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Mudville: May 28, 2024 2:00 pm PDT

Draft Day For The Ages

Barr None. The 2008 MLB draft for the San Francisco Giants was gold.

John Barr was the scouting director, and what the Giants accomplished that draft set a foundation of granite for the franchise for years to come, acquiring catcher Buster Posey with the fifth overall pick and then scooping up shortstop Brandon Crawford in the fourth round with the 117th pick.

Having catcher and shortstop covered for the next generation by Next Gen players proved all the difference in the world.

To follow up the 2008 success in the 2009 draft, the Giants and Barr acquired first baseman Brandon Belt from the University of Texas in the fifth round with the 147th pick.

Those moves helped win the Giants three World Series championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014 and after winning an amazing 107 games this season to take the NL West from the highly favored Dodgers, the Giants are right back in the thick of it this October.

They are the most intriguing team in the postseason and with their rivalry with the Dodgers, this is what October baseball is all about.

If you really want to understand the lasting value of the draft, just look at the Giants 4-0 win over the Dodgers Friday night in Game 1 of the NLDS at Oracle Park. Buster Posey homered, one bounce into the San Francisco Bay, a two-run shot to the opposite field on a 3-0 pitch from Walker Buehler in the first inning.

“Scouting is forever the heart and soul of baseball, and when it works out like it did in 2008 for the Giants with Posey as the fifth pick and Crawford the 117th pick – catcher and shortstop covered for a generation – that is Nirvana, perfect happiness.”

The winning pitcher Logan Webb was a fourth-round selection by Barr and the Giants in 2014.

If Posey can win another World Series ring this season to give him four, that’s an incredible accomplishment. Catcher Yogi Berra, of course, earned 10 World Series rings with the Yankees but that was a much different era in baseball.

To win four World Series as a catcher now is simply amazing, since no team has won-back-to-back World Championships since the Yankees did in 1998-99-2000.

Brandon Crawford was at shortstop in the Game 1 win and hit a rocket solo home run to center in the eighth inning to put the Giants on top 4-0. Crawford also turned a spectacular double play with second baseman Tommy LaStella. Defense wins championships and 13 years after getting drafted, both players are still going strong.

In this day and age of major league team turnover, that is a rare occurrence, both stars, Posey and Crawford, with the same team all these years and already have produced World Championships. Posey came up in 2009. Crawford came up to the Giants in 2011.

This is the perfect baseball marriage.

Here at The Story, we always try to dig a little deeper and with that in mind we tracked down John Barr, who of course was at a ballgame on Saturday. Barr is no longer the Giants director of scouting; he is a senior advisor, still very much involved and is in Milwaukee scouting that NLDS series between the Brewers and Braves.

When Posey was available with the fifth pick in 2008, what was Barr’s initial reaction?

“Ecstatic,’’ he told BallNine.

“I think it happened for a reason, I really do,’’ Barr explained. “We were picking fifth that year and people were asking me internally, and some other names came up and I’m like, ‘No, Buster Posey is the guy we really want. Buster is it.’

“Do you’ll think he will get to us,’’ other Giants officials asked knowing four teams would pick ahead of them and Barr was confident in his answer, saying, “I think it was meant to be. And we stayed positive with it. It ended up the way it is, and I was ecstatic when he would be there when we picked but in some ways, it was meant to be.’’

Buster Posey is doing Buster Posey things once again this season. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

And really, looking back all these years, three championships later, it really was meant to be. It would be hard to picture Posey in any other uniform but the Giants where he won Rookie of the Year and MVP honors. I covered all those World Series titles with the Giants and their march to success under GM Brian Sabean, who learned what it was all about in the Yankee system, and Posey was Mr. Giant in every way. He always kept cool and calm and had a sense of humor.

This was a process.

“Fortunately,’’ Barr explained, “I got the chance to meet him and know him in high school and followed his career. I just thought he was the total package of what he brought to the table, not only offensively and defensively but also his leadership qualities and all. You just looked at Buster and knew he would work and just become the best possible player he could be.’’

And that is always The Secret.

So many players have talent, some of those players are natural-born leaders as well. And to find the player that will work and work and work and make the most of his talent, and helped guide his team, that is the Golden Ticket.

That is scouting. This is what it is all about.

“We had spent a lot of time on him and just knew the character and the ability and he was really a good athlete,’’ Barr said.

The Giants never wavered and wanted Posey from the start. Posey starred at Florida State University, but he was on Barr and the Giants’ radar from those high school days at Lee County High School in Leesburg, GA. There was that conviction it was meant to be.

Add Crawford to the same draft and that is quite the daily double of stars, and not just stars but level-headed stars.

“To be able to get Posey and Crawford in the same draft in 2008 changed the Giants,’’ Barr said, looking back on it all these years later. “We were fortunate enough to change the Giants and what they’ve done. It’s fun watching them and then, of course, then to get Belt the next year. To get three 10-year guys. Wow!’’

That is one big wow.

Brandon Crawford has been nothing short of spectacular for San Francisco in 2021. (Photo by Chris Victorio / The Examiner)

To me the character level is as impressive as the talent.

“I think that was the key, not only were they talented, but they were going to give you everything they had to become the best players they could be – and be leaders on the field too,’’ Barr told me.

“Both Posey and Crawford are not the rah-rah leaders, they are quiet, but at the same time you look up to them for the way they go about their business, the way they have gone about their business throughout their careers.

“It’s fun to keep watching them, that’s for sure,’’ Barr said.

Scouting is forever the heart and soul of baseball, and when it works out like it did in 2008 for the Giants with Posey as the fifth pick and Crawford the 117th pick – catcher and shortstop covered for a generation – that is Nirvana, perfect happiness.

And the Giants fans have responded with love for Posey and Crawford.

After the win Friday night Posey said, “It was awesome out here tonight, this is kind of what we’ve become accustomed to early in my career.’’

John Barr

And here is what I love too. Webb said he listened to his catcher and that is why he had success in Game 1. It was a read and react situation. It wasn’t scripted. No cheat cards.

Posey told Webb to embrace the moment and the right-hander did, going 7 2/3 innings in his first postseason start, surrendering five hits while striking out 10.

“There can be butterflies,’’ Posey said, “but use that to heighten your focus.’’

As a coach of mine once said, get those butterflies in flying formation.

Noted Webb, “There was definitely some nerves that first inning. I think throwing more changeups. I feel like that’s just kind of the way the game was going, and Buster saw that it was probably the best pitch I was throwing today and he just kept going to it.’’

Posey has the knowledge and the experience to guide along his pitcher and not just read a game plan off a cheat card.

That’s invaluable these days.

Webb put it into perspective and this kind of comment is something Barr was hopeful of one day hearing when Posey was taken by the Giants. This is what he brings to the table.

John Barr couldn't be happier with the San Francisco Giants' drafting decisions. (Photo by Marc Narducci)

“He’s a special person,’’ Webb said of Posey. “Not just on the field, but off the field as well. For on the field, it gives you confidence when you got someone like him back there and just, I don’t know how many times I shook today, but when he puts a sign down sometimes, he [does] it with a little extra too, like, ‘Let’s throw this pitch,’ and I’ll say, ‘All right, let’s go. It just gives you more confidence and being able to talk to him off the field as well, just about life and everything, like I’m very lucky for sure.’’

Posey took the same attack approach to the plate, and it did not matter the home run came on a 3-0 pitch. “It’s just on the attack from pitch one, trying to get something that you can drive and not necessarily letting the count dictate the approach,’’ Posey explained.

Posey has now played in 55 postseason games and 1,371 regular season games. Crawford has played 40 postseason games and another 1,443 in the regular season.

Back in 2008, the Rays drafted first and selected shortstop Tim Beckham. The Pirates then chose third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the Royals went with first baseman Eric Hosmer and the Orioles selected lefty Brian Matusz.

The Giants struck gold and the Marlins, who picked sixth went with catcher Kyle Skipworth. What a difference one slot made.

All those players picked ahead of Posey combined have played a total of 51 postseason games.

The most interesting thing about the Giants is the veteran leadership they are getting from so many players, not just Posey and Crawford.

The Giants under president Farhan Zaidi are shocking the baseball world with a heavy veteran lineup and that is so much fun to see with so many players making big-time contributions.

The Giants acquisition of Kris Bryant from the Cubs was the trade deadline move to make and I still cannot believe that the Mets did not land Bryant. But that’s the difference between playing October baseball and watching from the sidelines. For the Mets it was not worth the price of trading away any possible future stars and I certainly get that, but now the Mets are trying to figure out who will be their next president, GM and manager of the team.

Bryant homered in Game 1 as well.

The Giants are rolling along with help from former Met Wilmer Flores, just one of the veteran key pieces. Gabe Kapler has done a much better job managing this team than with the Phillies, he has learned to watch and react to the game instead of just making everything about numbers – and that is a credit to him.

You never stop learning in baseball.

Barr first entered pro baseball with the Mets in 1984 and was there in 1986 when the Mets last won a World Championship. A New Jersey native, Barr went to Rider University and played for legendary coach Sonny Pittaro. He spent time with a number of clubs, including assistant GM of the Padres when Joe McIlvaine was GM. He also was with the Twins, Orioles and Dodgers. He has won multiple awards from groups like New York Pro Baseball Hot Stove League and was named Scout of the Year for the East Region in 2019, voted on by his peers.

Once he landed in San Francisco as the director of scouting he made the most if it.

After the 2018 season Zaidi and GM Scott Harris made changes but Barr has stayed with the organization. He continues to be a part of the Giants story and watch players he drafted like Posey and Crawford play huge roles with the team.

“Players like that keep you young,’’ Barr joked.

They sure do. The Giants and Dodgers will continue to slug it out, the ultimate heavyweight matchup of two bitter rivals who came to California together in 1958.

They are two storied franchises.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the New York Giants winning the World Series, beating the Yankees in eight games back when the magic number was five victories in the World Series. That was in 1919-20-21 when it was best of nine and then went back to best of seven in 1922.

That 1921 World Series was the first to feature two New York teams. After this World Series ends, BallNine will take a look at what that World Series was like. The Giants also faced the Yankees in 1922 and swept them in four games.

The San Francisco Giants had never won a World Series until Buster & Crew broke through in 2010. The draft day two years earlier paid almost immediate dividends and here we are 13 years later with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford still leading the way.

Draft gold from start to finish.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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