“Kim Ng is going to be baseball’s first female GM.” This is in quotes because people—lots of people, and smart people, and people in positions of power—said it back when I was a kid, and she was a universally respected and successful assistant GM for my Yankees. That was 20 years ago. It is one thing for people to say and even to believe something like that, and maybe pat themselves on the back for believing it. It is another thing entirely, and a full generation later, for it to actually happen.
Kim Ng will be the Marlins’ next GM, it was announced Friday, and it marks a whole lot of milestones. She’s the first woman to lead a baseball front office, and the first person of East Asian descent. She’s believed to be the first woman GM in all North American major pro men’s sports.
But it feels a little insulting to talk about her in those terms. Ng is, first and foremost, very, very fucking good at her job. When she was in the White Sox front office, they were good. When she was with the Yankees, they were a dynasty. When she was with the Dodgers, they made the playoffs more often than not. She was frequently talked about as a GM-in-waiting, and it’s hard not to think that most men with her résumé would’ve gotten a shot much sooner than this. Ng’s ascension to the top job is worth celebrating, but the story of everything before—being passed over time and time again, and having to be a baseball lifer before she could sniff the same job that’s been frequently handed out to young unproven, spreadsheet-hotshots—does not say particularly inspiring things about the culture of the sport.
To be-turd the punch bowl a little further, I must add that it’s not particularly, uh, promising that of all teams, Ng will run the Marlins. That’s a job where GMs are historically hamstrung by ownership’s cheeseparing, and the new-ish ownership hasn’t exactly done or spent much to show things will change anytime soon. It’s a thankless job where GMs don’t get nearly enough credit for finding, obtaining, and developing players because those players go on to star somewhere else. It’s a job where success is unfairly defined as “sneaking into the playoffs every nine years, on average.” MLB’s glass ceiling is very real, and so may be the glass cliff. But if this is a job where GMs are set up to fail, Kim Ng deserves the chance to fail, as so, so many men have done before her. And after that? Well, this has already been a long time coming for Ng. What’s one more stepping stone?