Ryan “Scoop” Woodhams
Sports Business Writer
On the morning of November 12, I was talking with some friends in a group chat about what was happening within Major League Baseball at the time. Everything was discussed from minor league affiliations, to award results, to the Tony La Russa saga. Among those myriad topics was the existing vacancies for manager and general manager positions. Amidst these chats, Marlins beat writer Craig Mish tweeted the following, “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.” Immediately, my speculation turned toward Alex Rodriguez. He wanted to be involved in front office work, had recently lost out on the bidding war for the Mets, is touted for his baseball IQ by many, and would have been nothing short of a polarizing and controversial decision (not to mention perfectly in keeping with the adjectival hints dropped by Mish).
As we learned about 24 hours later, however, what was to be announced was not such a hire. In reality, the decision by Miami would not just make waves throughout the league. It would prove a momentous, long-overdue, consequential move that attracted support and enthusiasm across major sports and the greater nation. Kim Ng, a longtime baseball executive with nearly three-decades of experience in the league, was tabbed by franchise CEO Derek Jeter as the new chief baseball figure in the Marlins’ front office. She will be the first woman to hold such a role in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues.
To call a spade a spade, characterizing Ng as “qualified” for this position would be a discredit to her resume. As others have stated, Ng is perhaps one of the most overqualified prospective candidates in recent memory. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 1990 with a B.A. in Public Policy and was hired full-time by the White Sox the following year. This was just around the time that technological advancements were making their foray into public life, let alone professional sports. As Tim Brown of Yahoo once noted, these were just a few areas in which Ng was knowledgeable. After beginning her tenure in Chicago as a research assistant, she climbed the ranks to eventually earn the title under then-GM Ron Schueler of assistant director of baseball operations.
It was in this role where Ng experienced one of the pivotal moments in her career and began to garner more attention from her counterparts around the game. At the age of 26, she argued an arbitration case surrounding starting pitcher Alex Fernandez, pitting her against infamous baseball super-agent Scott Boras. Ng won the case and saved the White Sox $650,000 in doing so. Dan Evans, under whom Ng was working in Chicago at the time, once reflected on this moment as her “coming of age”.
Following the 1996 season, Ng departed the White Sox front office to be involved in league-office affairs for the American League. It was out of this brief stint at the position that she received an offer just a year later from the New York Yankees, working as the assistant GM to tenured incumbent baseball operations head Brian Cashman. At 29-years-old, Ng became the youngest person ever (male or female) to hold that role in an MLB franchise. As the Miami Herald notes, arbitration cases continued to be a key aspect of her job description, and she won a notable case over Yankees legend Mariano Rivera during her tenure. In 2000, she was the driving force in negotiations of the team’s 10-year, $189 million contract with captain Derek Jeter (to whom she will now support in her new job, serving as GM of the Marlins where Jeter holds the post of CEO. Her former boss, Cashman, spoke last week calling Ng “indispensable”, “tireless and dedicated” throughout her time in New York, and credited her as having “ceaselessly added to her skill set to maximize her talent” in the years since.
All of this and more experience and accomplishments helped Ng receive interviews for GM roles with five separate organizations over the past 10+ years, including the aforementioned Dodgers, the Mariners, Padres, Angels, and Giants. She was a candidate for each position, but never received the official offer. On this, I am reminded of a quote from the film Moneyball, in which Artiss Howard (portraying Red Sox owner John Henry) states, “The first guy through the wall always gets bloody. Always.” In a similar way, Kim Ng had to scratch and claw through over a decade more of work before consideration for a GM vacancy would give way to a contract offer. During that span, she served as an assistant to Ned Coletti for the Los Angeles Dodgers, before joining the MLB league office in 2011 to work alongside Joe Torre as senior vice president of baseball operations. She served under that title until this season.
Now, headed into 2021, Ng will have the chance to captain the proverbial ship and take over a team that outperformed expectations this year and boasts one of the better farm systems in the game, as well as a roster that is rich with talented young arms. To improve the roster to a level where the Marlins can contend for their first championship since 2003, however, will require every corner of the widespread breadth of knowledge which Ng possesses.
From technology, to arbitration, to contract negotiations, to perseverance through adversity, there is not a notable element of the position in which Ng does not have a lion’s share of experience. Her unfettered, infallible tenacity and vast array of experiences were rewarded, and I believe the Marlins’ confidence in her will be so as well.
Contact Ryan at email@example.com