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The O’Toole Chronicles: Five Tool Player

Branch Rickey was a legendary baseball executive, famous for his many breakthroughs in Major League Baseball.

A former player, with limited success, Branch found his calling as a senior executive for several teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals – where he won 4 World Series rings.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy is that Branch helped Jackie Robinson break the color barrier by pushing his call to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He is also credited with creating a minor league farm system, increasing the number of teams in Major League Baseball, and introducing the batting helmet. Revolutionary.

A relatively unknown discovery of Branch was the development and invention of the concept – “Five Tool Player”. What does it mean?

The five tools for evaluating a player have been established as follows:

  • launch;
  • Speed;
  • Hit for average;
  • Strike for power; and
  • Fielding.

Very few players had all five, and Branch concluded that in his day, only two players had these valuable 5s – Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Lots of company to keep.

So how does politics fit into this? With baseball spring training coming up (assuming a working agreement is reached), this got me thinking how many real “five tool players” exist in politics?

Let’s go back for a moment. We must first determine what are the five tools to define a successful modern politician. After careful consideration of this, and a little help from others in the know, I have decided to narrow down the five policy tools to the following:

  • Brain – pure intelligence and intellectual firepower, with the gift of being able to master complex problems;
  • Instincts – politically agile and able to see the curve around the curve and read a play;
  • Loyalty – loyal to constituents, as well as allegiance to staff members, allies, supporters – and yes, to the leaders and activists who granted you the privilege to serve in the first place;
  • Fundraising – the ability to fundraise speaks for itself; and
  • Personality – able to engage effortlessly and have superior communication skills. This is the charisma factor.

Like Hall of Fame baseball players, no politician needs to be a five-tool player to succeed in politics. In fact, I could name a few zero-tools here and there that did well.

Now that we’ve established the categories in the political thunderdome and ranked them from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), I ask how many of the modern “five tool politicians” do we really know? Sounds like an interesting exercise. As with all things, I would never ask anyone to do anything that I haven’t done myself first. So let me start my own assessment.

In all modesty and candor, I wouldn’t think for a millisecond that I would ever be considered a “five-tool politician.” For me, he is someone who is competent and who excels in all five categories. In a moment of honest and painful self-assessment, I would rank myself as follows:

  • Brains – 6
  • Instinct – 8
  • Loyalty – 10
  • Fundraising – 8
  • Personality – 5

Now that my therapy session is over, it would be fun to note our state legislators, mayors, county officials and federal representatives. Not a bad exercise to pass the time until the legislative maps are done.

It is your turn. Print the New Jersey Politicians Screening Report using your favorite people, past and present. Take a photo with your phone and post it on social media. #OTOOLESYSTEM

The 2022 O’Toole System

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