Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pakistani-American Farhan Zaidi Appointed LA Dodgers' GM

Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers franchise will name Pakistani-American Farhan Zaidi, an MIT and Berkeley-educated economist, as their next General Manager, baseball sources confirmed to Tuesday night. The news will be officially announced later this week.

Currently, Zaidi is an Assistant GM with Oakland A's where he has provided statistical analysis for evaluating players available on the free-agent and trade markets, as well as the draft, according to Los Angeles Times. He played a major role in the Athletics' signing of Yoenis Cespedes in 2012. He also assisted on arbitration cases and worked with the coaching staff to analyze scouting reports.

Zaidi was born in Canada to a Pakistani father. He grew up mostly in the Philippines, where he played Little League, and is one of few Muslims in baseball today.

Speaking to The  Los Angeles Times, Zaidi said his interest in the analytic side of the game started to develop when he was in grade school and read “The Bill James Baseball Abstract”. “I bought that book each year and I basically carried it around with me everywhere,” Zaidi said. “Then I think the bookstore realized there was only one customer for the book and they stopped carrying it.”

Those interested in the power of the statistics in picking players should see "Moneyball", a movie based on Michael Lewis's book of the same name. The movie features Brad Pitt playing Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team's analytical and evidence-based approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland's disadvantaged revenue situation.
The movie shows Beane letting his young Harvard-educated statistician Paul DePodesta choose players on his laptop.

Farhan Zaidi's new gig as GM of LA Dodgers is yet another sign that Pakistani-Americans are beginning to make their mark in sports and entertainment fields in America. Marvel Entertainment has recently introduced a new Ms. Marvel, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American superhero named Kamala Khan.  A Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani is starring in HBO comedy about Silicon Valley techies. Another name is triple-Oscar-winning CGI wizard Mir Zafar Ali. Shahid Khan, a Pakistani-American businessman, became the first non-white owner of an NFL team two years ago. It's good to see Pakistani-Americans entering occupations other than the more traditional professions like engineering and medicine.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

From Karachi to Hollywood

Pakistani-Americans in Silicon Valley

HBO Comedy "Silicon Valley" Stars Pakistani-American

Burka Avenger: Pakistani Female Superhero 

Burka Avenger  Videos on Vimeo Channel

UN Malala Day

Pakistan's Cowardly Politicians

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

US Promoting Venture Capital; Private Equity in Pakistan

Pakistani-American Population Growth Second Fastest Among Asian-Americans

Edible Arrangements: Pakistani-American's Success Story

Pakistani-American Elected Mayor

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan


Anonymous said...


What a refreshing post! This is quite the achievement considering MLB's low exposure within the south-asian community.

What you've failed to mention is Farhan's exploits at MIT and Berkely. Quite a sharp brain indeed.


Riaz Haq said...

NY Times on Farhan Zaidi:

Farhan Zaidi’s résumé sounds almost as eclectic as his background.

He is a Muslim and Canadian of Pakistani descent who grew up in the Philippines. He has two degrees in economics: a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

He has worked in consulting, in business development for a division of a sports magazine, and in the Oakland Athletics’ front office for the last 10 years as a forward-thinking, statistical-minded disciple of General Manager Billy Beane.

With the A’s, Zaidi was widely credited for his part in the signing of Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban defector who became a star from the time he arrived in 2012.

“He’s absolutely brilliant,” Beane said of Zaidi in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle 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 any business. I’m more worried about losing him to Apple or Google than I am to another team.”

Anonymous said...

NFL in UK is highly unpopular as such this event will be a waste of time and money.


Riaz Haq said...

Imtiaz: "NFL in UK is highly unpopular as such this event will be a waste of time and money"

Besides Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan also owns Fulham Football Club in England.

Riaz Haq said...

Though he may have professional experience in the NFL with five different organizations and was named the 2006 NFL Europe MVP while playing for the Amsterdam Admirals, Hamdan made it clear that baseball was his first love.

"I was also a two-sport athlete at Indiana. I played first base for four years. Baseball was my first love -- way before football," Hamdan said on Twitter. "I'm letting you know that I accepted an invitation from the Pakistan National Baseball Team to play for them in the World Baseball [Classic] qualifiers coming up Sept. 30 in Panama City, Panama. Super excited to be playing ball again."

Though there's surely some rust to knock off, Hamdan's numbers at Indiana University speak for themselves. In his junior season, Hamdan posted an impressive .335/.389/.509 batting line with 6 home runs. This wouldn't be his first international baseball tournament, either: Hamdan played for Team USA's 15-and-unders in China and Japan in his youth.

"There are many American and Canadian Pakistanis who are good players and are playing baseball or American football in high school, colleges and universities, but few will reach [the highest level]. Having him [on] our team, he would be a role model for [players of] Pakistani heritage to play baseball," Syed Fakhar Ali Shah, the head of Pakistan's baseball federation, said in an email. "Also, parents with Pakistani heritage would [then] support their children in learning baseball and other games professionally."

It's an intriguing roster move for Team Pakistan. After reaching their first ever WBC qualifier in 2017, the No. 31 ranked team by the WBSC will be looking to cause some upsets when the Pool B qualifiers begin next month

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan has a vision for #baseball success. Pakistan plays at the #Panama City World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, hoping to be one of the two nations who will advance to the main international baseball tournament in March, 2023. via @mlb

Pakistan became beloved underdogs at the Brooklyn Qualifier in 2016 -- its first international tournament outside of Asia -- as they were the only team to field a club made up entirely of players who grew up and played baseball in their home country. Many of its best stars, like Zubair Nawaz, were cricket players who had recently converted to baseball for the tournament.


In a way, Syed Fakhar Ali Shah has been preparing for this his entire life. The current manager of Team Pakistan's Baseball Team and the head of its baseball federation, Shah was there as a young child at the first ever Pakistan Baseball Federation event in 1992.

"I'm 7 years old and I am sitting in the Federation's official meeting. I'm [there], attending as a founding member in 1993," Shah said. "Nobody in the world is going to believe that a person who is around seven-and-a-half was officially taking care of the meeting while baseball was being introduced!"

Shah's father, Syed Khawar Shah -- who passed away in 2018 -- assembled the group and gifted his son the baseball dream when Pakistan first fielded a team before the 1992 Olympics.

"Everyone who worked in sports was invited," Shah said. "There were 50 people -- educated, sports-related, people with a master's degree, who ever played for Pakistan in other sports was there. My father said, 'We're going to have baseball in Pakistan and you'll have a national championship in two months.' They were like, 'What's baseball?'"

Since then, Shah has devoted his life to baseball, helping get the program ranked as high as 23rd in the world despite lacking a single baseball-dedicated field in the country. Shah played catcher for Pakistan's National Team in 2003 -- taking the position no one else wanted and making sure that he was skilled enough that no one could accuse the team of nepotism.

"The first time I played, I was like, 'I have to be number one.' Because it's my father's dream," Shah said. "And if I play well, I help the team win. I don't want people to feel that it's because of his father that he's playing."

He even oversaw youth teams when he was just 16 years old. When it came time for them to travel to tournaments in Asia, another manager who was an actual adult had to step in. After all, how can you be taken seriously on the international circuit when you have a teenager at the helm?

Those decades of work have now led to this weekend, when Pakistan plays at the Panama City World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. They hope to be one of the two nations who will advance to the main tournament in March. It's a big stage to play on, as Pakistan's competition includes established baseball nations like Panama and Nicaragua and emerging programs like Argentina and Brazil.