First Pakistani-American Hired as GM in Major League Baseball

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.

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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.”
Riaz Haq said…
All of us know that the legendary singer and global icon Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had composed music for Dead Man Walking, Bone Collector, and Last Temptation of Christ. And we also know that the youth icon Atif Aslam sang for Man Push Cart and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

But do you know of Pakistanis other than Adnan Siddiqui, Faran Tahir and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy who made it big in Hollywood? Chances are slim, we bring you 10 unsung heroes who are making Pakistanis across the world proud.

1. Syma Chowdhry

The news reporter in Philadelphia at KYW-TV, initially appeared on MTV’s Rachael Ray Show and Law & Order. She got her big break in 2011 by becoming a news anchor at CBS for the First Forecast Mornings show in Detroit station. She has also participated in a number of beauty pageants and was the 1st runner up in the Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant.

2. Kamran Pasha

The Karachi-born popular screenwriter, director and novelist has written and produced the NBC series Kings. Some of his other works include NBC’s Bionic Woman, The CW’s Nikita, Disney’s Tron: Uprising and Sleeper Cell – nominated for the Golden Globe and Emmy Awards in Best Miniseries category in 2005 and 2006.

3. Iqbal Theba

The actor is known as Principal Figgins in Fox series Glee. He has appeared in 58 episodes throughout the six seasons. He rose to fame after appearing in Friends and Nip/Tuck. He was featured in other famous shows including, The George Carlin Show, Married With Children, ER, Two And A Half Men, Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond. He was also seen in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

4. Ayad Akhtar

The writer and actor is the proud recipient of 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He has written plays for the stage including Disgraced, The Invisible Hand and The Who and The What. He made his debut as a novelist with American Dervesh in 2012.

5. Mir Zafar Ali

If you have seen The Golden Compass, Spiderman 3, X Men: First Class and Life of Pi, you should feel proud to know that the visual effects were created by none other than a Pakistani specialist.
6. Novaira Masood

The credit of portraying Angelina Jolie as the picture-perfect villain in Malificent goes to none other than software engineer Novaira. She worked with her team to create inimitable special effects. She has also worked on other Hollywood films such as A Christmas Carol, Mars needs Moms, Thor, Transformers 3 and Jack the Giant Slayer.

7. Gabe Grey

Syed Fuad Ahmed — now known as Gabe Grey — was born in Karachi. The 32-year-old actor was seen in The Haircut, One Last Shot and Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy. He has also attended the Model and Talent Search Canada in 2005. He will soon be seen in Deepa Mehta’s directorial Beeba Boys alongside Ali Kazmi.

8. Umar Khan

Umar got his big break by playing the lead role of Robert Martinez in Veracious Perception. He was also seen in the films Miami Heat, The Hitman, The Test, Deliver Us From Evil, Captain America: Civil War, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and District Voices. The Lahore-born actor also possesses martial arts skills.

9. Sadia Shephard

The New York City-based filmmaker and author has written The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors and Lost Loves. She has also produced the documentary The September Issue that featured the making of Vogue. It has won the Excellence in Cinematography Award at Sundance Film Festival in 2009.

10. Sameer Asad Gardezi

The screenwriter has written for some of the popular television series such as Aliens in America, Mr. Sunshine, Outsourced, Save Us, then the Whales and Emmy Award-winning series Modern Family. He has also won an award for his short film Equal Opportunity. Sameer is currently working on Fox’s Goodwin Games.
Riaz Haq said…
Disney+'s 'Ms. Marvel' Finds Star in Iman Vellani

Marvel Studios has found its Ms. Marvel.

Newcomer Iman Vellani has nabbed the role of the teenage superhero, who will headline her own Disney+ series before appearing on the big screen in Marvel films.

Marvel had been testing actors throughout the summer and had landed on Vellani by late August or early September, sources say. The Canadian actor hails from the Toronto area and a year ago took part in a Toronto International Film Festival committee that helped highlight films that speak to teenagers. She focused on Hala, a film centering on a Pakistani American teen pulled between her family and life in the West — themes that are echoed in the Ms. Marvel comics.

"We want stories from different genders and different countries and different people," Vellani said at the time.

Disney+'s Ms. Marvel centers on New Jersey teenager Kamala Khan, who broke ground in 2014 as Marvel's first Muslim character to star in her own comic book title. Her comics are known for exploring Kamala's identity as a Pakistani American living in a religious family while trying to find her own way.

Ms. Marvel is from head writer Bisha K. Ali and will be directed by Bad Boys for Life filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, as well as Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a two-time Oscar winner in the documentary short category, and Meera Menon, who has directed episodes of The Walking Dead, The Punisher and Titans.

Actor Kumail Nanjiani, who stars in the upcoming Marvel film The Eternals and who was born in Pakistan, welcomed Vellani to the Marvel family Wednesday.

"I just saw they cast Ms. Marvel and legit got teary eyed. Congratulations Iman Vellani! Your work is going to mean so much to so many people, myself included. I can’t wait," Nanjiani wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Marvel is one of a number of shows Marvel Studios has lined up for Disney+, including WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which originally was set to bow this year and recently resumed production. Meanwhile, Tom Hiddleston's Loki was partially completed before the coronavirus shut it down.

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.

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