Nevius: New Giants GM Scott Harris can help carry the load
Farhan Zaidi was excited.
“I’m wearing a tie,” he grinned. “I didn’t even wear a tie to my own press conference.”
He was also relieved.
The Monday press conference was to introduce preppy Scott Harris as the Giants’ general manager. On Tuesday night, Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations, announced that former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler would succeed Bruce Bochy in that job in San Francisco.
Filling those two high-profile roles puts a cap on what must have been an extremely weird year. He was hired so late last year (November) that there was no time to interview or hire a GM, so he had to do both jobs. Then CEO Larry Baer was suspended after a domestic altercation, so Zaidi was even more isolated as he attempted to revamp and modernize the Giants.
Oh, and we now read press reports that say Zaidi and his wife welcomed their first child, a boy, into their life in July. So how would you say the year has gone, Farhan?
“I am going on vacation immediately after this,” he joked.
Which, of course, he isn’t. Besides the new manager, there’s a balky roster to trim, trades to be made and presumably, late-night diaper changes.
But say this for him, he’s not afraid to trust his instincts.
Take the choice of Harris. The safe way to do this is to call in a familiar face from the past. The A’s and the Dodgers, where Zaidi worked before, must have several fresh-faced guys (or women) who can crunch analytics into a fine powder.
But he went with Harris, when each of them said they hardly knew each other before the interview process. Harris said he “immediately started calling people around the game to know what it was like to work with him.”
“I think we did a good bit of investigation of each other,” Zaidi said.
What Zaidi found, it seems, is a young guy who was generating some buzz while working on the staff of Cubs team president Theo Epstein. In fact, there was talk that if Epstein left at the end of his contract in 2021, Harris would be second in command to GM Jed Hoyer.
So it was no sure thing that the Cubs would give Harris permission to pursue the job. (Harris made a point to thank the club at the press conference.) Zaidi said he had a bit of concern this would be seen as a lateral move. After all, wasn’t there a chance Harris might end up running the show in Chicago?
“Still might,” the ever-candid Zaidi said. “He might be a loaner.”
Maybe. But that’s down the road. Harris is a local guy. Born in Redwood City, he got plenty of encouragement to come back home. He jokingly thanked his family “for their relentless pursuit to get me back to the Bay Area.”
And, by the way, he seems like a nice guy, but don’t tell me he’s not preppy. He played lacrosse at Menlo School, for cripes sake.
But more than anything, it looks like Zaidi has found a fellow nerd. You get the impression the two of them could discuss the spin rate of the typical ?left-hander’s curveball for half an hour.
We may not notice the difference now that he’s been hired, but I’ll bet Zaidi will. This one-man-band stuff was getting old. Although it should be mentioned that there was no Larry Baer on the dais at the press conference. Make of that what you will.
Harris will surely take off some of the day-to-day pressure and will also give Zaidi a guy to bounce ideas off. However, I believe this is the first presser I’ve ever been to where one of the participants (Harris) said, “We both expressed an interest in keeping it nebulous.”
Actually, “Keeping it Nebulous” would not be a bad slogan for next year, if we go through another roulette wheel of roster changes.
But it is interesting that Harris said that there was professional respect in the Cubs’ offices for Zaidi. He noticed that players his group targeted often ended up on Zaidi’s roster.
Harris was particularly impressed by the Mark Melancon deal, when Zaidi not only traded Melancon to Atlanta, but convinced the Braves to take over what remained of his $62 million contract. Which kind of hinted that, like the rest of us, Harris was saying he couldn’t believe the Braves went for it.
Harris is 32 and looks younger, but bright young fellows have become the norm in the stat-driven sport. It’s a whole new world for some of the veterans.
Harris got his first break when he formed a friendship with former Giants GM Al Rosen. Until Rosen’s death, the two stayed in touch.
Harris recalls one of those welcome-to-the-future moments, when he described how the Cubs worked out a trade. Harris said when Rosen learned that it had all been done with text messages and emails, he was “incredulous.”
Hey baseball, the bright young guys are saying, your phone just pinged. It’s the future. Check it out.
Contact C.W. Nevius at firstname.lastname@example.org.