Friday morning we all got the same MLB alert: One more glass ceiling was shattered as the Marlins named Kim Ng their next General Manager.
It was joyous and the news resonated far beyond baseball. Later Friday as I was watching the news I giggled a bit as an anchor tried to report the story but clearly hadn’t been prepped for how to pronounce her name (it’s pronounced “Ang”). My boss (not a huge baseball fan) texted me and another co-worker with a shot of the news alert about an hour later. But as the day went on I noticed a bifurcation on my Twitter feed about what this news meant that was equally important, and I thought it was important to discuss here.
I’ll be blunt — the women who write about baseball on my feed had some fundamentally different reactions to this hire than the men. Look, I get it. This is a sport played by men, coached almost entirely by men, and written about mostly by men — and honestly this is not meant as a criticism to most of them. Their coverage was generally not bad or dismissive, Al wrote a lovely piece here yesterday that covered the hire and you should read that.
The coverage by women was just different. For example, the news broke right as MLB Network’s Hot Stove was wrapping up for the day. And while Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian were clearly absolutely thrilled for Ng and the league, it also took them approximately 90 seconds to turn the conversation to Derek Jeter. They were not alone. No shade to Jeter (and you all know I love to throw a bit of shade at Jeter) he did the right thing by hiring a supremely qualified candidate to be the next General Manager for the Marlins - it’s just, this story isn’t about him.
This is a story about how a woman broke one of the biggest glass ceilings in baseball, so today I wanted to highlight the reactions of women writers, and women around baseball, to Ng’s hiring.
I’ll start with Lindsey Adler at The Athletic, who is a must read on any subject, but particularly on this one:
Ng’s career in baseball began when she took an internship with the White Sox in 1990. She became an assistant general manager of the New York Yankees in 1998. She left to take the same job with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001. She interviewed for a general manager position for the first time in 2005; the Dodgers went with Ned Colletti instead. It has been 15 years since Ng first attempted to become a general manager after seven years at the assistant general manager position.
It’s likely that Ng is the most overqualified person to ever become a first-time general manager in baseball. She brings 30 years of experience to the job — my entire lifetime. She has been closely involved with baseball since the year I was born. Now, finally, she will be the first female GM.
To put her historic hiring in perspective:— Gabrielle (@gfstarr1) November 13, 2020
Kim Ng had to work in MLB longer than Theo Epstein had been ALIVE when he was hired to be the Red Sox GM.
To break the biggest remaining glass ceilings, women have to be stunningly overqualified for those positions. Ng was qualified to be the Marlins GM 15 years ago. She was the youngest assistant general manager in history at 29. She is 52 now. I found myself reflecting on the fact that she is leaving a job as Senior Vice President of MLBs baseball operations for a General Manager gig at one of the league’s teams.
It’s hard to characterize that move because in recent years it’s become less common for talent to flow from the central office to teams, as Stephanie Apstein reported for Sports Illustrated:
Manfred met Ng early in his time in baseball, and the more he saw of her work, the more he respected her. He first began working alongside MLB on labor matters in 1987 and came aboard full time in ’98. Ng joined the American League office in ’97. The next year she became, at 29, the youngest assistant GM in the sport when the Yankees hired her. In 2001, she went to work for the Dodgers as assistant GM and vice president before the league office made her its senior vice president of baseball operations in ’11.
Manfred’s relationship with Ng is almost as old as his relationship with baseball. So he hired Ng hoping to lose her. “One of things I think central baseball should be is a pool of people that get experience with us, they understand how we do business,” and then they become candidates for teams, he said. John Ricco, now a senior vice president and senior strategy officer for the Mets, spent 12 years in the commissioner’s office before New York hired him in 2004; Frank Coonelly, who was the president of the Pirates from ’07 to ’19, was first a labor lawyer alongside Manfred. League-to-team hiring has chilled in recent years. “I think maybe central baseball’s gotten a little more interesting,” Manfred joked. “Clubs have tried to recruit people and people haven’t wanted to leave.”
That’s not exactly a promotion and it’s certainly not a lateral move. I tried to imagine other industries or jobs where it was necessary to rise to the level of a league senior VP to finally be entrusted with a job to manage an individual team. I couldn’t really wrap my head around that, and as Apstein reported, part of the reason it’s hard to imagine is that it’s exceedingly rare. I found myself picturing Ng shattering the GM glass ceiling from above - it’s as if she rose above it, spent a decade solidifying her claim and then leapt from her Senior VP position at MLB to crash back down through the glass ceiling like a scene from Die Hard.
This is a story about Kim Ng, and the women rising in the ranks behind her. It’s a story about the women in baseball operations in MLB who were overjoyed reacting in their text chain with each other. Most importantly, it’s a story in its first few chapters and I cannot wait to see how it all plays out.
I’ll leave you with the reactions from women in and around baseball, starting with this quote from Yankees announcer Suzyn Waldman in a piece from Anne Rogers of MLB:
When longtime Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman received word that Kim Ng was about to make history as the first woman general manager in baseball, she had to confirm the news herself. She sent a text message to a friend in the Marlins organization that said, “Please, please tell me this is real.”
The two-word reply meant everything to Waldman: It’s happening.
“And I’ve just been crying,” said Waldman, who has made history countless times in her decades-long journalism career. “Because of who she is and what this means. I wasn’t sure I was still going to be around to see it. It’s taken a longer time than I’d thought, and I knew it was going to take the right person doing the hiring for the right person.”
"There are little girls out there or older girls, and they’re never going to think it’s something that they can’t do ever again. Because there she is.”— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) November 14, 2020
Talking with women in baseball yesterday, there was no overstating the impact of Kim Ng making history: https://t.co/JMdG7FiKpQ
Let's be perfectly clear here. Kim Ng has been among the most qualified GM candidates for the past two decades. She has always been capable of running a Major League team. This isn't a risky hire -- it's a smart one, by a team that obviously wants to win a World Series.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) November 13, 2020
By my count, GM jobs opened 48 times among 27 MLB teams from Aug. 2011, when MLB Trade Rumours listed Ng at No. 10 on its top 20 GM candidates list. That's about 6 years after she reportedly first interviewed for a GM job.— Laura Armstrong (@lauraarmy) November 13, 2020
So glad we're here today. It took too long to get here. https://t.co/0Z81RpbUSw
Dancing. Literally dancing. So well deserved. Kim, I’m so happy for you and proud of the Marlins! https://t.co/RoqufR2ANK— Rachel Folden (@FoldenFastpitch) November 13, 2020