Wannabe Scouts: Show Some Respect

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I wrote this column a while ago and have been sitting on it ever since. I didn’t think it would ever run at Baseball America, so I figured I’d post it here—especially timely with the new scouts exhibit opening at the Hall of Fame.

There’s a common misconception among readers that writers at Baseball America are scouts. I’ve seen it debated on message boards and we often get asked questions in chats as if we’re scouts. Personally, I’m not sure where the misconception comes from, as you wouldn’t think that the writers at Seventeen are teenagers or the writers at Motor Trend are mechanics.

We are always the first to debunk the belief that we’re scouts or preface any personal opinions we provide by stating, “Now, we’re not scouts, but. . . ” We do that because we have so much respect for the men who actually are employed to evaluate players and present their opinions.

But, just so we’re clear, I’ll say it again: We’re journalists. We are not scouts.

Yes, we often will write about players we’ve seen and we’ll tell you how fast a pitcher was throwing, what kind of offspeed pitches he throws, or how fast an outfielder got from home to first. That’s not scouting, that’s just reporting. Anybody can sit at a game and hold a radar gun or click a stopwatch.

However, there’s a growing number of people online who think the opposite. It’s baffling to me how many blogs are popping up where writers try to come off as if they’re scouting players. This is a trend that needs to end.

Just because you have a radar gun or a video camera, that doesn’t mean you’re a scout. If you don’t work for a professional team, you’re not a scout. And frankly, calling yourself a scout is just plain disrespectful to the men out there putting their name on the line every day.

Real scouts are the all-too-often nameless, faceless backbone of an organization. Wannabe scouts are the opposite: attention-seeking egomaniacs screaming, ‘Hey! Look at me!’ in every corner of the internet.

Scouting can’t be a hobby. It isn’t just about evaluating players every now and then, when you have free time. It’s about the grind. Scouts routinely put 45,000 miles on their car every year. During baseball season, they spend more time with other scouts than they do with their own families.

It’s easy to go watch some minor leaguers in spring training. It’s easy to go to one college game a week. Try keeping that same focus when you’re in your 10th city in as many days and you haven’t seen your wife in three weeks. Your kids call crying because they miss their daddy.

In addition to the daily schedule and grueling travel of a professional scout, there are many more elements that set the real guys apart. Watching players is only part of their job. They have to develop relationships with coaches, players, parents and agents. They have to gauge signability, research medical history and get a good feel for the player’s makeup. This is as important to scouting as the evaluation of a player’s tools and it can’t be done by seeing a player once.

If a blogger is wrong about their evaluation of a prospect, they write it off as no big deal. Sweep it under the rug and move on. There’s no accountability and nobody cares. If a scout is wrong about his evaluation of a prospect, it can cost his team a million dollars or more. On the other hand, if a blogger is right, he’ll likely toot his own horn for years. If a scout is right, he’s lucky to get a pat on the back and a text from the player he signed when he makes the big leagues.

Just because you enjoy cooking, that doesn’t make you a chef. Just because you enjoy watching movies, that doesn’t make you Roger Ebert and just because you enjoy watching baseball, that doesn’t make you a scout.

Show some respect.