Zaidi sees work on Giants re­build as a team ef­fort

Merced Sun-Star - - Sports - BY JANIE MCCAULEY

Farhan Zaidi un­der­stands the in­trigue that stems from his unique base­ball path: from the small-bud­get Oak­land Ath­let­ics to the big-spend­ing Los An­ge­les Dodgers and back to the Bay Area to join the ri­val Giants.

San Fran­cisco’s new frontof­fice whiz plans to in­cor­po­rate plenty from the fran­chise’s rich base­ball tra­di­tion by lean­ing on some of the en­trenched base­ball minds be­hind its suc­cess this decade, even if there are vary­ing ideas about how to get the Giants back into play­off con­tention.

“It’s a con­ve­nient nar­ra­tive to see this as kind of a clash of schools of thought. I just don’t see it that way at all,” the MITe­d­u­cated Zaidi said of his an­a­lyt­ics ex­per­tise with the old­school prac­tices of vet­eran ex­ec­u­tive Brian Sabean and man­ager Bruce Bochy. “… Ob­vi­ously we didn’t get to these points in our ca­reer the same way or in a sim­i­lar way, but I think that’s part of the beauty of the game, how we all wind up to­gether and then pulling to­ward a com­mon goal.”

Fol­low­ing four years as general man­ager of the Dodgers,

Zaidi re­ceived a five-year con­tract to be­come Giants pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions Tues­day. He was for­mally in­tro­duced Wed­nes­day at AT&T Park, then headed back to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the GM meet­ings in Carlsbad. He’ll join up with San Fran­cisco’s front of­fice on site – a trip Zaidi fig­ures will bring some “nor­malcy” back to his life after a whirl­wind few days switch­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Giants CEO Larry Baer and Zaidi first met Fri­day for a planned two-hour ses­sion that car­ried on for 61⁄2 hours. Zaidi on Wed­nes­day thanked the Dodgers for al­low­ing him to pur­sue an op­por­tu­nity with their NL West ri­val, say­ing “I’m in­cred­i­bly gra­cious.”

The next step for Zaidi is hir­ing a general man­ager and a farm di­rec­tor, some­thing he hopes to do soon if the right can­di­date emerges.

It’ll be a new di­rec­tion for a fran­chise that won World Se­ries cham­pi­onships in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

Zaidi’s Dodgers reached the World Se­ries the past two years with­out win­ning.

“The re­sponse was just to­tal heart­break I guess. I don’t know how else you say it,” he said.

Zaidi will spend the com­ing months learn­ing more about a fran­chise he’s watched closely for decades. He has al­ready ex­changed text mes­sages with some core play­ers, and he plans to visit a few this off­sea­son. Zaidi’s first base­ball game came at Can­dle­stick Park in 1987, so this feels like com­ing “full cir­cle.”

Zaidi earned his bach­e­lor’s in eco­nom­ics from Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in 1998 and a PhD in eco­nom­ics from the UC Berke­ley in 2011. He spent 10 years with the A’s be­fore join­ing Los An­ge­les.

“It was quite com­pelling the way Farhan was able to put to­gether win­ning fran­chises through­out,” Baer said, not­ing he hopes Zaidi will lead the fran­chise decades into the fu­ture.

San Fran­cisco went 73-89 in an in­jury-plagued 2018 with a ma­jors-worst 5-21 record in Septem­ber, miss­ing the play­offs for a se­cond straight year and third time in four sea­sons.

Zaidi has no plans of tack­ling a turn­around on his own. Sabean will stay di­rectly in­volved, and Bochy is al­lowed last word when it comes to on-field moves, in­clud­ing the lineup and ro­ta­tion.

“Any­thing that is un­der the privy of the man­ager, the man­ager has fi­nal say, pe­riod, that is not even a ques­tion for me,” Zaidi said.

Zaidi and Bochy spoke briefly al­ready and will meet in per­son at some point. Bochy is sched­uled to at­tend late Hall of Famer Wil­lie McCovey’s cel­e­bra­tion of life Thurs­day at the ball­park after Zaidi is al­ready back in the San Diego area.

To Bochy and Sabean, Zaidi ex­pressed his in­ter­est in learn­ing from both long­time, ac­com­plished base­ball men while bring­ing a fresh look, say­ing “I see this as a col­lab­o­ra­tive process” with “ideas flow­ing both ways.”

A mes­sage he kept com­ing back to Wed­nes­day: “Our goal is to play mean­ing­ful base­ball as deep into the sea­son and as soon as we can.”

To do so, he will strive to make “one good base­ball move after an­other” in build­ing a win­ning ros­ter.

“I think the theme that we had from a play­er­ac­qui­si­tion stand­point in par­tic­u­lar was no move is too small to not be worth a cer­tain level of ef­fort and de­tail – waiver claims, mi­nor league free agents, se­cond or third play­ers in trades,” he said. “There’s a lot of value to be had in iden­ti­fy­ing ta­lent in those re­gards.”

Farhan Zaidi

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