The Pros and Cons of Hiring Kim Ng
Last week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Phillies plan to interview Kim Ng in their search for a new general manager. Ng is one of a handful of candidates along with Larry Beinfest, Ross Atkins, Matt Klentak, J.J. Piccolo, Thad Levine, and Ben Cherington.
It’s not the first time Ng has been a candidate in a team’s search for a GM. She had interviewed with the Angels after the 2011 season, the Padres after the 2009 season, and the Dodgers in 2005. The Angels ultimately went with Jerry DiPoto, the Padres Jed Hoyer, and the Dodgers Ned Colletti. She interviewed with the Padres again in 2014, but the opening went to A.J. Preller.
Ng worked with Yankees GM Brian Cashman as the assistant general manager and vice president from 1998-2001. She resigned in order to join the Dodgers as their AGM/VP. In March 2011, she resigned from the Dodgers to work under Joe Torre to serve as the senior VP of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. In her time there, she worked with new Phillies president Andy MacPhail, who would be in charge of hiring her.
No one doubts Ng’s pedigree — she was the first woman to present a salary arbitration case and she won on behalf of pitcher Alex Fernandez in 1995 when she worked for the Chicago White Sox. Her opportunities with the Yankees and Dodgers, as well as in the commissioner’s office, has allowed her to work with some of the sharpest minds baseball has to offer.
Ng’s job, if she were to be hired by the Phillies, would be to make the best decisions from the ownership’s point of view. That would be, comparatively, a 180-degree turn from her role with the White Sox in which she argued for her players to be paid more money. To be clear: part of Ng’s job responsibility would be to nickel and dime with the players. That wouldn’t be her fault specifically; it’s simply a job responsibility. However, as our modern favorites have been poached by front offices, these smart people have increasingly been used for evil, rather than good. It’s what happens when you reduce human beings down to numbers in a spreadsheet, as many anti-Sabermetrics Luddites squealed many years ago.
On the other hand, Ng is both a racial and gender minority as a Chinese woman in the U.S. If she were to achieve the position as Phillies GM, she would directly and indirectly open up so many doors that were otherwise closed for those who aren’t older white men. Despite baseball being relatively more open to people of all walks of life, it still has a ways to go to achieve equality. Lloyd McClendon, fired by new Mariners GM DiPoto last week, was the only black manager in baseball, for example.
The Phillies have a particularly sordid past when it comes to equality in baseball. When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Phillies manager Ben Chapman instructed his players to intentionally throw at the Dodgers’ first baseman. The club shouted racial slurs at him at nearly every opportunity. The Phillies were also the last team to integrate.
The Phillies could turn from a team that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th and 21st centuries into a team that allowed girls across the country the opportunity to dream of one day working for (or playing for) a major league ballclub. The social benefits — not to mention extensive front office expertise — would make hiring Ng a home run for the Phillies.