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Elephant Rumblings: Oakland A’s bringing amateur scouts back to work, reducing furloughs

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Orange County Register Archive Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Good morning, Athletics Nation!

Oakland A’s owner John Fisher made some terrible decisions during this coronavirus pandemic shutdown, particularly involving whether to continue paying many of his employees. Now, for the second time, he is reversing one of those highly criticized moves.

At the end of May, the A’s announced that they planned to furlough their amateur scouts after the MLB draft. However, it turns out that some of them never went on leave, and the rest will return to work sooner than expected, according to general manager David Forst. The key quote (h/t Scott Bair of NBCS):

“That was a big thing for us,” Forst said in an interview with Chris Townsend on A’s Cast. “It was highly publicized that a lot of our scouts were scheduled to be furloughed after the draft. With MLB lifting the ban on in-person scouting, we were about to work with [A’s owner John Fisher] and create a schedule for all amateur scouts to come back to work. What we ended up with was a handful of the area guys not furloughed at all, and over the course of the summer, on Jul 1, Aug. 1 and Sept. 1, those guys are going to get back to work and be able to cover amateur events.”

One reason for this reversal is a change in opportunity. MLB had previously banned in-person scouting during the pandemic, but has since lifted that ban, allowing area scouts to continue their actual work. With their job duties once again permissible, it especially makes sense to restore them to their posts. Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle names four specific scouts who are already back on the job.

While this latest decision was prompted by the evolving rules, as opposed to purely as a moral response public outrage, it’s nevertheless the second time Fisher has backed out of a bad call. Also at the end of May, he elected to stop paying his minor league players, making Oakland the only MLB team to do so, but two weeks later he admitted his mistake and resumed paying them.

The A’s earned plenty of criticism for being on the heavier end of cost-cutting moves during the sport’s shutdown, but one by one they’re fixing those past missteps. This is a time of crisis for the entire country, and the billionaire owner is leaving much fewer of his lower-income employees out to dry than he previously intended. That doesn’t erase the initial rulings from memory or from Fisher’s resume as a person, but it’s definitely worth something, especially to the folks who will now continue earning a living.

As Slusser said in another tweet: “If MLB does get its act together and plays this year, I hope Fisher will un-furlough many more employees. He’s on the right track so far.”

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