In the front offices of major league clubs, the statistics-vs.-scouts debate ended long ago. No club today could imagine winning without tapping the resources of the increasingly sophisticated statistical tools available as well as the experience of scouts trained to look at a kid today and project his tomorrows.
Yet that debate was very much alive in 2003, sparked by the book “Moneyball,” and by author Michael Lewis’ portrayal of how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and assistant Paul DePodesta challenged the hegemony of the scouting community.
“Billy had his own idea about where to find future major league baseball players: inside Paul’s computer,” Lewis wrote. “He’d flirted with the idea of firing all the scouts and just drafting the kids straight from Paul’s laptop.”
The response from some owners was all too predictable. The A’s won, at less cost, with fewer scouts. In the winter following the publication of “Moneyball,” 103 scouts lost their jobs, according to veteran baseball executive Roland Hemond.
There was some small consolation in the timing. Hemond was among several baseball lifers concerned about how the sport treated scouts — the talent seekers living in chain hotels and eating fast food all summer, for wages so low that a savings account might be an extravagance.
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