Years before the novel coronavirus upended our world, Major League Baseball’s scouting culture underwent a revolution. It took me until COVID-19 arrived, however, to fully appreciate the impact of that revolution.
Earlier this week, I was chatting with a club’s talent evaluator who asked me what 2020 baseball was like for media folks. I explained that, while going to the ballpark didn’t pay the dividends it once did, thanks to the (correct, in my opinion) restrictions in place to limit our interactions with team personnel to Zoom calls, it still beat by several miles covering games off TV, an emerging tactic partly necessitated by the cap on press-box capacity and partly motivated by the aforementioned reduced access on site, not to mention individual journalists’ health concerns.
“Now you know what it’s like for scouts,” the evaluator noted with a laugh.
It was back around the mid-2000s when some teams cut back on their in-person scouting, instead assigning much of their advance work in particular to video. The Astros under Jeff Luhnow took a big leap forward in this area, dramatically reducing their scouting crew with the belief that they could gather…