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Farhan Zaidi makes strong first impression with Dodgers

The Dodgers new GM stressed collaboration with fellow executives Andrew Friedman and Josh Byrnes as a reason to join Los Angeles.

Jon SooHoo | LA Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers introduced new general manager Farhan Zaidi to the media on Friday, and while it was definitely our first look at another key face in the new front office regime, I'm not sure which side needed most to make a first impression.

Zaidi charmed out of the gate, responding to the Los Angeles Times' two-day-old, decade-stale quip of calling the Dodgers new hires the Geek Squad with an opening question of his own.

"Is Steve Dilbeck here by the way? I brought my mini-screwdriver with me in case you want to leave your laptop after we're done."

Before we met Zaidi, we had a conference call with Andrew Friedman, the new president of baseball operations already in Phoenix preparing of the start of the general managers meetings, which open Monday. Friedman took umbrage to the labeling of his new GM as a stats guy, though Zaidi's background in Oakland was analytics.

"I think all of these guys are incredibly well-rounded, and have a lot of respect and appreciate all that goes into making players what they are and how players are evaluated. We're going to have really strong, good evaluative voices that are focused on the subjective, combined with the objective information we are going to generate," Friedman said. "For us, information is king, and it's about having people who appreciate that and can synthesize that to put us in the best position to make decisions."

Zaidi's analytical side is strong, though it's his open mind and willingness to learn allows him to keep in sight the bigger picture.

"I view any new stat or any new metric with an inherent skepticism," Zaidi explained. "My view is statistical models are our attempts to create this mathematically representation of a real world that is impossibly complex. Every mathematical model is a gross simplification. Every time you see a new metric, you aren't only asking what it's telling you but what it's missing."

Zaidi has the experience, with 10 years in Oakland, including the last six as director of baseball operations, putting him in touch with all facets of running the team. In 2014 he was also one of two assistant general managers under Billy Beane, adding even more to Zaidi's plate.

"We need a balanced approach," Zaidi added. "The goal is to be as efficient as possible. Making good baseball decisions and finding great value gives you a lot of flexibility in other places on the roster to better leverage your resources. ... It opens up more opportunities. If you have the right approach and the same discipline, it just increases the ceiling of what you can accomplish."

It seemed like the tone of many of the questions asked of Zaidi inferred a division or debate between stats versus scouts, which in many ways hasn't been relevant for a decade. The game has evolved so much since 2002 and the release of 'Moneyball,' the book that inspired Zaidi to send his resume to the A's.

That debate has long since ended, with multifaceted front office members like Zaidi synthesizing both sides toward a common goal.

"Over time, teams that have a proficiency in modern techniques are going to have an increasing advantage," said CEO Stan Kasten. "But you're not going to be able to do it on that alone. You need a mix."

The Dodgers are assembling that mix with Zaidi and new senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes joining Friedman in Arizona this weekend.

Zaidi has the title of general manager, but with former GM Friedman above him and former GM Byrnes in a high-ranking position of his own, plus former GMs Ned Colletti and Gerry Hunsicker on staff as special advisers, are there too many cooks in the Dodgers' kitchen?

"I think it's a great thing, because this is my first time doing this," Zaidi said. "Having other people around not just to share responsibility but as a sounding board and to share responsibilities will be great.

"You can't have too much experience on a baseball staff."

The general division of labor in the front office will see Zaidi primarily work with the major league roster and acquisitions, with Byrnes focused mostly on scouting and player development.

"Both guys are going to touch everything," Friedman explained. "This is a massive operation, and our vision is to be as good as we possibly can be in every facet."

"When I say collaboration it's not a throw-away term; it's what I'm used to. Everybody gets their say. It's more building toward a consensus." -Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi

Zaidi also stressed collaboration.

"We all bring different strengths to the table, but this is baseball operations and Andrew is the point man. This is a big operation. He's going to need a lot of help," Zaidi said. "We've all worked in different circles and have different familiarity with people in baseball, including Josh. I don't think we'll have hard and fast rules with that. We'll share the information, and go from there."

There were multiple questions about who will do what in the Dodgers' new front office hierarchy, or about who will field and make calls from opposing general managers about trades, though in retrospect those queries seem as outdated as stats vs. scouts.

"That is such a small part of the total process of deciding whether you are going to make a move or not that it's just not something we can worry about," Zaidi noted. "I can see why the perception is that is a big part of it, but once you go behind the curtain you realize there is so much more going on behind every move we make."

Zaidi with the A's worked all 10 years under Beane, the subject (not the author of 'Moneyball'), and the new Dodgers general manager sees similarities in the group effort in both Oakland and Los Angeles.

"In Oakland I worked with a general manager who was regarded as this high authority figure, and it was very collaborative there too," Zaidi explained. "There was always a lot of discussion, a lot of debates. That's why when I say collaboration it's not a throw-away term; it's what I'm used to. Everybody gets their say. It's more building toward a consensus."

The A's made the playoffs in each of the last three years, but now joins a team with even higher goals, coming off 186 wins in the last two years and a pair of division titles.

"I'm aware of the expectations," Zaidi said. "The way I view this operation here is we're the Dodgers, we have incredible resources and high expectations. We need to be the best at everything. I don't think we're in the position to make trade-offs, saying we're a stat organization or a scouting organization. We want to do everything at an absolute peak level."

Zaidi said the opportunity to work with Friedman and Byrnes and the group in Los Angeles were big reasons he decided to make the move, and I'm sure the presumed pay raise and elevated title didn't hurt. In discussions with Friedman over the last week, Zaidi said he was even able to change Friedman's mind about a current member of the Dodgers' roster, though understandably Zaidi did not want to reveal the player.

"Andrew is very open-minded. I have changed his mind and vice versa," Zaidi explained. "Once you have that, and people to be open-minded and to be convinced of things, that's when you know this kind of process can work."

The Dodgers are betting on it.