Stats whiz hopes to help give Cubs some growl
by Gary Francoeur
Shiraz Rehman, BCom’00, desperately wanted to be part of the Show. So in 2004, he bought an airplane ticket and flew from New York City to Major League Baseball’s winter meetings in Key Biscayne, Florida, to make his pitch. For four days, he practically squatted in a hotel lobby, lurking around the elevators, bar and golf course, to secure face-to-face time with some of the game’s top general managers.
It ended up taking six more months of networking, but baseball brass Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer finally took notice and gave Rehman the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship in baseball operations with the storied Boston Red Sox.
Now, eight years later, Rehman is the new assistant to the general manager for the Chicago Cubs and one of the most promising young baseball executives to emerge from the “Moneyball” generation. At just 34 years of age, he is representative of the new generation of baseball decision-makers who have the ability to objectively dissect, analyze and process ballgame information to better monitor and measure player success and failure.
Fans probably won’t hear his name often during the baseball season, but Rehman will work meticulously behind the scenes to enhance the team’s competitive edge through player acquisitions and by providing scouting, financial and statistical information to support trade and player evaluation. He also oversees the club’s salary arbitration program and manages the research and technology functions within baseball operations.
“This is like a dream come true,” Rehman says of his new gig. “The Cubs are one of the most historic franchises in the game, and having the opportunity to join their front office is a tremendous privilege.”
Born in Montreal’s West Island but raised in New York, Rehman calls baseball his “first sports love.” He gave himself to the game entirely throughout his childhood and carried that same passion with him to McGill, where he was a starting infielder on the Redbirds baseball team for four years (he captained the team for two years) while completing his bachelor’s degree in commerce. He also spent many evenings and weekends at the Olympic Stadium watching the now-defunct Montreal Expos.
“I loved my time at McGill and in Montreal,” he says. “I received a great education, made many lasting friendships and had the opportunity to play baseball. What more could I ask for?”
After graduation, he worked as a commodities trader and a financial consultant for five years before obtaining an MBA from Columbia Business School, around the same time that he first broke into the big leagues with Boston.
In 2006, Rehman followed former Red Sox staffer (and current general manager of the San Diego Padres) Josh Byrnes to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office as a baseball operations assistant, and worked his way up over the next few years to become first manager and then director of baseball operations. More recently, Rehman served as the club’s director of player personnel, a role that allowed him to assist in the maintenance of the team’s 40-man roster, provide crucial financial and statistical analysis to support trade and player evaluation, and oversee all transactions and Major League rules interpretation. When the D-backs made the baseball playoffs last season, Rehman received a share of the credit.
While Rehman is a big proponent of using a variety of statistical tools to carefully assess baseball talent, he says the world of sports offers no magical crystal balls that can predict the future with unerring accuracy. In a recent radio interview, Rehman said, “This remains a human business, and being able to predict what a 15- or 16-year-old may do when he is 28 or 29 is certainly a gamble and we do miss from time to time.”
By joining the Cubs franchise, Rehman finds himself reunited with Epstein and Hoyer, the ex-Red Sox executives who now serve as the Chi-town club’s president and general manager, respectively. Together, the trio hope to end a century-long winless drought by bringing the world championship back to the team for the first time since 1908.
Excited about the future, Rehman encourages other would-be major leaguers to pursue their dreams.
“No matter how many times you hear someone tell you that you can’t do something, it all comes down to passion and work ethic,” he stresses. “A career in baseball is a long, hard road and it comes with sacrifice, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you start to achieve some of the goals you have set for yourself.”