Larry Baer probably looked at himself Tuesday night in the mirror and said the words he could never have imagined uttering.
“I have hired a former Athletic and a former Dodger to repair the Giants. Oh, hell.”
But hey, life’s funny that way.
Truth is, Baer hired someone who is eminently qualified to be the next architect of the baseball division of San Francisco Giants, Ltd. He learned in Oakland, he honed his skills and analytical gifts in Los Angeles, and now he’s going to fix the Giants ... if that’s how the end game plays.
But we live with labels. We like labels. We love the illusion that We Are Giant is antithetical to anything A’s or Dodgers. It makes life more fun, if that’s how you traffic in fun.
And it is a statement about labels and their fragility that Baer, who enjoys the myths of baseball as much as anyone, is willing to chuck them all to put the baseball team he runs for Charlie Johnson in a different place.
It is the first time Baer has had to do this, because the last time there was true and substantive change in this franchise’s baseball profile, he wasn’t running the shop. Peter Magowan was.
In other words, Baer broke his own marketer’s programming to hire Zaidi, because as bright as he might be, his résumé had those two words that we always have believed make him twitch -- A’s and Dodgers. And to make that jump, Baer recognized that past associations were the small stuff, and Zaidi’s gifts and how they could be applied to the Giants were too important to hold his T-shirt collection against him.
Zaidi will further explain his master plan for making the Giants younger and more vibrant Wednesday, and in doing so either will immediately win over the audience or give himself enough time to do so.
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But for now, his mere hiring is sufficient to point how what a brave new world Baer has decided to enter. The Giants built an entire 60-year image on hating the Dodgers for simply existing, and 50 years on blaming the A’s for existing in their breathing space. No other teams made the Giants or their fans react reflexively in their search for the kind of rivalry they read about when the Giants played in Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and how they longed for good old days before the A’s left Kansas City in search of a history it couldn’t create in Missouri.
The upside of Zaidi is that if successful, he will be lionized as Brian Sabean has been. The downside is, if he fails, his résumé will be held against him -- in baseball, that’s what fans do.
But this is easily defensible as a hire, even to those who thought the job easily could have gone to Kim Ng, or Chaim Bloom, or anyone else. Zaidi brings analytical and political game to a job that requires both, and his job is to show how his game can make everyone else’s better.
And eventually, Baer might be forgiven for breaking two fan codes at once. All he needs is a parade.