Kim Ng: a Baseball First, at Last
November 19, 2020 11:56 PM   Subscribe

Kim Ng's Hiring Could Be The Start Of Something Special In Miami - "Long-overdue baseball history was made late last week when the Miami Marlins announced they had hired Kim Ng as general manager. Ng is MLB's first female GM, as well as the sport's first Asian American GM, and she is also the first woman to serve as general manager in any major North American men's league."
Ng’s ascendance to the GM chair has been a long time coming. In fact, she might be one of the most qualified first-time GMs ever, based on her wealth of previous experience. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1990, Ng began her MLB path as an intern with the Chicago White Sox, quickly becoming a full-time analyst with the club and then its assistant director of baseball operations. There, she became the youngest person — and first woman — to present an arbitration case, ultimately winning Chicago its bid over pitcher Alex Fernandez’s salary.

In 1998, Ng was named assistant GM of the New York Yankees under Brian Cashman, at the time becoming (at age 29) the youngest person in MLB to hold that post. She would go on to win three championships with the Yankees, part of a dynasty that also included current Marlins CEO Derek Jeter at shortstop. Ng spent the next decade as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ vice president and assistant GM, and she had been with MLB’s league office as its senior vice president of baseball operations since 2011.

Ng was seemingly on the short list for every GM opening in the past decade but was repeatedly passed over. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, Ng previously interviewed for GM jobs with the Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres (twice) and Seattle Mariners. Now that she is finally getting her chance with the Marlins, though, it is likely that Ng is exceptionally well-prepared to succeed for the same reason that members of other historically underrepresented groups tend to shine once they are finally given a fair opportunity... People who tear down barriers of prejudice have to be that much better in order to reach the same level of status as those who don’t face discrimination.
Kim Ng Has Been Ready for Years - "The pioneering baseball executive proved herself — over and over — for three decades. Several of her peers say they can't think of a more qualified first-time general manager."
Ng wrote her college thesis on the impact of Title IX, the groundbreaking 1972 federal law that greatly expanded women’s access to sports by forbidding gender discrimination at educational institutions. She graduated in 1990 with a degree in public policy and took an internship with the White Sox.

“An internship at that time was kind of new to me, and I said, ‘Well, what’s my return on investment?’” Cagar said, laughing as she recalled the exchange with her daughter over the cost of financing her private university education. “She said, ‘Nothing.’ She was working for free.”


Ng said she felt an immense responsibility to continue setting an example for other minorities and women, particularly younger ones thinking about a future in sports.

“There’s an adage, ‘You can’t be it if you can’t see it,’” Ng said. “I suggest to them, ‘Now you can see it.’”

After watching the Marlins’ news conference, Cagar spoke highly of Sherman and Jeter for hiring her daughter. She noted that all girls, including Ng’s nieces, Riley, Rain and Eva, would now have more opportunities in sports.

But Cagar’s final message was for her trailblazing daughter, who turned an unpaid internship into an unprecedented leadership role, even if it took 30 years.

“You go, girl,” Cagar said. “Show them boys how it’s done. And, by the way, the return on investment has been fantastic — with more to come.”
-Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng: Historic hire gives 'glimmer of hope' to many
-Kim Ng finally -- finally! -- lands general manager job in Major League Baseball
-Getting to know new Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, MLB's first female GM
posted by kliuless (14 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I was very excited to see this! I'm not sure how Facebook knew I would care about East Asian women in baseball, but it served me the right news articles.

[My sixth grade teacher was really into baseball.]

Is there any effective way to tell the Marlins / the MLB that I approve? What does one do -- buy a hat? fish plush?
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:14 AM on November 20

As a lifelong Red Sox fan and absolutely dedicated Jeter hater - good on the Marlins for this hire - she's fricking talented and 125% deserves her shot.
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:43 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

1990: Ng begins internship with White Sox, Theo Epstein is a year away from graduating high school.
2020: Epstein steps down as GM after 18 years with Red Sox and Cubs. Ng finally offered GM role, with Marlins.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:06 AM on November 20 [20 favorites]

This is great news, and I agree it's been far too long coming. Maybe someday they'll even let women play!!
posted by JanetLand at 5:46 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]

I'm not what one would call a sports fan, and specifically, baseball has a soporific effect on me. However, IT'S ABOUT GODDAMNED TIME. How about some women on the field now? Or women's sports salaries commensurate with men's?
posted by evilDoug at 6:05 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

She was my dorm mate at the University of Chicago (Lower Flint 4EVA!) and none of us are in the least bit surprised that she's been made a GM, although most of us are annoyed that it took this damn long. This was always, always her path, and we're all so damn proud of her.
posted by jscalzi at 6:31 AM on November 20 [32 favorites]

Seconding evilDoug. I saw that Defector article and am just so impressed by Ng and her breakthrough.
posted by medusa at 6:31 AM on November 20

On this week's Hang Up And Listen podcast, they talk with Meg Rowley from FanGraphs about this news.

One thing that they pointed out is that the TWENTY-TWO YEARS between her appointment as an Assistant GM and this job is totally ridiculous -- much as GhostIntheMachine observed, above. A young phenom might get the AGM job, and then jump up to GM a year or two later. Ng's promotion to GM shows she wasn't a bust, so why did she have to put in so many more years? Hmmmm....

Probably sexism, but let's check the numbers (see page 12) from RISE. Also:
Major League Baseball received a B+ for racial hiring practices with a score of 88.7 points, a decrease from 89.4 points in 2019, and a C for gender hiring practices with 72.7 points, up from 69.6 points in 2019. The overall grade was a B with 80.7 points, up from 79.5 points last year.

MLB received an A+ for race in the following categories: MLB Central Office, coaches, and players. It received a B+ for both team professional administration and managers, and a B for team senior administration. It received a C for team vice presidents and a C- for President of Baseball Operations/General Manager. Finally, the league received an F for team president/CEO positions.

MLB’s grades for gender are as follows: a B+ for MLB Central Office, a C- for team senior administration, a D+ for team professional administration, and an F for both team CEO/President and team vice president.
Yep, MLB continues to be a bunch of dinosaurs. *sigh*
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on November 20 [3 favorites]

Thanks for this post!
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:24 AM on November 20

She also was apparently quite the player in high school, according to her softball coach, Deborah Paul.
"Her on-base percentage was ridiculous," Paul remembers, laughing. "She just knew what to do, how to work the pitcher, what to do with runners on base. She knew the game. You know, a lot of girls like to play, but they don't know the game. With Kim, you'd start saying the sentence and she'd finish it for you."
posted by martin q blank at 7:41 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

This is great. I'm tearing up a little. I watch very little baseball but I care about it anyway, and watched the Ken Burns documentary (again) this year. I'm so glad about this new chapter in our history.
posted by brainwane at 8:29 AM on November 20

1990: Ng begins internship with White Sox, Theo Epstein is a year away from graduating high school.
2020: Epstein steps down as GM after 18 years with Red Sox and Cubs. Ng finally offered GM role, with Marlins.

I mean, I get it, but Epstein has three WS titles (2004, 2007, 2016), with the 2004 and 2016 ones being the first in 85 and 107 years for the Sox and Cubs, respectively. He's not just some asshole off the street. Also: He was never the GM of the Cubs. That was Jed Hoyer, who is getting promoted to Epstein former role of President of Baseball Operations.

The most hilarious takes about Ng are the "great, now she'll bring emotion and mood swings to the cold, hard, emotionless world of baseball!" ones, since every time she interviewed for big time positions there were a million stories along the lines of "Moneyball (kinda) worked for Billy Beane, but would it work for Kim Ng at the Giants/Mets/Dodgers/etc.?????"
posted by sideshow at 9:52 AM on November 20

I don't think you do actually get it. How many WS titles did Epstein have before becoming GM? Because Ng was a three-time World Series champion as an assistant GM twenty years before getting her first shot as a GM.

Sure, Epstein is good. But he was given the GM role without ever even being an assistant GM. NG has had fourteen years as an assistant GM. What exactly had he done to prove himself before being elevated to one of the most significant jobs in baseball, in a high-pressure environment such as Boston? And what was left for Ng to prove before finally getting the top job in a low-pressure environment like Miami?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:06 PM on November 20 [6 favorites]

defector's Barry Petchesky had a good take on this, Kim Ng Is Finally a GM:
But it feels a little insulting to talk about her in those terms. Ng is, first and foremost, very, very fucking good at her job. When she was in the White Sox front office, they were good. When she was with the Yankees, they were a dynasty. When she was with the Dodgers, they made the playoffs more often than not. She was frequently talked about as a GM-in-waiting, and it’s hard not to think that most men with her résumé would’ve gotten a shot much sooner than this. Ng’s ascension to the top job is worth celebrating, but the story of everything before—being passed over time and time again, and having to be a baseball lifer before she could sniff the same job that’s been frequently handed out to young unproven, spreadsheet-hotshots—does not say particularly inspiring things about the culture of the sport.

To be-turd the punch bowl a little further, I must add that it’s not particularly, uh, promising that of all teams, Ng will run the Marlins. That’s a job where GMs are historically hamstrung by ownership’s cheeseparing, and the new-ish ownership hasn’t exactly done or spent much to show things will change anytime soon. It’s a thankless job where GMs don’t get nearly enough credit for finding, obtaining, and developing players because those players go on to star somewhere else. It’s a job where success is unfairly defined as “sneaking into the playoffs every nine years, on average.” MLB’s glass ceiling is very real, and so may be the glass cliff. But if this is a job where GMs are set up to fail, Kim Ng deserves the chance to fail, as so, so many men have done before her. And after that? Well, this has already been a long time coming for Ng. What’s one more stepping stone?
posted by Kybard at 9:04 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]

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