Farhan Zaidi does not care about your feelings. The Business of Baseball falls apart when emotions enter into decision-making. The entire history of the game highlights man’s inhumanity to their own humanity. Feelings aren’t just rejected, they’re spat out onto the grass and covered up by dirt.
The Giants became tremendously successful by doing it Their Way, and in the process, forgot about the cold, brutal skill assessment and roster management needed to stave off oblivion. Their way of doing things — eschewing the cutting edge analytical trends in favor of rewarding loyalty and showing devotion — transformed the franchise from a crown jewel to a tombstone overnight. Now it’s Farhan’s job to remove the tombstone and make us all forget about the past.
There will come a time when all of this doesn’t feel weird, but for now, let’s embrace that the Giants are different. This will be the first time in a generation that the team will be run by someone other than Brian Sabean or one of his subordinates.
Farhan Zaidi was brought in this offseason to carry the organization across the threshold and into the modern game of baseball, and while that’s a welcome change of pace after two losing seasons following a Success Era that achieved three World Championships, it won’t be anything other than weird at first, because it really felt like the Giants were going to figure out a way to stave off oblivion. No one can, of course. No GM is going to make you forget that all good things must come to an end. Impermanence is part of our existence, and that impermanence usually comes with a healthy dose of pain.
From the casual fan perspective, not much will change in 2019. The Giants will lose a lot of games and with a lot of the same faces that have lost 232 games since the second half of 2016, though mostly with the help of a heap of players they probably don’t realize are on the team yet. They already know Bruce Bochy will retire at season’s end. Some of them might realize that Brian Sabean’s contract expires then, too. Farhan Zaidi probably won’t become a household name until he makes his first drastic move involving the Success Era — whether that’s trading Madison Bumgarner at the deadline or simply releasing Pablo Sandoval before his “Let Pablo Pitch” bobblehead night on May 11th.
There’s so much comfort in the household name, though. We all have our reasons for watching baseball and sticking with a team in transition, but generally speaking, it’s because of the consistency that comes with a daily event; but the terms of our engagement have changed. The Giants have hired someone who likes to tinker, someone who’s more concerned over the next couple of years with making spots 16-40 as good as 1-15, who won’t worry about the huge contracts and franchise faces in that 1-15 group and instead take up the challenge of working around them until their deals expire.
Or maybe not. That’s the thing. Farhan Zaidi is a sabermetric hero because he’s a brilliant innovator who has spurred both organizations he’s been with to a higher strata of success. He might not be following a blueprint. Or maybe the design involves throwing as much against the wall to see what sticks. There’s a place for that in a changing market of needs and demands. In an organization that had become calcified and predictable in its decision-making, it’s revolutionary.
From the Online Baseball Nerd perspective, that means it’s going to be trickier to divine player moves. It’s going to be a lot more listening and learning than making educated guesses based on literally decades’ worth of public statements and player transactions. We don’t know what The Zaidi Plan is and we might not have a firm sense of it for awhile.
There might be the occasional foray into a Bryce Harper-level move, but expect there to be a lot more trades for players out of options or free agent adds of former infielders turned relief pitchers. Or just... few, if any, big headline moves, but also, lots of moves, because Zaidi is the name and his actions are the headline. This new age of Giants Baseball will be unpredictable on the micro level.
Today, it probably means a fading spotlight on star players. We’ll be saying a lot of goodbyes this season, one way or another. Tomorrow... could be anything. It used to be that we could reliably predict Brian Sabean to acquire a savvy veteran to wring out his last few good months of professional baseball. It used to be that we could rely on John Barr or Dick Tidrow to unlock struggling talents or find a scrap heap pitcher to make him into something remarkable, but the Giants didn’t bring in their new President of Baseball Operations to maintain business as usual. They wanted a hero and he fit the bill.
The modern baseball executive has been placed on a pedestal, their genius the new shining beacon on the hill. Players can fail where a mathematically computed and charmingly instituted organizational plan cannot, but also to whom much is given, much is expected. Farhan Zaidi earned the right to be made the Giants’ first President of Baseball Operations. His personality and track record make him an interesting person in the world of baseball and a genuine reason for optimism when it comes to considering the Giants’ future.
Bonds, Kent, Posey, Bumgarner, Farhan Zaidi.
We’re in the Zaidi business now, and that means all things flow through him. We don’t have to forget the past, but it’s time to recognize that an era has ended. The Giants will play baseball the Farhan Zaidi Way from here on out. It’s up to us to decide if we’re ready to embrace impermanence and be willing to wake up and face a new day.
So, if you’re ready, welcome to tomorrow. And welcome to your new star player.