The decision that dictated Jay Robertson's 28th year in scouting and led him to the Washington Nationals was based, like so many other decisions in his sport, on a gut feeling. Robertson talks to younger scouts all the time about gut feelings. Much as scouting measurements translate into radar gun readings and batting averages, the sum -- at least among some baseball lifers -- is more a cryptic art. Good scouts trust that which they cannot describe.
"In our world," Robertson said, "we substantiate a lot through stats and statistical analysis. But sometimes, even in life, you have to go with your gut."
Last October, Robertson, let go after eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, needed a new employer. And the Nationals, after operating for years with a bare-bones front office, needed employees. Washington's new general manager, Mike Rizzo, with his own deep roots as a scout, still held a preference for guys with gut feelings. Given approval from the Lerners to expand his support staff, Rizzo had the chance to reconstruct his front office, creating hire-by-hire the unit whose opinions, arguments, biases and preferences would determine the future of the organization. For all the free agent signings to come, this was the most important part of Washington's offseason.