Giants

Farhan Zaidi has been given a massive task: Make the Giants cool again

Farhan Zaidi has been given a massive task: Make the Giants cool again

SAN FRANCISCO -- Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' new El Presidente, is easy to pigeonhole, so we’ve done it, several times.

Math Nerd? Sure, with all the math diplomas and decorative souvenirs from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conferences that one needs to prove the case.

Baseball Geek? No question, in two separate cities. He shakes down numbers, but he has a fascination with scouting in all its permutations, following the dictum of The Emeritus, Brian Sabean, to “respect both houses” of the baseball operations department.

Demolitions Expert? Well, if you believe the Giants actually are going to do everything about a rebuild except say the word, sure -- and yes, that is a gentle hint that Madison Bumgarner might at some point become an ex-Giant.

Philosopher? His hand-picked slogan for his regime is “Humble In Process,” an offshoot of the more pragmatic and commonly invoked “Humble In Victory.”

But the truth is, Zaidi will have to be all those things because the task he is taking on is not just to make the Giants win more games more often. He has do this in a way that can compete in a marketplace that is slowly but perceptibly looking away from baseball as a static and doctrinaire game in which most teams try to do the same things (homer, walk and strikeout on offense, shift on every pitch, throw 100-mph sliders and use all the relievers every day in the field) the same way.

In other words, Zaidi has to master the numbers in order to nuance them, to build a team that not only can compete with the scientific brains of the other 29 teams, but with the cultural footprint that the Warriors are impressing upon the area.

In other words, where once there were Panda hats, there are now Warriors hoodies, and those optics are not lost on Giants CEO and boss on site Larry Baer.

Not that Zaidi can draft the next Stephen Curry or win the auction for the next Kevin Durant (though he would not be discouraged from doing so), but he is being asked to do more than just pull the Giants from their present competitive cul de sac.

He is being asked to make the Giants cool again, not just by winning more games than they lose and playing in October, but by doing so with players whom citizens gravitate toward with an eye toward emotional allegiance.

For the most part, Zaidi’s immediate task is to build a front office, make 40-man roster evaluations and system strengths and weaknesses. But as a club president, he now gets/is tasked to sit with investors and business experts and marketing types. He is nearly an owner himself, with the only real lack being a piece of the team; Billy Beane, he is not -- at least not yet.

But the Giants’ three championships, the three parades that followed them and the three rings that followed both changed the definition of success in these parts, and the Warriors’ three titles changed them yet again. It is not lost on Baer that the Chase Center is rising at great pace and cost just a few blocks down what is rapidly becoming San Francisco’s new gold coast, and that the A’s are not the competition in the stakes at which he and the organization plays.

Baseball is just the hook, but when played well and with tangible reward is the hook which all the fish bite. It is how the Warriors became the inheritors of the Giants’ place as the Giants became the inheritors of the 49ers’ place, and the 49ers became the inheritors of the Raiders’ and A’s place. Before that, bears ran for public office, and coyotes ran the railroads.

That’s the history of the area, though, not the purview of Farhan Zaidi. All he has to do is master baseball in San Francisco as the last person in the building with a say on every major decision and many of the minor ones, and if he does all those things in the five years of his first contract (Brian Sabean was here for 26, and there have been just four managers in 32 years, to remind you how devoted the franchise is to continuity), he will have taken the Giants back into the argument of who gets to own this lucrative territory and the hearts of its most devoted and wealthy.

Other than that, the only thing on his plate is to convince people that there has never been a pigeonhole large enough to hold him. Zaidi has been given a massive task, but just as important, he has seized it. There is much for him to do and much for the game to do to him.

Oh, and when the rest of you are girding for eternal daylight saving time, he has to fix the starting rotation, too. Already, he seems massively undercompensated.

Joey Bart impresses Bruce Bochy in first few weeks of spring training

Joey Bart impresses Bruce Bochy in first few weeks of spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Giants announced their minor league coaches a few weeks ago, it certainly seemed no accident that longtime big league staffer Bill Hayes was the new manager of the San Jose Giants.

Joey Bart, the top catching prospect in the minors, will begin the season with San Jose. 

"I know we wanted to make sure we had a catching guy with him, so this worked out great," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Billy will be a great mentor .... to have him day in and day out will be helpful with his progress. That's going to be nice for Joey."

Hayes has been a roving catching instructor in the minors since being let go as first base coach. He previously was Bochy's bullpen catcher and is about to start his 20th season with the organization. 

Bart is in his first full professional season, and thus far has mostly kept his head down. There has been some ribbing from veterans -- they made Bart hit first against Madison Bumgarner in live BP in case Bumgarner felt like buzzing someone -- but Bochy praised the 22-year-old for the way he has handled his first big league camp

"He's an eager learner," Bochy said. "You watch him and he listens and wants to take in everything ... I love the way he's carrying himself."

Bochy has had his first extended look at Bart this spring. 

[RELATED: Giants' Joey Bart named top catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline]

"Very good mechanics. He has a strong arm and I think he has a good setup behind the plate," Bochy said. "He's a physical guy and you see the size of him, so there's no question he's going to be able to handle the workload behind the plate for a long season. And the power, it's impressive, you know."

Bart hit 13 homers in 45 minor league games last year. He has shown that pop in BP, particularly when going the opposite way, and he should soon get a crack at showing it in games. Bochy said he'll throw Bart into some early Cactus League games. The Giants kick off the exhibition season Saturday.

Giants' Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes

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AP

Giants' Kieran Lovegrove stands against racism in Black History Month shoes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- South African-born reliever Kieran Lovegrove is a new name to the Giants' organization -- he could even be a name you've never heard of. I'm not one of those people.

However, this was the first time I met Lovegrove in person. 

Despite spending many years following each other's careers on social media, I was never given the opportunity to interview the young pitcher. But when he posted a photo of some unique shoes recently, I was curious. Not only were these beauties, well beautiful, but they had a very special message behind them:

On the inner-tongue of the Converse shoes, "Equality" in yellow is printed with "BHM" on the front. "BHM" is also engraved on the side of the colorful shoes. 

Every year, Lovegrove tries to get one of the Black History Month pairs.

"Really, it's me wanting to continue to stand against racism," Lovegrove told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Especially as it exists today, it's just gotten so divisive against people -- that's all it is -- to show solidarity."

The 24-year-old reliever was modest saying the message may not "be much," since it's a pair of shoes, but it starts a conversation.

"Fashion is a way that you can stand for something without your words being misconstrued," he said. 

Four years ago, a teammate of Lovegrove's convinced him to get a pair of Jordan's. He was unsure about them at first, but ultimately he became the new owner of Spike Lee 40's, the Black History Month edition. After receiving numerous compliments, he wanted to continue showing his support whether in the form of a shoe, or otherwise.

[RELATED: Bochy impressed with Joey Bart after couple weeks]

"Not that I need more shoes," he laughed.

He's running out of room in his closet, and with his girlfriend moving to the area in May, it's imperative he makes room. But until then, he has no problem with his kicks taking up space -- especially when it sends such a powerful message.

"I'll celebrate the accomplishments of great black men and women in history overall."

Respect.