All “organic” dialogues aside, there are very few general managers in MLB with more intellect, potential and industrial savvy than Farhan Zaidi. His education alone speaks volumes — a bachelors from MIT and a PhD from Cal-Berkeley.
Being of Pakistani descent, Zaidi was actually born in Canada. He moved to the Philippines at the age of four, where he remained until departing for college in 1994. He played baseball at the little-league and high school levels, but never took the field beyond that — similar to one of his mentors and predecessors, Paul DePodesta.
While at Berkeley, Zaidi read the book Moneyball and his career path began to take shape almost immediately. Admittedly, he often scanned through the employment ads on mlb.com while in grad school, and upon discovering an opening with the Oakland Athletics in 2004, couldn’t help but reach out.
He was hired immediately by GM Billy Beane, and began his career as a data analysis sabermetrics assistant. He eventually worked his way up to Director of Baseball Operations, then was promoted to Assistant GM in 2014. After the 2014 season, he was recruited by Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman to assume the general manager role, becoming the first Muslim general manager of any American pro sports franchise.
Working beside both Friedman and VP of Baseball Operations Josh Byrnes, many Dodger fans actually wonder how the daily grind is delegated to Zaidi and “who does what” inside the All-Star think tank.
While Byrnes is primarily responsible for player development (overseeing such executives as Gabe Kapler), Zaidi is more in tune to the daily operations of the MLB squad, research and development, and player acquisitions.
With his education and 12-year background at the MLB level, Zaidi certainly fits the new model of today’s general manager. He has already developed a reputation for having blends of both old school and new school thought processes, unlike several of the dinosaurs before him in Los Angeles.
He believes in the “value” of a trade, and is very analytical in terms of giving up prospects of worth, possessing a similar philosophy to his bosses, Friedman and Stan Kasten.
Alongside Friedman, Zaidi continues to spend a great deal of time on R & D— developing new tools which measure every single split-second of players actions and reactions while on the diamond.
After a year at the helm, it’s certainly fair to say that the Dodgers are headed in a new direction—continuing to emphasize the farm and the value of youth, despite the overwhelming anxiety and desire of the fan base to win a World Series Championship “right now”.
Many of the skeptics are quick to point out that Zaidi’s lack of playing experience beyond high school may hinder is ability, while others are already bringing up bad player deals, especially whenever Dee Gordon wins any type of league award or honor.
The current system in place is definitely suited to win championships and build dynasties down the road. But with ticket and parking prices increasing annually, being the second-largest market in baseball and a $8 billion television deal that leaves many unable to view the majority of the games, the fans expect more than just development.
Twenty-seven years have now passed since the Los Angeles Dodgers have won a championship. Friedman and Zaidi are certainly qualified to break that streak, but the question that now lingers is whether that championship will come soon enough before ownership—just like the fan base—runs out of patience.