting to the draft upon its creation in 1965. While his colleagues struggled with the new rules, Bowman hit the ground running. Bowman’s haul in 1965 was legendary, ranking right behind Al Campanis’ 1968 Dodger effort as the best draft ever. Not only did Bowman draft Rick Monday, Gene Tenace and Sal Bando, but his scouts signed Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers and righty starter Chuck Dobson as non-drafted free agents.

Bowman continued to draft well in both 1966 and 1967. But after 1967, owner Charlie Finley moved the club to Oakland. Finley asked him to come along, but Bowman was unwilling to relocate from his Kansas City home. He stayed on in a smaller role as Ray Swallow took over as scouting director. By 1969, Bowman had moved on to the Atlanta Braves and would later scout for the Baltimore Orioles. His scouting director days ended with the A’s and he’d never become a general manager. Bowman didn’t stick around long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor in Oakland, but his impact was obvious.

With the incredible success he’d had over just three draft years, it’s a wonder what Bowman could have done for the A’s had he stayed longer.

The A’s were a dynasty in the first half of the 1970s. They finished first in the American League West five years in a row and won three consecutive World Series from 1972-1974. Through the draft, Bowman single-handedly procured their slugging Hall of Fame right-fielder (Reggie Jackson), their ace lefty (Vida Blue), their starting catcher and 1972 World Series MVP (Gene Tenace), their ace closer (Rollie Fingers) and a solid right-handed starter (Chuck Dobson). Rick Monday, a fine player in his own right and the first draft pick ever in 1965, was traded for an important cog; Monday netted outstanding lefty starter Ken Holtzman from the Cubs prior to the 1972 season.

Another great Bowman draft pick, Darrell Evans, was lost to the Atlanta Braves in the Rule V Draft. He’d go on to slug 414 home runs over a 21-year career.

Bowman preceded the draft by three years and the players he brought in prior to its inception were just as impressive. Between 1962 and 1964, Bowman and his staff signed big league stars like shortstop Bert Campaneris, Hall of Fame righty Catfish Hunter, second baseman Felix Millan (another All-Star lost to the Braves in a minor league draft), righty Blue Moon Odom, catcher Dave Duncan and outfielder Joe Rudi, among others.

Simply put, there are three World Series trophies in Oakland that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Joe Bowman. He was given a big budget by maverick owner Charlie Finley and he used it wisely.

His successors (Ray Swallow, Phil Seghi) did well in Oakland, but it was Bowman’s work that went the furthest in transforming a pathetic franchise into a dynasty. The franchise that had served unofficially as the New York Yankees farm club in the 1950s would become the New York Yankees envy in the 1970s.

2. Joe McIlvaine, New York Mets, 1981-1985

Impact (6): RHP Dwight Gooden (2nd, 1981 June), OF Lenny Dykstra (13th, 1981 June), LHP Randy Myers (1st, 1982 June Secondary), RHP Rick Aguilera (3rd, 1983 June), 3B/OF Gregg Jeffries (1st, 1985 June), RHP Roger McDowell (3rd, 1982 June)

Solid (5): 1B Dave Magadan (4th, 1983 June), 1B Randy Milligan (1st, 1981 Jan), RHP Doug Henry (16th, 1982 June), SS Kevin Elster (2nd, 1984 Jan), LHP Rich Rodriguez (9th, 1984 June)

Assets (16): RHP Calvin Schiraldi (3rd, 1983 June), OF Gerald Young (5th, 1982 June), Mark Carreon (8th, 1981 June), C Greg Olson (7th, 1982 June), RHP Wes Gardner (22nd, 1982 June), LHP David West (4th, 1983 June), OF Stan Jefferson (2nd, 1983 June), OF Herm Winningham (1st, 1981 Jan Sec ), RHP Floyd Youmans (2nd, 1982 June), 3B Eddie Williams (1st, 1983 June), C Dave Cochrane (3rd, 1981 June), C Barry Lyons (15th, 1982 June), RHP Jeff Innis (13th, 1983 June), LHP Joe Klink (36th, 1983) SS Jeff McKnight (2nd, 1983 Jan Sec), OF Shawn Abner (1st, 1984 June)

McIlvaine’s five-year haul as scouting director developed the backbone of the great New York Mets teams of the late 1980s. His drafts were not only top-heavy but deep, with an astounding 27 established major league players coming through his system in such a short time. Then there’s another herd of future stars whom McIlvaine’s staff identified and drafted but were unable to sign; an impressive list that includes Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Tracy Jones, John Wetteland and Kal Daniels.

No executive was more responsible for creating the powerful Mets clubs between 1984 and 1990. They were perennial contenders over that seven-year span. They won the 1986 World Series and were the preseason favorites every year thereafter, though their only other postseason appearance would be after winning the N.L. East in 1988. McIlvaine was promoted to “Assistant GM” in 1986 before leaving in 1991 to become the GM of the San Diego Padres. He’d return to Shea Stadium as the Mets GM in 1994, but it was too late to benefit from his own drafts.

The players say it all. McIlvaine made a killing and if he isn’t the best scouting director of the draft era, he’s darn close. Right up with Joe Bowman and Bill Lajoie.

3. Bill Lajoie, Detroit Tigers, 1974-1978

Impact (8): SS Alan Trammell (2nd, 1976 June), RHP Jack Morris (5th, 1976 June), 2B Lou Whitaker (5th, 1975 June), C Lance Parrish (1st, 1974 June), OF Kirk Gibson (1st, 1978 June), RHP Dan Petry (4th, 1976 June), OF Steve Kemp (1st, 1976 Jan), 1B Jason Thompson (4th, 1975 June)

Solid (2): RHP Dave Rozema (4th, 1975 Jan Sec), 3B Tom Brookens (1st, 1975 Jan)

Assets (15): RHP Mark Fidrych (10th, 1974 June), RHP Dave Tobik (1st, 1975 Jan Sec), RHP Chris Codiroli (1st, 1978 Jan), LHP Dave Rucker (16th, 1978), LHP Bob Sykes (19th, 1974 June), OF Ricky Peters (7th, 1977 June), OF Darrell Brown (3rd, 1977 June), RHP Jerry Ujdur (4th, 1978), LHP John Martin (27th, 1978), LHP Pat Underwood (1st, 1976 June), SS Glenn Gulliver (8th, 1976 June), 1B/OF Tim Corcoran (Non-Drafted Free Agent (NDFA), 1974), RHP Kip Young (23rd, 1976 June), C/3B Marty Castillo (5th, 1978 June), RHP Steve Baker (NDFA, 1976)

4. Al Campanis, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1965-1968

Impact (6): 1B Steve Garvey (1st round, 1968 June Secondary), 2B Davey Lopes (2nd, 1968 January Sec), 3B Ron Cey (3rd, 1968 June Sec), 1B/OF Bill Buckner (2nd, 1968 June), RHP Charlie Hough (8th, 1966 June), SS Bill Russell (9th, 1966 June)

Solid (7): RHP Doyle Alexander (9th, 1968 June), LHP Geoff Zahn (5th, 1968 January Sec), C Steve Yeager (4th, 1967 June), OF/1B Tom Paciorek (5th, 1968 June), 2B Ted Sizemore (15th, 1966 June), C Joe Ferguson (8th, 1968 June), OF Bobby Valentine (1st, 1968 June)

Assets (4): RHP Alan Foster (2nd, 1965 June), RHP Ray Lamb (40th, 1966 June), OF Billy Grabarkewitz (12th, 1966 June), C Bob Stinson (1st, 1966 June)

Campanis’ success as a scouting director predates the draft. Prior to 1965, Campanis was given credit for bringing superstars like left-handed pitcher Sandy Koufax and outfielder Tommy Davis into the Dodger system. His staff even signed outfielder Roberto Clemente, but the Hall of Famer would be stolen by Dodger-turned-Pirate GM Branch Rickey in the Rule V Draft.

All 20 scouting directors had to adjust in 1965 as they were no longer able to sign players on an open market. Campanis struggled the first year and was comparatively unproductive in 1965. But his staff figured it out in a big way in 1966 when Charlie Hough, Bill Russell and Ted Sizemore became Dodgers.

Through his four draft years, Campanis would bring in what would amount to the core of the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers of the 1970s and early 1980s. Like Lajoie, Campanis would also get the opportunity to become general manager and reap the benefits of his outstanding drafts from the top. The Dodgers would contend the entire decade of the 1970s, win four National League pennants and ultimately take the World Series trophy in 1981.

The 1968 Dodger drafts (January and June) are the best in baseball history, even ahead of the 1965 Kansas City A’s and the 1976 Detroit Tigers. To add Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Buckner, Davey Lopes, Doyle Alexander, Geoff Zahn, Joe Ferguson, Tom Paciorek and Bobby Valentine in a single year is nothing short of remarkable. The drafts have been consolidated into one June event since 1987; it’s unlikely that anyone will ever again sign nine strong major league players in a single draft.

NOTE: Chapter goes on to list and describe the greatest scouting directors of the draft era, #5 to #10.

CHARACTER IS NOT A STATISTIC: The Legacy and Wisdom of Baseball’s Godfather Scout Bill Lajoie will hit and Barnes and Noble in March, but is already available for purchase from at Anup Sinha can be contacted via e-mail at

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