Farhan Zaidi, head freshly buzzed and in rare dressy form with an orange tie, cracked jokes throughout. Scott Harris, looking every bit his 32 years of age, was both poised and wide-eyed. His family, who clapped at the event’s conclusion, beamed.
Variations of “excited” were used 13 times as the Giants officially ushered in their new general manager, less work off Zaidi’s plate and significantly more on Harris’. Of course, he now can have his mother or father put dinner on that plate, too.
The Redwood City native has come home.
“I want to thank my family who’s here today for always supporting me and for their relentless pursuit of a way to get me back to the Bay Area,” Harris said Monday at Oracle Park. “It worked.”
The former Cubs assistant general manager is now the Giants’ No. 2 man, completing a meteoric rise from UCLA undergrad to Columbia business school, a “serendipitous encounter” with former Giants GM Al Rosen leading to an unpaid internship with the Nationals in 2008 and then with the Reds before working for MLB. In 2012 came his major break, the Cubs plucking him as director of baseball operations, where he grew under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
The year-long process of replacing Brian Sabean has concluded and brought Harris back to where he was raised — and he can now root for the Giants.
“My dad is from Chicago, he grew up, a huge Cubs fan. My mom is from San Francisco, she’s a Giants fan. So they divided the sons,” Harris said. “I was raised a Cubs fan, my brother was raised a Giants fan, which put my nephew, Teddy, in an awkward spot because his dad loves the Giants and his uncle’s working for the Cubs. And now at least Teddy has a little more clarity.”
Teddy is not the only one to benefit. Zaidi joked about heading off for vacation after the news conference, another mind in-house allowing him more time for bigger-picture thinking.
The two didn’t know each other well before the hiring process, Zaidi saying he was familiar with Harris by reputation. Harris called around seeking input about Zaidi.
“Everyone knows his reputation in the game, and it couldn’t be better than it is. Everyone knows about his intellect, but I really wanted to know what it’s like to work with him,” said Harris, baseball’s youngest GM. “… I was thoroughly convinced that we will work very well together.”
They will need to for a team coming off a 77-85 campaign to have hope. Harris was part of the Chicago brain trust that finally transformed a frustrated and deprived franchise into World Series champions.
He did not want to publicly assess the Giants’ talent level before being fully diving in to their pool of players.
“The one thing I will say about my experience in Chicago is that it can happen really fast,” Harris said. “It certainly did for us going from 2014 to 2015. And I know it has happened really fast in Farhan’s career, too, and that certainly is a goal for us. And we’re going to try to compete as much as possible on and off the field to put us in a position to transform, like we did in Chicago.”
The Giants have an aging core group of players whose contracts handcuff the structure of the team. And yet, the lure of working with the franchise — and with Zaidi — helped him land his choice.
“There’s really a strong feeling in the industry that this is a really attractive baseball market,” the Giants president of baseball operations said. “It’s a really attractive place to live. The organization’s history I think is something that really resonates with people. And those were some common themes. Both for manager and GM candidates, there’s a lot of excitement to be able to roll up their sleeves and continue to work on our situation and continue the progress that we’ve been making.”
The hierarchy is nearly complete, with only a manager — which Harris will have input on — remaining. Zaidi finally found his No. 2, a wunderkind Bay Area native who might still be toiling in the dregs of the league without a supportive family and perhaps overly supportive grandmother.
“The most persistent individual I’ve ever met” met Rosen, the GM of the Giants from 1985-92 in Palm Springs and said, “You will have lunch with my grandson, who’s in college, to talk about baseball,” Harris relayed. “And so I drove out to Palm Springs from college and sat and had lunch with him. I didn’t really say much, I listened to his stories, I listened to his advice. And for some reason he took a liking to me.”
Soon enough, Harris had his Nationals gig. Soon enough — though perhaps not soon enough for his family — he came back home to help resurrect a franchise.