I AM EXCITE I AM EXCITE I AM EXCITE
Dodgers will name Oakland’s Farhan Zaidi the new general manager later this week, according to baseball source.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) November 5, 2014
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 5, 2014
Smart people with billions of dollars: the new inefficiency.
And I do mean smart, by the way. Zaidi is 37 and has a Ph.D in economics from Berkeley after going undergrad to MIT.
From Technology Review in 2011:
One afternoon late in 2004, Farhan Zaidi ‘98, then a graduate student at UC Berkeley, was scrolling through his favorite websites as he ate his lunch. He was in the midst of his PhD research in behavioral economics, a branch of economics that incorporates elements of psychology. But when he saw a posting for a baseball operations position with the Oakland A’s, he dropped his sandwich and shot off a résumé immediately. “It was too good to pass up,” Zaidi says. He beat more than 1,000 other applicants to get the job, which he began after taking leave from Berkeley in January 2005. He’s now in his sixth season with the team, his second as director of baseball operations.
Zaidi, who was born in Canada, played Little League baseball growing up in the Philippines and watched the big-leaguers on summer vacations with relatives on both U.S. coasts. At MIT, he studied public finance and development economics. He also led the undergraduate economics association, organizing lectures by all-stars including Paul Krugman, PhD ‘77, now a Nobel laureate. After graduation he worked in management consulting for the Boston Consulting Group and then in business development for the Sporting News’ fantasy-sports website before heading west for graduate school.
From a 2005 interview, which I’m only including here because hey, maybe he saw something in someone we used to like a lot:
Who is the best prospect in the A’s system that we haven’t heard of yet?
Given how high-profile our farm system is because of the book, that’s a tough one. I’ll just cite two guys who are off to spectacular starts in ’05 who were probably not on the radar before this season — Andre Ethier, an outfielder and ’03 draftee out of OSU, and Dallas Braden, a left-handed starting pitcher and ’04 draftee out of Texas Tech. Braden started the year in Stockton but was recently promoted up to Midland (whether Ethier has been all year).
The sabermetrics crowd would be stunned to learn that Zaidi is now called the “Tools Police” in the A’s draft room – not because he disdains tools, the emphasis scouts often place on physical abilities such as running, throwing and power, but because he is such a proponent of them. “Moneyball” was about looking beyond tools, but Zaidi sees their value, to the point that he has a toy siren he hits whenever he hears reports that have too many stats.
“Our scouts started to think all we wanted was numbers, so our draft emphasis was too much on performance and we weren’t getting the impact prospects other clubs were,” Zaidi said. “The siren was a little comic relief, half joking, to serve as a reminder not to get too focused on the numbers.”
From Billy Beane in that same piece:
I’m more worried about losing him to Apple or Google than I am to another team.
The Dodgers just hired a Canadian Muslim Berkeley Ph.D. who grew up in the Philippines, went to MIT, and strongly advocated that the A’s sign Cuban Yoenis Cespedes. What a world. I am giddy. BRING ME ALL OF THE GENIUSES. (I sure hope Bill Plaschke hates this.)