Time is right for M's to look closely at Ng
A woman may be elected vice president of the United States in November. Another woman nearly became the Democratic nominee for president...
Seattle Times baseball reporter
A woman may be elected vice president of the United States in November. Another woman nearly became the Democratic nominee for president, winning primaries in 21 states.
Few would argue those aren't landmark achievements in the annals of gender equality. And as the political buzz over John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate continues to reverberate, it's fair to wonder:
Is baseball finally ready to break the glass ceiling in the general manager's office?
Could it happen in Seattle?
The Mariners are expected to intensify their GM search in September, and conduct interviews in October, after the regular season.
Lee Pelekoudas, the interim GM, will get consideration but is regarded a longshot to be retained as No. 1.
Ever since Bill Bavasi was fired in June, there has been strong industry buzz that Pat Gillick — retiring after the season as the Phillies' GM — will have some role in Mariners baseball operations. But if that's the case, it appears more likely to be an oversight position, not as general manager — a post Gillick, now 70, held here for four seasons.
The list for Seattle's GM job still looks wide open. The ongoing struggles of the Yankees increase the possibility that Brian Cashman, who is at the end of his contract, could be available this winter. Cashman is a friend and avid admirer of Gillick, leading to speculation those two could be a package deal in Seattle.
John Hart, who built the Cleveland powerhouse of the 1990s but had less success in Texas, is said to have considerable interest in the position. It is not known if the feeling is mutual.
Any number of No. 2 men could draw the Mariners' attention. But the Mariners would be wise to give strong consideration to a No. 2 woman: Kim Ng, the Dodgers' vice president and assistant general manager.
The beauty of Ng's candidacy is that it cannot in any way be viewed as pandering or tokenism. Ng is flat-out ready to be a major-league general manager. Overdue, in fact.
At age 39, she has paid her dues. Ng is completing her 18th year in baseball, the last 11 as an assistant general manager. Seven of those years have been with the Dodgers, where she has worked under three general managers with increasing responsibilities; four were with the Yankees, where she won three World Series rings.
As the nature of the GM position changes, the one obvious mark against Ng — that she never played the game — becomes less relevant. Neither did an increasing number of men running baseball teams.
In fact, only two current GMs — Oakland's Billy Beane and the White Sox's Ken Williams — played in the major leagues. (So did Mike Flanagan, Baltimore's executive VP of baseball operations, but it is Andy MacPhail, who never played beyond high school, who really runs the Orioles' show.)
A handful of other GMs played minor-league baseball — Gillick, Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi, San Diego's Kevin Towers, the Mets' Omar Minaya and Milwaukee's Doug Melvin.
A couple of others played college ball — as did Ng, for that matter. She played four years on the softball team at the University of Chicago, where she earned a degree in public policy.
Increasingly, baseball is turning to younger, well-educated, computer-savvy "stat wonks" (the baseball equivalent of policy wonks) to run its teams. I'm talking the likes of Boston's Theo Epstein, Arizona's Josh Byrnes, Tampa Bay's Andrew Friedman, Texas' Jon Daniels and Cleveland's Mark Shapiro, among others.
In that world, Ng has the chops. Over the years, she has gained experience in virtually every aspect of the job while working under two of the most imposing owners in baseball: the Yankees' George Steinbrenner and the White Sox's Jerry Reinsdorf (during a six-year stint in the Sox's front office).
She also had one year (1997) working for the American League office as director of waivers and records, which not only allowed her to become an expert on baseball's sometimes arcane rules, but gave her a glimpse of how different teams ran their baseball operations.
In fact, in a recent phone interview, Cashman said that Ng's qualifications match his own when the Yankees hired him, a relative unknown, in 1998.
"She possesses every single quality I have. If I can do it, she can," Cashman said. "Someone took a chance on me back in the day. All she needs is someone to take a chance on her, simple as that.
"All the qualities are there for people to evaluate against other candidates; that's the real issue. It has nothing to do with being the first woman. It's her versus the field at that moment in time."
Dan Evans, who brought Ng into baseball as a White Sox intern in baseball operations in 1991, and hired her again in 2002 after he became the Dodgers' general manager, is another unabashed supporter.
Under Evans, Ng oversaw the Dodgers' player development and scouting. In that capacity, one of the people reporting to her was Dodgers scouting director Logan White, now considered to be a hot GM candidate. So did Bill Bavasi, the Dodgers' farm director before the Mariners hired him.
"She had more responsibility than probably anyone on the staff," Evans said. "She traveled with the club, evaluated minor-league players, prepared arbitration cases. She had a ton of responsibilities.
"It wasn't a tryout, or a situation where I hired her because of her gender or ethnicity. I had worked with her and knew she was the right person for the job. She has all the credibility in the world.
"I'll tell you point blank: There's no debating her ability. If anyone thinks she was hired for any position because of her gender, they haven't interacted with her or worked against her. Then you know that gender had nothing to do with it. It was ability."
Cashman says much the same thing. So have other general managers over the years. But it's going to take some major guts for a team to buck more than 100 years of the old boy's network and give Ng a long, fair, sincere look.
The time has come.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company