SAN FRANCISCO -- There was something that stood out right away Monday afternoon when Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris sat down behind a podium at Oracle Park, and it wasn't the fact that the new general manager is 32 years old. It was that Zaidi, sitting to his left, was wearing an orange tie.
"I'm so excited I'm even wearing a tie," Giants president of baseball operations Zaidi said, laughing. "I didn't wear a tie to my own press conference."
Zaidi sat at the same podium one year and three days ago and got introduced by Larry Baer. On Monday it was Zaidi's turn to make the introduction, and it was clear throughout a 30-minute press conference how much this hire means to the president of baseball operations.
Zaidi talked of Harris' character, creativity and thought process. Then he leaned back in his chair and watched Harris outline his vision, a proud smile on his face as he listened to every answer. Zaidi had a year to think about this hire, one that will shape the future of Giants baseball.
"I really view it as a partnership, a partnership leading our baseball operations group together," Zaidi said. "I don't necessarily see us dividing up departments or reporting lines. I think it's going to be a really collaborative effort. It's obviously a buzzword in the industry and it's certainly a buzzword for us -- wanting people to collaborate and work together, and I'm very confident that Scott will be a huge contributor in that area."
Harris, in his seven years in Chicago, learned that the buzzword is vitally important. He said the thing he took away from the Cubs was the culture that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer built and cultivated, and he's looking forward to having the same kind of approach in San Francisco.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Harris, who grew up a few miles from Oracle Park, but he said it's one he didn't expect. He was sitting in his office on a Sunday in October when Hoyer, the GM of the Cubs, called him and said Zaidi wanted to speak to him. The two soon got together for an initial meeting that lasted five hours.
Harris had met Zaidi just once before, so he called contacts around the game to see what it was like working for him. Zaidi did the same, and the two formed a bond that they believe will lead to the collaboration Zaidi has sought. Harris said the Cubs had the same culture, noting that Epstein and Hoyer "really believe that four opinions is better than three, five is better than four, six is better than five."
"During the interview, we talked about what the reporting structure would look like and we both expressed an interest in keeping it nebulous," Harris said. "That's what he had in L.A. and that's what we had in Chicago. I think that's really important because I see this relationship as being a close collaborative relationship full of debate, full of challenging each other, full of trying to put the Giants first.
"We should have the opportunity to free each other up to work on some of the bigger ideas, some of the concepts and philosophies that will push the Giants forward, which is really hard when it's only one person in the job. I know Farhan expressed that was a little bit of a challenge for him."
The Cubs famously had a "Pitch Lab" that would help their pitchers work on grips and spin, and Harris certainly has the background to implement similar approaches with the Giants. He oversaw research and development with the Cubs, but he had his hand in just about everything, from international prospects to the day-to-day operations of the big league roster.
Harris is known for being easy to work with, but also for having a remarkable work ethic. He spoke several times Monday of how important it is to get along with coworkers because of how many 17-hour days there are. That kind of energy will be needed, because the Giants still have a long way to go. Harris left a contender to come help rebuild his hometown team, but as he thought about the situation he would be entering, he said a few things stood out.
Part of the job in Chicago was tracking minor leaguers for other teams, and Harris said he noticed how some Giants prospects took huge leaps in their development in the first season under a new regime. He noted that the Cubs had interest in several prospects the Giants acquired at the deadline and pointed to one transaction that caught his eye.
"We had a very busy final moments (before) the trade deadline," Harris said. "I remember going back to my office once the dust settled and trying to get up to speed on what happened around the industry. One of the trades I was struck by was the (Mark) Melancon one. I thought (Zaidi) did an excellent job."
Zaidi shocked many in the industry by getting out from under the final year of Melancon's massive contract and acquiring a decent pitching prospect in the process. That's the kind of move the Giants will need to replicate over and over again, but Harris has seen it done before.
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The Cubs lost 89 games in 2014. Two years later, Harris had a ring on his finger.
"It can happen really fast," Harris said. "That's certainly the goal for us."