Just weeks after the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman, a Bear Stearns analyst turned baseball wunderkind, as president of baseball operations, the team kept their offseason going and announced an even more intriguing hire Thursday: Farhan Zaidi.
Zaidi will be the Dodgers' new general manager, replacing Ned Colletti, who was removed after the Dodgers failed to advance beyond the Division Series in this year's playoffs. Colletti was given the title of special advisor to the president and CEO.
Colletti is an old-school baseball guy who grew up in Chicago and wears cowboy boots on the field. Zaidi is Muslim, grew up in the Philippines, went to MIT for undergrad and got a Ph.D. in behavioral economics from Berkeley.
According to a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, Zaidi decided he wanted to go into baseball after reading Michael Lewis's book about Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, "Moneyball." The book described, with certain liberties, how Beane took advantage of advanced metrics to assemble a winning team on the cheap.
Zaidi was hired as a baseball operations assistant under Beane in 2004 and worked his way up to being the team's assistant general manager for baseball operations.
In the Chronicle profile, Beane is effusive in his praise of Zaidi.
"I'm more worried about losing him to Apple or Google than I am to another team," Beane told the Chronicle earlier this year. "He has a great qualitative mind, but also a creative mind. The ability to look at things both micro and macro is unique and Farhan could do whatever he wants to do, not just in this game, but in any sport or business."
The Dodgers' hiring of Beane — and Friedman — is interesting because the Dodgers have been the complete antithesis of moneyball, spending more money on player salaries than any team in sports history.
There's also the fact that the last time the Dodgers hired a Beane protege, the results were disappointing. Paul DePodesta was an assistant to Beane before Dodgers owner Frank McCourt recruited him to be the team's general manager in 2004. After two seasons, Podesta was fired after the Dodgers went 71-91.
DePodesta was replaced by Colletti, who Thursday was replaced by Zaidi.