After Matt Klentak stepped down earlier this month as the Philadelphia Phillies general manager, those who follow and report on the team began to speculate as to possible candidates for the position.
Names tossed around by the beat writers and radio talking heads in town have included Tampa Bay Rays executive vice-president Erik Neander, Cherry Hill native and Kansas City Royals vice-president of player personnel J.J. Picollo, and old school guys like Dan Duquette and Dave Dombrowski.
But the name that you don’t hear mentioned is one that we not only should be hearing more, but one that would also be a historic baseball hiring.
Kim Ng is the 52-year-old Senior Vice-President for Baseball Operations working for Major League Baseball. Her experience in various positions within the game have resulted in the perfect blend of old-school eyes-on talent evaluation with a knowledge of and respect for new-age statistical analysis.
Ng was raised in New York where she played stickball on the streets and playgrounds in the borough of Queens. In 1990 she graduated from the University of Chicago where she was her team MVP as a four-year softball player.
Hired in 1991 by the Chicago White Sox to her first job in baseball, Ng rose to become the Assistant Director of Baseball Operations. With the Chisox in 1995 she became the first female to present an arbitration case, winning for the club in its presentation regarding pitcher Alex Fernandez.
In 1997, Ng moved on to work in the offices of the American League as the Director of Waivers and Records. That led a year later to a position with the New York Yankees organization where, at just age 29, Ng became just the second female as well as the youngest assistant general manager in the history of the game. She owns three World Series rings from the Yankees’ dynastic three-peat during the years 1998-2000.
In 2001, Ng was hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the position of Vice President and Assistant General Manager. When the Dodgers general manager job came open four years later, Ng applied. She was beaten out by Ned Coletti at that time, but stayed on as his assistant general manager.
Her official bio page with the Dodgers states that Ng’s primary responsibilities in Los Angeles were to assist General Manager Ned Colletti in all facets of Major League player acquisitions – making trades, signing free agents and negotiating contracts. In addition to coordinating player transactions, she oversaw their arbitration efforts and managed the day-to-day operations of the baseball department including the research, video, clubhouse and team travel divisions.
Ng left the Dodgers in March 2011 to take on her current role in the MLB offices working under Joe Torre. In that role she has done a great deal of work involving MLB’s efforts internationally.
Over the years she has interviewed for open GM positions with four other organizations, all of those on the west coast. No female has ever been hired to a general manager position with any of the four major American professional sports leagues. Ng has long been considered the front-runner to break through that glass ceiling.
During a wide-ranging interview with Susie Allen for the University of Chicago news just two years ago, Ng demonstrated a reasonable take on what an opening such as the Phillies current job would entail:
“In becoming a general manager, I think the one thing that you have to know, though, is that you’re never walking into a great situation. Either they finished last, or they made it to the playoffs and it just wasn’t far enough, or their payroll is through the roof and their farm system is depleted, or there are lots of difficulties surrounding their personnel. The issues go on and on. It is the ultimate challenge in this industry.“
Bingo! The Phillies currently have a myriad of difficult personnel issues to sort through. With the right moves the club could be a legitimate contender to win the National League East Division in 2021. However, movement in the wrong direction this off-season could result in debilitating steps backwards that would further deflate an already disappointed fan base.
I’m not saying that the Philadelphia Phillies have to, or even should, hire Kim Ng to become their next general manager. But I would ask a question at this point – why not? Other than others who have been fired from a GM position elsewhere already, the Phillies are not going to find anyone – male or female – more qualified or experienced than Ng in areas that matter for the position.
As you can see by her professional résumé, this would be no hiring to fill some quota or to make the Phillies organization or Major League Baseball look good. Kim Ng is qualified, experienced, and well-respected within the industry. The Phillies would be lucky to have her as their general manager. Frankly, the time feels right to make a little history.