Scoreboard Watching: What Has the MLB Come To?

Ben WeixlmannSenior Writer IJune 1, 2008

Ever since last year's tiebreaker playoff game between the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies, MLB clubs are starting to keep closer tabs on how their competitors are doing.

In the 21st century, with high-tech scoreboards in nearly every stadium, it is possible for teams to know exactly how their divisional rivals are doing at any point in time throughout the game.

Recently, however, the MLB has seen one particularly over-the-top example of keeping track of opponents. That’s right; the Los Angeles Dodgers have appointed someone to specifically watch how other teams in the NL West are doing while the Dodgers are playing.

Mitch Poole, the Dodgers clubhouse manager, said that the organization has hired a recent business school graduate named Sam Bower to help with the duties.

“It is a very important part of getting ready for upcoming games,” Poole said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Sam [Bower] charts each one of our divisional opponents’ games and reports after each inning to our bench coach Bob Schaefer.”

I don’t know about you, but I think this is pretty absurd; paying someone a handsome amount of money to tell you whether or not your rivals are winning or losing. There would surely be a change in the score if all teams used this tactic, right? Wrong.

By keeping their rivals on close radar, the Dodgers must think they are able to scout trends or something, because I am at a loss for reasoning.

Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers’ star shortstop, thinks Bower’s job is useful for players.

“I have a lot of friends on different teams in the NL West. I ask Sam about twice a game how Augie Ojeda is doing for the Arizona Diamondbacks.”

So perhaps there is a reason, but just because the players benefit, how exactly does the club gain an advantage? Sam Bower sat down with ESPN’s Fernando Vina to discuss the matter.

“It’s pretty simple really,” Bower said. “I keep track of every pitch that is thrown in all of the NL West games for that given night. We put those numbers into a database, so our coaching staff can use them accordingly.”

Joe Torre, the legendary manager, thinks that this job may be completely unnecessary.

“I’m an old-school manager,” Torre said in a postgame interview. “I don’t use any of that information to make decisions about what pitcher to bring in out of the bullpen in games down the road.”

Torre may not directly use the information, but Dodgers pitchers said that have found the information Bower compiles quite helpful.

Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 3.29 ERA this season, spoke with the Times through an interpreter. “I was facing my countryman, Kosuke Fukudome, the other day, and I knew he had a home run in the previous game thanks to Sam. I pitched him a lot of sliders to induce groundballs, so he didn’t hit one out of the ballpark.”

Only time will tell if the rest of the MLB will adapt to the Dodgers idea of scoreboard-watching.