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2012 Rewind: For key team architect John Barr, the chase for next Giants great continues

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Giants’ 2012 World Series, KNBR will release a series of stories highlighting that special run leading up to Aug. 13’s reunion at Oracle Park.

In Round Rock, Texas, where the temperature boiled over 100 degrees, John Barr did what he’s been doing for nearly four decades: meticulously watched a baseball game. 

This one, a 3.5-hour marathon that also served as Barr’s introduction of automated balls and strikes, saw the Sacramento River Cats rally back from eight runs to win 10-8. 

Barr, the Giants’ senior advisor to baseball operations, has been working as a baseball executive for 38 years. He’s spent time with the Padres, Dodgers, Orioles, and Mets before joining the Giants, traversing the country — and globe — in search of talent. 

It was Barr who led the charge in picking Buster Posey with the No. 5 overall pick in 2008, Brandon Crawford in the fourth round later that year and Brandon Belt the next. 

That formed the foundation of the 2012 Giants, a club built from the ground up. Barr counts 10 drafted-and-developed players from that group, including Ryan Vogelsong on his second stint with SF, who won the National League West and constantly staved off elimination en route to a World Series title. 

Barr and the Giants built a homegrown powerhouse that flexed for the second of three times 10 years ago. And he’s remained with the team, overseeing signings of Logan Webb, Austin Slater and other current Giants. 

It’s years like 2012 that keep Barr going. Even after so many years around the game, Barr is still motivated, energized to chase that feeling he and the organization earned in 2012. 

“That is what you get in the car for,” Barr told KNBR in a late July call. “That’s what you work for. That’s why you’re there 200 nights out of the year, trying to find players that someday might contribute and make a difference, that you provide for the team.” 

The Giants hired Barr to oversee amateur and international scouting at the end of 2007, making the 2008 draft his first major test. That’s when divine intervention struck.

A few years earlier, Barr — then an East Coast scout for the Dodgers — met a high school shortstop and pitcher named Buster Posey. They just happened to have hotel rooms right next to each other for a tournament in Fort Myers, Florida. 

The stars aligned. With Barr’s input, the Giants drafted Posey out of Florida State with the fifth overall pick. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Baltimore each passed on Posey in front of the Giants. 

“I think some things happen for a reason,” Barr said. “It just all fell together.” 

Barr said his relationship with Posey developed over the years into one of the strongest he’s ever forged with a player in his scouting career. In 2012, Barr remembers Posey telling his daughter Eileen, set to go to University of Florida, that he wouldn’t talk to her for the next four years. 

“It all came together, and it was very beneficial,” Barr said. “For Buster, for the city of San Francisco, for the history of the Giants, for all of us involved.” 

The next big hit in the 2008 draft came with Crawford in the fourth round. The Giants’ California-area scout Mike Kendall liked what he saw out of Crawford at UCLA. More connections formed in the Cape Cod League, when Crawford played for Orleans Firebirds. 

Barr raved about how even when he struggled at the plate, he didn’t bring his bat into the field with him. He thinks Crawford’s dream to play for his hometown team may have given San Francisco an edge; Crawford may have slipped in the draft because he could have returned to UCLA for his senior year instead of signing. But he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to play shortstop for the Giants. 

Barr remembers John Savage, Crawford’s college coach, telling him that the Bruins never had to worry about a ground ball to short for three years. A rival Pac-12 coach told Barr “you better sign him because I want him out.” 

Posey, Crawford and Belt were the “finishing pieces” for an organization that already had Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and other budding stars in house, Barr said. 

That organizational depth showed not only on the diamond, but also provided the front office with trade chips. 

At the deadline, San Francisco sent recently drafted Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz and Seth Rosin to Philadelphia for Hunter Pence, who instantly became a fiery clubhouse leader. SF also sent out minor leaguer Charlie Culberson for Marco Scutaro, the 2012 championship series MVP. 

Those trades, and by proxy the title, don’t happen without the scouting work of Barr and dozens of others. 

“Knowing that you were able to be part of that, to be part of that system that provided Brian Sabean the tools to be able to trade for a Hunter Pence or trade for a Scutaro, that’s the reward you have,” Barr said. 

Barr has been voted Scout of the Year in the East Coast region by his peers and inducted into three Halls of Fame, including the Professional Scouting Hall of Fame. 

Even when the new front office regime took over, Barr stayed on. He helps the scouting department prepare for the draft by checking out some of the top amateur players, and reports from San Francisco’s minor league clubs. 

It’s a “thrill,” for him to remain with the Giants, he said. After all these years, he’s still motivated to find things in young players even they might not see in themselves quite yet. 

Scouting is a competition. And when your employer wins the World Series, like San Francisco did in 2012 — and the other two Even Years — everyone in the organization feels it. That’s what Barr’s still chasing: another year when you’re the best at what you do. 

“Always,” Barr said. “Every day. And when I don’t want to chase it anymore, or when I feel I can’t contribute anymore, that’ll be the day I retire.”


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