Guns up: Scouts and Players with Radar Guns at Harbor Park
“If you don’t find high-caliber marble … you can’t create classic statues” John Schuerholz
One of the interesting views from my pew in the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park section 102, Row B seat 2 is that of the scouts. I often talk with my friend Elliott the Usher about the nuances of the game including the realm of the scouts, that often unsung group of men who find the raw talent that helps build the team.
Scouts are an interesting breed. They work for a Major League club, but dwell in obscurity, as any true scout would do. The seek talent, both raw and developed that will in their analysis help their club. The scouts travel throughout the minors, colleges, high schools and independent leagues to see what talent might be available. Sometimes they are former pro-ball players such as Bob Kison who works for the Orioles and Bill Singer who works for the Nationals, both of whom I have met this year at Harbor Park. In addition to the team scouting organizations the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau provides teams centralized scouting organizations which all have access to. Currently the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau employs 34 full time and 13 part times scouts in the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico.
I encounter a good number of scouts at Harbor Park. They as well as player’s wives, families or friends and VIPs sit in section 100 to my left. In addition to the scouts the Tides and the opposing teams frequently have at least one of their own players charting the game from that section. I have had a number of interesting conversations about the game with scouts from the Orioles, Nationals, Pirates, Cubs, Mets, White Sox, Yankees and Braves as well as a scout from the Japanese Major League team the Yokohama Bays Stars. There have been scouts from a good number of teams, including the Korean Baseball League that I have not chatted with prior to games. One is very careful not to bother them during the game itself as they are looking closely at what is going on. This is their bread and butter and they need to be respected while they work.
Mets and Rays Scouts
Of course the job of the scout is directly impacted by both the current and projected needs of their teams, including the minor league system as well as how the teams are doing at the moment. Thus from day to day scouts may be scouting individual players, or looking more in general for players that might of help to their team and its associated minor league system. Once in a while I get to look at the sheets that scouts use in evaluating talent. Since pitching is always a needed commodity they are seldom without their radar gun to measure the speed of pitches as well as charting pitch type, placement and what happened to the pitch. It is a very detailed job collecting data on players as well as making first hand observations that could be as important as the numbers in determining whether a play is right for the organization.
The key to the success of any Major League organization is how well its scouting system identifies prospects for the big team. Teams that are forward thinking spend the time and money to scout players either through the traditional methods or through the Sabremetrics system popularized in the book Moneyball about the Oakland Athletics methods under Billy Beane. Some teams use a combination of both traditional methods and the more data oriented Sabremetrics. Some teams which are accused of simple “buying” their major league team through free agency like the Yankees actually have a very talented scouting department and minor league system. The Yankees have built their own middle relief corps from their own system this year. The bullpen with the exception of closer Mariano Rivera has been a weak spot over the past 8 years for the Yankees and they have remedied this on their own. Likewise the Red Sox, Rays and Orioles maintain excellent scouting and minor league systems. The Orioles are the newcomers in this building their team from scratch over the past few years. In the West both the Angels and the A’s have strong minor league systems as do the Cardinals and Dodgers.
Yokohama Bay Stars Scout
Unfortunately many organizations outside baseball, especially churches do not scout or develop talent. Sometimes it is a organizational approach or prejudice that either seeks outsiders versus home grown talent, mega-churches are particularly bad about this often looking at outsiders to fill the their staffs. On the other hand older main line denominations often are suspicious of outsiders even those with good track records. Some Churches such as the Roman Catholic Church intentionally limit those who can serve as clergy to the ranks of unmarried celibate men, with a few exceptions made for married clergy from other churches. Those men are taken through a process that often discounts any prior ministry they have as of little value and very few make it through the process of being ordained. On the other side of the spectrum are churches which have no rhyme or reason as to how they choose develop or assign clergy with often very arbitrary means to choose pastors. Clergy development from identifying young men and women who believe that they have a call to serve; the nurture and care of these men and women, their education, formation and eventual ordination and assignment are particularly important if the Church is to fulfill its mandate of bearing witness of Christ in the world and caring for the people of God.
One can make application in many other fields. In the military we typically recruit for most specialties but we look harder for specialties that require a more selective process such as Special Operations personnel. In the medical field the military employs a very rigorous process of evaluating prospective physicians through medical school, internship and residency. In specialties which a lot of personnel are required and in which there is a good amount of turnover and attrition many personnel are recruited but at certain career points a good number are weeded out.
Good scouting needs to be part of recruiting. Talent must not simply be recruited based on test scores, but the whole person. Organizations that seek excellence will use people to scout for and evaluate talent within their own organization or outside of it. The goal of course is not to find one person that can play now, but to develop many people to deepen the organization and make it more resilient when it experiences personnel losses or has to make organizational moves. Without good scouting much recruiting effort will be spent and often wasted on people who do not fit what the organization needs at the present or in the future.