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...

The world's wealthiest Pakistani has arrived in London and in some style as well.

Florida-based multi-billionaire Shahid Khan sailed into the Thames this week in his brand-spanking new 308-foot long mega-yacht, appropriately-named 'Kismet'.

Mr Khan 64, is in the capital not only to watch his National Football League (NFL) team, the Jacksonville Jaguars play in an NFL game at Wembley Stadium this weekend but also to take in some matches featuring his Premiership Football team Fulham FC, which he bought for a reported £200 million from Harrod's owner Mohammed Al Fayed last year.

According to reports, Mr Khan - the world's 367th wealthiest individual with a personal fortune of £3 billion - bought his latest toy after selling up his previous yacht, which was a mere 223 feet in length.

The arrival of the sleek vessel, built by famed German yacht-builders Lurssen unsurprisingly attracted plenty of attention around Canary Wharf with dozens of people clicking photographs and enquiring who the boat belonged to.

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...

As one of America's top forensic scientists, Mohammad Tahir, pictured above, uncovered evidence that helped jail boxer Mike Tyson for rape and convict serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
Then Tahir took on his toughest assignment yet - applying his skills in Pakistan. But catching criminals is not Tahir's biggest problem. Rather, it's working with the country's antiquated criminal justice system.
So Tahir, a softly spoken man whose passions are reading and gardening, set out on a quest: to promote forensic science.
"Physical evidence does not lie, it does not perjure itself as humans do," said the dapper 65-year-old. "It is a silent witness ... We make it speak in a court of law."

Members of an investigation unit collect evidence from a possible arson attack at a shoe factory that burned down in Lahore.
Crime scene forensics is a new concept for many involved in law enforcement in Pakistan, a poor nation of 180 million people beset by crime and militancy.
Cases that are brought to court often rely on witnesses who are easily bribed or intimidated. Terrorism and murder suspects often walk free.

Tahir, a dual Pakistani and U.S. citizen, has his own forensics lab in the United States. He spent 36 years working with U.S. police and helped write the FBI handbook on forensics.
In 2008, with militant attacks rising in Pakistan, Punjab's chief minister called Tahir and asked for help: to design a new $31 million forensics lab in the city of Lahore, handpick its scientists and try to enforce new standards of crime solving.

The lab was finished in 2012 and at first, business was slow. But now the lab, which is funded by Punjab state, takes around 600 cases a day, Tahir said. It could easily handle twice that if more police start sending in evidence.
"The police are not educated, they don't know our capabilities. We have to teach them," he said.

The gleaming new lab quickly discovered only a tiny fraction of police knew how to secure crime scenes and collect evidence. DNA samples were mouldy. Guns arrived for analysis, smeared with officers' fingerprints.
"If garbage comes in, garbage goes out," explained one scientist at the lab.

To change that, Tahir set up localised crime scene investigation units and began training police. Now the DNA department says around half the samples they receive are packaged correctly.
"They are getting better," Tahir said. So far 3,100 police out of a force of 185,000 have been trained.
But progress is slow. Punjab Police Inspector General Mushtaq Sukhera said police still secure "very few" crime scenes.
Once the lab makes a report, it goes to the prosecutor. But judges, lawyers and witnesses are often threatened or killed. Courts have a backlog of more than a million cases.
As a result, conviction rates are low. Anti-terrorism courts convict around a third of cases — about half of those are overturned on appeal. Fewer than a quarter of murder suspects are convicted.

Riaz Haq said...

Meet Sana Amanat, the Shonda Rhimes of #Marvel comics. #Pakistani-#American … via @voxdotcom

As a woman and a Pakistani American, Amanat has made it her mission to redefine what is possible for women and people of color in an industry dominated by white men. Through her work as an editor on comic books like Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, and Ms. Marvel, she has helped reimagine what superheroes can be. Last year, the first issue of Ms. Marvel — a series and character that Amanat co-created with editor Steve Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artist Adrian Alphona — went into its seventh printing, a level of success that's extremely rare. Earlier this year, Amanat was introduced to National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates — that initial introduction would later develop into a successful deal orchestrated by editor Will Moss, Marvel's VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort, and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso to bring Coates to Marvel and write the new Black Panther comic book series.

"My long title of director of content and character development — I always forget it," she tells me about four weeks after New York Comic Con. I've caught her on a busy Monday.

"I still double-check my card and ask, 'What am I?'"

"Just call yourself Ms. Marvel," I joke.

"That's what my nephew calls me. He's 5 now. It's super cute. I think he's kind of messing with me."

He's onto something.

Sana Amanat is the Shonda Rhimes of Marvel comics

There's something poetic about the fact that Amanat is a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes, one of the most powerful showrunners in the television industry and the woman who created the hit shows Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Rhimes has mastered the art of what Amanat calls the "oh no," the gasp-inducing moments that pepper her sudsy, kinetic dramas. And when you think about it, Rhimes's TV shows, with their hyper swerves and hurtling dialogue, are a bit like live-action comic books.

"You need the 'oh nos.' That's the beauty of serialized storytelling. That's what Shonda does so well," Amanat tells me.

But Amanat and Rhimes have more in common than a love of drama and the utmost respect for Scandal star Kerry Washington. What Rhimes has done for ABC — create great, diverse work that's gone on to inspire more diversity in the network's programming — Amanat is doing for Marvel.

Since her promotion, her editing duties have been streamlined to Captain Marvel, Daredevil and Ms. Marvel, three books she's very passionate about, to make time for an endless array of strategy meetings. Amanat's goal is to determine how Marvel can evolve and make its superheroes more representative and diverse, and then to ensure that it happens. By doing less hands-on editing, she's able to work with the company on a grander scale and across multiple titles.

Riaz Haq said...

Farhan Zaidi Addresses Giants’ Rotation, Posey, Belt

his morning, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi addressed the club’s priorities ahead of what’s sure to be a busy offseason (via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area and Andrew Baggarly of the Athletic). Zaidi made clear the team regards its starting rotation as its “number one priority.” The Giants’ president also effectively confirmed they intend to bring back Buster Posey (by at least exercising his $22MM club option) and hope to re-sign Brandon Belt for what would be his twelfth season in San Francisco.

That the Giants intend to focus their offseason attention on addressing their needs in the rotation comes as no surprise. Presuming they pay Johnny Cueto’s $5MM buyout rather than pick up his $22MM option, four of the five members of a group that led the club to a 3.44 rotation ERA (Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Cueto) are set to hit free agency. Only breakout star Logan Webb, who won’t reach free agency until at least 2026, remains under team control.

Zaidi made clear he hopes to bring back at least some of this year’s rotation, stating that “we want to keep as much of this group together as we can,” but he’ll face stiff competition for several of the arms in question. Gausman figures to be among the top starters on the market (alongside Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, and Marcus Stroman) and won’t be eligible for the qualifying offer that might have scared off some suitors after he accepted the Giants’ QO last winter. DeSclafani (who made $6MM in 2021) and Wood ($3MM) are each in line to land much bigger salaries moving forward after each posted a bounceback year in his first season in the Golden City.

Zaidi’s confirmation that the club plans to keep Posey in the mix for 2022 is similarly unsurprising after the longtime Giants backstop put up a .304/.390/.499 line in 2021 after sitting out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The club’s intention to either pick up Posey’s 2022 option or sign him to an extension had also already been reported in August by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, but Zaidi’s comments reiterate the commitment of Giants’ brass to their franchise catcher. Still, as Posey will be entering his age-35 season, any extension is likely to be on the shorter side, perhaps similar to the two-year pact reached with shortstop Brandon Crawford in June.

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.