SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a booth for visiting general managers in the press box at AT&T Park, and when games are over they generally grab their stuff and take the elevator down to the concourse, where they can walk to the visiting clubhouse.
That’s what Farhan Zaidi would usually do when visiting with the Dodgers, but after the final game of the season, a blowout win for the visitors, Zaidi was compelled to stick around. The Giants were honoring Hunter Pence, and Zaidi decided to watch.
“As the ceremony started, I wound up staying up there, and I got a chance to hear Hunter and (Bruce) Bochy speak,” Zaidi said Wednesday. “On the last day of a tough season, the number of fans who were still there to show their support for Hunter and the team was really special to see. That was the embodiment of what this organization is.”
Zaidi didn’t know it at the time, but the Giants already were plotting to potentially have him lead the organization he was admiring in that moment. Larry Baer let Bobby Evans go with a week to go in the season in part because he was eager to start the search for a new head of baseball operations, and from the very beginning, Zaidi was one of three to four names at the very top. Baer would not reveal which other executives had frontrunner status, but Chaim Bloom of the Rays was one of them, and it’s believed that MLB’s Kim Ng was up there, too.
The Giants cast a wide net, even as Baer hoped to zero in on names at the top of his wish list. He consulted with Major League Baseball and friends around the game. Baer even briefly considered one candidate who works as an executive in another sport.
Zaidi was a priority from the start, but Baer could not interview him until after the Dodgers completed postseason play. When Zaidi left AT&T Park after the final game, there was a possibility he could become available after the Wild Card Game. But the Dodgers won the West, and the Giants were asked to wait until after the NLDS, and then they were asked to continue waiting.
The Giants did not want to sit around for a month if Zaidi was not interested, though, so MLB and the Dodgers worked together and made Zaidi available to Baer for a 30-minute phone call during the postseason. That was enough to assure Baer that Zaidi did have interest, and last Friday, the two finally sat down face to face.
The meeting was supposed to last two hours. Zaidi gave his vision for six and a half hours.
“It was incredibly engaging,” Baer said. “Transformational thinking is the way I would put it.”
Zaidi had a second interview on Sunday. He met again with team officials on Monday, this time with a focus on getting to know Brian Sabean and the people who run the business side of the organization.
On Monday, Zaidi was offered the job and a five-year deal. By Tuesday evening, he had been announced as the new president of baseball operations. On Wednesday afternoon, he was introduced. At 5 p.m. Wednesday, he flew back to Los Angeles to head down for the final night of the General Managers Meetings.
When Zaidi left the A’s for the Dodgers, he agonized over the decision for two weeks. He was going to stay in Oakland, but while jogging near his home, he had a panic attack. He realized he had to take a leap of faith.
This time around, there was much less to think about. Zaidi and his family wanted to come back to the Bay Area. The job is considered one of the best in the sport, and Zaidi will have full control over an organization rather than serving as someone’s assistant or No. 2. He said his first baseball game was at Candlestick Park on August 10, 1987.
This is a full circle moment for the 41-year-old. He didn’t need a moment of clarity to know that he needed to make a move.
“Yeah it was probably more of a gradual process here, less of a dramatic climax to the decision process,” Zaidi said on The Giants Insider Podcast. “It was just a gradual increase in level of comfort with the Giants organization, with Larry, who I was fortunate enough to spend time with over the last few days.
"And I just feel like from a life standpoint and taking on the challenge of coming to this organization at a time when it has a chance to really be on the upswing, yeah, it was kind of more that this time all the pieces fit together.”