There have been some postings on the Twitter this morning hinting about it, and now here's Ken Rosenthal to confirm what was suspected: the Orioles have made a major shake-up in the scouting department.
Don't go getting too excited. This doesn't mean a Stockstill has been fired. What it does mean is that six scouts in the Orioles' professional scouting department - what I guess would be advance scouts - have been re-assigned to amateur scouting. According to Rosenthal, this will leave only two scouts in the professional department, and the six re-assigned scouts may be more inclined to "view the assignments as little other than demotions." Among those who have been re-assigned are Lee MacPhail IV (nephew of Andy) and Jim Thrift (son of Syd), as well as former Oriole side-armer Todd Frohwirth.
Also on the Twitter, Jen Royle of 105.7, who typically covers the Ravens, formerly covered the Yankees and whom I suspect would rather be covering them still, has been inciting complaints from fans about the O's with negative comments about the changes, which she believes means the Orioles will have no more advance scouts. Rosenthal's article does not say this outright, but here's a quote from Dan Duquette on the reasoning behind the move:
"As you get more video and statistical analysis on a player, the longer they’re in professional baseball, it’s not as vital to have them seen by eyes, professional eyes," Duquette said. "Players establish a record of their work.
"Some of the trends that the statistics track, they’re not trends that professional scouts would normally see in a short look."
Another Royle source, or perhaps the same one, says that Duquette is "relying on the Bill James Handbook", which appears to be a cause of consternation for Royle but may sound more like a heavenly choir to Camden Chatters.
I think that Duquette's rationale in the Rosenthal article speaks for itself. If there were eight guys who were advance scouts, how many do you really need in the modern era of technology? The typical task of the advance scout would be to put together reports on the team the Orioles are about to face. I would say this is still essential, but can it be done without actually going and sitting in the stands and seeing the team? This seems to be Duquette's belief: that using available video resources in combination with statistical analysis can better identify trends about players than the traditional advance scouting report.
The fact that the scouts have been re-assigned to the amateur area is key here, because this doesn't indicate to me that the Orioles are simply being cheap. Rather, that Duquette is re-allocating his resources to where he believes that they can do the most good for the organization. It's a bold move, and based on the reactions, rather unconventional. As Orioles fans, we've seen our share of the conventional over the last fourteen seasons, and we've seen that the conventional is good for a series of sub-.500 seasons.
Noted snarker and ESPN analyst Keith Law was asked if all of this made sense, and he responded, "not in the least". With typical Law snark, he added: "You've just been demoted to a job you haven't done in 8-10 years and it's too late in the year for you to quit. How'll that go?" Law also explained that a "pro scout" typically covers both the minor and major leagues and that an advance scout would also be referred to as a "major league scout".
There is no indication from Rosenthal on what will be the assigned duties of the two remaining in the pro scouting department, Dave Engle and Bruce Kison. We also don't yet know whether the six re-assigned scouts were scouts who covered the minor leagues or whether they were advance scouts. Lee MacPhail IV was recently the director of the pro scouting department, until Duquette was hired and decided that a separate pro scouting department would no longer exist, so that's two demotions for him in a month. This would seem to be the inevitable fate for anyone who was hired by their own uncle, once the uncle himself had left the company.
UPDATE: Roch Kubatko says that Engle and Kison will remain as major league scouts. There is still no indication as to what the Orioles will be doing to cover minor league scouting in the interim.
What do you think? Will the new order of things result in the Orioles receiving better scouting reports on the opposition? Will this be yet another development in the long line of things that make us shake our head and say, "Oh, those Orioles"?