I’m sorry. I’m about to be that guy who hands out toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters. My latest adulting milestone: ruining the fun.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Kim Ng was today appointed by the Miami Marlins, becoming the first female GM in MLB history. She’s also widely believed to be the first female general manager for a men’s team in major North American sport.
MLB Network contributor Craig Mish heard something today too, before the Marlins revealed the name of the groundbreaking woman set to helm their front office.
It was this: “Marlins are getting closer to naming the new Head of Baseball Operations. It’s been as secretive as anything I can recall.
“’Interesting’ and ‘outside the box’ are terms I have heard. I believe they have their choice. I just don’t know who it is.”
Marlins are getting closer to naming the new Head of Baseball Operations. It’s been as secretive as anything I can recall. “Interesting” and “Outside the Box” are terms I have heard. I believe they have their choice. I just don’t know who it is.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) November 12, 2020
Outside the box? Hardly. Or, at least, it damn well shouldn’t be.
You can be forgiven if you’re the sort of fan for whom the executive ‘hot stove’, as baseball folk like to call the wheeling, dealing off-season, feels a little less scorching than big free agency signings.
If you’re that way inclined, here’s what you should know about Kim Ng, 52, who also becomes just the second person of Asian descent, after San Fransisco Giants president (and former Dodgers GM) Farhan Zaidi, to lead a club.
Born in Indianapolis and raised in New York, Ng majored in public policy at the University of Chicago, where she wrote her senior thesis on Title IX.
She landed an internship with the Chicago White Sox in 1990, was made permanent in less than a year, and eventually worked her way up to becoming assistant director of baseball operations for the South Side club.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) November 13, 2020
Former Dodgers GM Dan Evans, who interviewed Ng for the internship when he was an assistant GM for the White Sox, told ESPN: “We interviewed a slew of people, and she just stood out.
“You could see a great future ahead of her when she was interning. Luckily, we had a really progressive staff in Chicago who weren’t afraid of gender barriers, which at that time were very firm… she wasn’t even there a full year before we hired her full time.
“She asked questions other people wouldn’t even contemplate.”
At the age of 26, Ng became the youngest person and first woman to present a salary arbitration case in Major League Baseball.
On the other side of the negotiating table was Scott Boras, perhaps the game’s most famous player representative (though, on the subject of women changing the game, Trevor Bauer’s agent Rachel Luba is making a good case to usurp that throne).
To give you a sense of what working with the notoriously bullish agent is like, he had such a rocky relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays front office that, until the acquisition of Hyun-Jin Ryu in 2019, the last Boras free agent the team signed was Bill Caudill.
Remember Bill Caudill? No? Neither did I. He played for Toronto in 1986.
Ng won the case.
Her knack for salary arbitration is renowned around the game. The Yankees fan returned to the Bronx in 1998 as assistant GM, becoming the youngest in MLB to hold the title—and only the second woman, following in the footsteps of Elaine Steward, who was appointed by the Red Sox the same year Ng started her internship in Chicago.
Ng spent three years with the Yankees, adding the same number of World Series rings to her jewellery box. Of course, her time in pinstripes also overlapped with that of legendary shortstop Derek Jeter, now part-owner and chief executive officer of the Marlins, who also boast a female COO in Caroline O’Connor.
Jeter celebrated the reunion today saying: “We look forward to Kim bringing a wealth of knowledge and championship-level experience to the Miami Marlins.
“Her leadership of our baseball operations team will play a major role on our path toward sustained success.”
.@Marlins hire Kim Ng as General Manager.
She is the first female GM in MLB history. pic.twitter.com/LGqxacnkTJ
— MLB (@MLB) November 13, 2020
I've known Kim Ng since 2006. She was the smartest, toughest, and most rational person in the Dodgers front office from day one. THIS IS THE BEST NEWS OMFG I AM JUMPING AROUND AT 7:45 AM. A BRILLIANT WOMAN WILL RUN A BASEBALL TEAM.
— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) November 13, 2020
Ng moved to the Dodgers as vice president and assistant GM in 2002, a position she held until 2011. In 2010, she reached pre-deadline arbitration agreements with all nine cases on the team’s table, including those of four former All-Stars and two Gold Glove winners. She also oversaw the team’s scouting, medical and video departments.
Ng has long been one of the most powerful women in baseball, moving from Dodger Stadium to MLB’s front office as the senior vice-president for baseball operations, where she was instrumental in expanding the league’s international training programs. FastCompany honoured Ng with a Most Creative People award in 2017, adding to her other accolades which include being named one of both Forbes’ and Adweek’s five most powerful women in sports.
Earlier this year, Ng told Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae: “[MLB] should be ready for a female general manager. We see female world leaders, CEOs, secretaries of state…there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a woman GM.”
Ng, who has also been the victim of racist taunts, first interviewed for a GM job with the Dodgers in 2005. She was a candidate for several other openings over the ensuing years, but never landed a gig, despite being perennially pipped by people across the baseball world.
Those people included Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri, who tweeted today: “I have this distinct memory of talking baseball with my dad in high school…I told him that Kim Ng was going to be a GM, like, next year. That was now a decade ago.”
I have this distinct memory of talking baseball with my dad in high school + saying something that made him joke about me being the first female GM (lol). I told him that Kim Ng was going to be a GM, like, next year. That was now a decade ago. It's so, so, so cool to finally see.
— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) November 13, 2020
Ng, who has spoken diplomatically about the rejections in the past, was far more effusive today.
She said: “This challenge is one I don’t take lightly. When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals.
“My goal is now to bring championship baseball to Miami. I am both humbled and eager to continue building the winning culture our fans expect and deserve.”
So there’s your candy. Now you know about the brilliant, pioneering leader that is new Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng.
Here comes the toothbrush.
The same club that, at the very least, forcefully tapped at the glass ceiling by hiring Ng as an intern in 1990, two weeks ago—that’s 30 years later—hired Tony La Russa as their new manager.
La Russa, 76, hasn’t managed since 2011. The White Sox hired him knowing he’d been charged with a DUI (not for the first time) in February, when, according to a police report obtained by ESPN, he allegedly showed the officer his World Series ring (and an overflowing bucketful of entitlement) in an effort to… well, no one knows exactly.
But the officer wasn’t swayed by the former Cardinals manager, who claimed La Russa told him “I’m a Hall of Famer baseball person” before allegedly accusing the the cop of trying to embarrass him.
This is Tony La Russa’s second DUI charge. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI in 2007 after he fell asleep at traffic light in Florida. This arrest occured in Arizona.
A White Sox spokesman said the organization was aware of the incident: https://t.co/C1lHlik4Zl
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 10, 2020
La Russa, a known Unwritten Rules Aficionado who once questioned the sincerity of Colin Kapernick’s national anthem protest, replaced Manager of the Year candidate Rick Renteria, apparently at the behest of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
In firing Renteria, the White Sox lost a bilingual, Mexican-American manager who was well aware of how important language could be in bringing together a young, vibrant team that includes players from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Venezuela.
In hiring La Russa, they gained a guy whose stance on emotional expression in the game has evolved so considerably he’s maybe, just maybe, even willing to permit it a little bit now—but only if it’s ‘sincere’. Hook Tim Anderson up to a lie detector test between innings, I guess.
Tony La Russa was an outside-the-box hiring. Or, at least, he should be. But really, it’s just a terrible sort of box we all recognise, like a parcel from a store you never once desired to step foot inside.
Yet there you find it, under the Christmas tree, a present from a distant relative immediately leading you to wonder, perhaps as the White Sox are doing now, how will we re-gift this?
It’s the sort of box that appears to have no opening, like those enormously infuriating useless products—at least if you’re Black or Latino. Only 11 Black men have found their way in to the manager’s chair, and the latter group hasn’t had it much easier: at one point, Renteria was the only Latino manager in a league composed of around 30% Latin-American players.
Which brings me back to Kim Ng.
Press Control+F on your keyboard. Type “she”. Every time that word pops up, replace it in your head with “he”.
If that was the story, if hers was his CV—would we even be talking about boxes at all?