Kim Ng Could Be First Female GM

A while back, we wrote about Melissa Mayeux and her chances of becoming the first female player in the MLB. But while the media was pretty overzealous about her chances, we ultimately came to the conclusion that this probably wasn’t the year for her to make her entrance into the big leagues. After all, there’s no point in rushing progress until she’s a bit more ready to make a major contribution to a team. Now, as Kim Ng stands poised to become the first female GM, we are a little more convinced that a woman may soon be making waves within the MLB.

Of course, hiring a female GM is not the same as adding a female to the team roster. Below, we’ll take a look at some marks on Kim Ng’s résumé that might make her a strong candidate to become the first female GM in pro sports. We’ll then talk about whether or not we believe she’ll actually be chosen for the job. First, however, let’s spend some time talking about other women who have taken positions of leadership in the sports world this year.

Paving the Way for Kim Ng

Becky Hammon has been leading something of a revolution for women in men’s sports. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

Becky Hammon has been leading something of a revolution for women in men’s sports. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

This has actually been a pretty good year for women in sports so far, and it’s possible that Kim Ng might owe her potential new job to some progress that’s already been made on behalf of women in sports. While Kim Ng would be the first female GM in all of pro sports if hired, the field of coaching has seen a bit of diversity this year. In fact, there are currently two assistant coaches in the NBA, with one having worked in the NFL during training camp.

This new wave of female coaches in the pro sports world began with Becky Hammon, who became the first full-time assistant coach in the NBA when she joined the San Antonio Spurs in April of last year. One of the most important things about Hammon’s career is not just the landmark it set, but her attitude toward it. She understands that, while progress is important, it should be contingent on having the right woman for the job. “I like being able to say I worked for my career and worked for my success, nobody handed me anything,” says Hammon. “I would not do it any other way.”

One of the things that opened the door to Hammon’s role in the NBA was her previous experience as a basketball player. In similar fashion, Nancy Lieberman (who was added to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame back in 1996) was able to become an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings this year. With her long career playing and coaching in the WNBA, Lieberman has established herself as a woman with a great understanding of the sport. Much like Hammon, Lieberman’s position in the NBA is based on achievement rather than on the perceived need for progress.

The NBA was not the only major sports league to recently begin accepting female coaches. Jennifer Welter became the first female NFL coach when she began working with inside linebackers as an assistant coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals training camp this summer. Her strength as a woman and her contribution to the sports world were recognized when she was asked to chaperone Floyd Mayweather to his highly publicized fight against Manny Pacquiao. Given his history of domestic violence, many women disagreed with Welter’s choice to participate, but she saw it differently. “I knew there was a past there, everybody knows,” Welter told People of her decision. “But if we look only at the past, we condemn somebody to have that same future. Him reaching out to a strong powerful female who made history in men’s professional sports, the final frontier in men’s sports, is huge.”

The NBA and NFL were opening their doors to female coaches, but women looking to coach the MLB seemed to have been left out in the cold. Now, as of early October, Justine Siegal has become coach of the Oakland Athletics Instructional League. And believe it or not, this isn’t Siegal’s first foray into the world of men’s baseball. She’s previously pitched batting practice for two different MLB teams, the A’s included. And while her coaching time with the A’s is already close to an end (it was only to be a two-week ordeal), she has still set a valuable precedent for the women who wish to follow her.

We should note that these incredible coaches technically have little to do with Kim Ng. Whether or not Kim Ng becomes the first female GM in pro sports will not be based on their achievements. Still, their successes have demonstrated the manner in which opportunities are becoming more easily available to women seeking leadership roles in sports leagues generally governed by men. The question isn’t whether or not a woman such as Kim Ng could be the first female GM in pro sports. The only true question is whether or not Kim Ng herself is up for the job.

Could She Perform as GM?

We have already made note of the fact that the selection of a GM should be based upon achievement, not simply the desire to see progress in the field of sports. This means that we must judge Kim Ng on the basis of merit, rather than simply minority status. And as others have dutifully pointed out, her qualifications for the position are practically unquestionable. Since she has been working in baseball since the 1990s, we could not possibly outline every single one of her achievements. Nonetheless, we will do our best to summarize.

Kim Ng began as a mere intern for the Chicago White Sox, but she gained a full-time position with the team in 1991 (only one year out of college). Over the following four years, she moved up the ranks from her position as a special projects analyst to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations. Not only was she the first woman to present a salary arbitration case in the MLB, but she was the youngest person in general ever to do so. At the age of 29, she would hold a similar record as the youngest Assistant General Manager in the MLB after being recruited by the New York Yankees in 1998. By the time she left New York in 2001, she was Vice President in addition to Assistant General Manager. She next held these same positions with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There has already been a longstanding belief that Kim Ng could perform as GM. In fact, she was interviewed for the position on a number of various occasions. The Dodgers were the first to interview her in 2005. Three years later, the Seattle Mariners actually gave her and a few other interviewees a trial run at handling the position. Again, she was passed over in favor of another candidate. The very next year, the San Diego Padres nearly gave her a shot. They would later interview her again in 2014, three years after she was passed over by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

While Kim Ng has yet to see her potential realized as a general manager, her importance to the MLB itself has most certainly been recognized. As the current Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations, she is serving the MLB in an executive capacity. And since she is the highest-ranking Asian-American executive in the MLB right now (and possibly of all time), the mark she’s made is highly noticeable.

A woman of Kim Ng’s qualifications could certainly deliver as GM. Not only has she contributed to multiple MLB teams, but she has also worked as an executive for the MLB itself. She has a great deal of experience in the front office, and will have a decent sense of what she is doing if hired to become a new GM.

The only potential problem we can identify is that the team for which she’s being considered is the Philadelphia Phillies, which is not one of the teams that has previously considered her in the past. If teams that have actively sought her out before are beginning to look in other directions, then her chances might not be too great. This is an issue which we intend to examine a little more closely in the section below.

Probability of Her Selection

As long as this isn’t just a sham interview, we like her chances of getting hired. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

As long as this isn’t just a sham interview, we like her chances of getting hired. (Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

As much as we said that we were going to judge Kim Ng based on merit, we do have to talk about minority status just a bit. It’s actually a pretty big concern, since seven non-minority GMs have been hired over the past month. The Philadelphia Phillies are officially the only organization left in need of a new GM by the end of this hiring season. There are only three minority GMs right now, Rob Manfred wants there to be more of them. “Diversity in our workplace,” said Manfred to CBS Sports, “particularly in high visibility jobs, is a high priority for the MLB.”

Given that Kim Ng would be both the first woman and the first Asian-American to hold a position as general manager, there is a high probability of Philadelphia taking her on. If, that is, they see the situation through the same lens as Manfred. Is this a proper reason for getting hired? No. But Kim Ng is qualified enough that the Phillies would not regret their decision either way. And they seem to know this, since Kim Ng is reportedly one of their top candidates for the position. At the very least, she’s one of the candidates being interviewed.

Then again, this might not mean very much. Of the known candidates left, Kim Ng is the only minority. And since MLB teams are required to interview so many minority candidates, it is not particularly uncommon for a team to interview someone they are not actually considering for the job. For all we know, this may be the reason Kim Ng has been interviewed for so many GM positions over the years. She looks like a strong candidate, but we technically have no proof that any team has truly considered making her GM in the first place.

Hopefully, this is not the case. Having been the first woman to interview for the position of GM ten years ago, it would only be fitting if Kim Ng were to actually become the first female GM. Her current employer certainly thinks she deserves it. Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre, Ng’s boss, believes that Kim Ng could absolutely gain the job she’s after. “At some point,” he says, “somebody just has to ignore the fact that she’s a woman and just make a baseball decision. And if they do that, then I think she will get an opportunity.”

Torre’s approval may sound like a pretty solid case, but it truthfully isn’t. The MLB doesn’t actually have much influence on which GM a team chooses. The league can certainly recommend candidates and help them prepare for their interviews, but the final decision is up to the team. If the Phillies are not the kind of team to preoccupy themselves with race and gender, then a high-ranking candidate such as Kim Ng will certainly be of utmost appeal to them. It’s hard to imagine that any of the other candidates have quite the extensive résumé that she has. And now that she holds a high-ranking executive position with the MLB, her qualifications should look much better than they did ten years ago.

Remember, however, that it’s only been ten years since her first interview. It was only last year that she was most recently turned down. While we are certainly rooting for her, there’s a decent chance that Kim Ng will not become the first female GM in pro sports. Or if she does, then it might not happen just yet. Again, she is qualified and has been building up to this for years, so we’d like to see her win the position. But if it doesn’t happen, then at least there’s still next year.