March 30, 2017

FULL QUANT:

THE ARCHITECT : How Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi became one of the most coveted minds in baseball (ANDY MCCULLOUGH (MARCH 30, 2016, LA Times)

He would shake loose from slumber around 3 a.m., unsettled by memories of the Dodgers' playoff defeat to the Chicago Cubs: A misplaced slider by Joe Blanton, an umpire's debatable call on Adrian Gonzalez. He fixated on the tiniest moments of a squandered chance to end his team's championship drought.

To Zaidi, the season mirrored the plight of Sisyphus. In those sleepless hours, he imagined himself staring at the boulder as it rolled down a hill.

Outsiders often view Zaidi as a clinical, camera-shy cog in the Dodgers' executive cadre. His colleagues see him as a wisecracking, idea-spewing agent of innovation. Alone in the dark, he considers himself a 40-year-old man exhausted by the cruelty of his profession. His office resides in the shadow of Hollywood, but each year his sport provides misery for every team but one.

"You get one 'Friday Night Lights' ending, and you get 29 'Sopranos' endings," Zaidi said. "The lights just go out, and you don't know what happened."

The pain reminds him why he is here, how his pursuit of happiness became intertwined with the pursuit of a championship. He forsook a lucrative career in business and risked disappointing his family to gamble on an entry-level job in sports. During a decade in Oakland's front office, he matured from a book-taught quant into a well-rounded executive. He developed a loyalty so fierce he nearly turned down the offer from Los Angeles.

With the Dodgers, as the chief lieutenant of Andrew Friedman's baseball operations department, he serves as a font of creativity. He piloted the negotiations for the acquisition of Rich Hill last summer. He helped foster the team's ethos of flexibility, which is part of the reason the club is favored to win a fifth consecutive National League West title in 2017.

"There are a lot of instances of him bringing something up that in the moment I think is crazy," Friedman said. "And as it resonates more, I oftentimes will come around to the crazy thought."

Zaidi's background defies convention. He never played beyond high school. He graduated from MIT and earned a doctorate in behavioral economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Born in Canada, raised in the Philippines, he descends from Pakistani stock.

In the monochromatic field of baseball executives, Zaidi is the lone Muslim general manager. 

Posted by at March 30, 2017 6:53 PM

  

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