The Baltimore Orioles, who expected to spend the off-season searching for a power hitter and a veteran pitcher, are also, quite unexpectedly, looking for a new director of scouting. John Barr, who oversaw the team's scouting department for two years, resigned yesterday to become the San Diego Padres' assistant general manager.
In San Diego, Barr will be reunited with his friend and mentor, Joe McIlvaine, whom the Padres named general manager last week. Barr worked for McIlvaine in the New York Mets' minor-league department for four years until he was hired by the Minnesota Twins in 1988. He joined the Orioles a year later.
Barr, 33, said he was excited about being reunited with McIlvaine and eager to start the process of rebuilding the disappointing Padres, who are in the midst of a total reorganization. Changes in the past year have included the sale of the team, the dismissal of longtime Padres general manager Jack McKeon and the decline of the Padres from a contender to a team mired in the second division of the National League West.
"Even though there's a lot of hard work ahead of us, it's going to be fun," Barr said. "For me, it's another challenge. I came [to
Baltimore] two years ago with the challenge of reorganizing the scouting department. With the help of some key people within the scouting ranks, we've been able to accomplish that. We've assembled one of the best scouting departments in baseball."
Orioles general manager Roland Hemond thanked Barr for doing a "terrific job." Hemond said Doug Melvin, Orioles player personnel director, would take over Barr's duties until a new scouting director is named, which, according to Hemond, will not happen until the team has evaluated team employees who might be interested in the job.
Barr's accomplishments in Baltimore included overseeing two of the team's most successful amateur drafts in recent years, in which the Orioles' No. 1 picks were pitchers Ben McDonald in 1989 and Mike Mussina this year. He also is credited with bringing stability to a scouting department that had been in a state of decline throughout the late 1980s. During his term, salaries of some scouts were increased significantly, and there also were boosts in daily food and mileage allowances.
"I think the scouting staff was in a little bit of disarray when John came. But he quickly allayed a lot of fears," said John Stokoe, the Orioles' eastern regional supervisor and a longtime scout for the team.
Barr said: "When I came here, people were leaving. Morale wasn't very high. But we've really come together on the player-development side, and by doing that we've had two very successful drafts."
Orioles employees being mentioned yesterday as possible candidates to replace Barr included regional supervisors John Cox, a former scouting director for the Cincinnati Reds, and Gary Nickels, who has been interviewed for the vacant scouting director's post by at least one other major-league team. Gordon Goldsberry, special assistant to Hemond, also would seem to have the right credentials. He formerly was minor-league and scouting director for the Chicago Cubs.