Experience prepares Ng for next step
Dodgers executive primed to become game's first female GM
HOUSTON -- When general managers gather for the Winter Meetings in December, there will be two new faces working the Bellagio in Las Vegas as acting GM for the first time.
Though not quite as often as with managers, turnover comes to the GM ranks almost every year. This year was no different. Jack Zduriencik took over in Seattle, and in Philadelphia, Ruben Amaro Jr. has replaced the departing Pat Gillick.
It doesn't appear there will be any more changes this offseason, but when the next ones are made, Kim Ng will be among the next in line for a GM job.
Ng (pronounced ANG) is vice president and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a position she has held since 2002. Before that, Ng was assistant GM of the Yankees for five years, which makes the 39-year-old the longest tenured assistant GM in the game.
With an impressive resume and having interviewed for GM openings twice now, Ng might become the first female GM in baseball history. One of just three women to hold the title of assistant GM, she came close to that achievement already, having been a finalist in Seattle last month and by some accounts the runner-up to Zduriencik.
"I hope it happens," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who worked with Ng when both were with the Yankees. "She's well prepared, she knows the job. I've been impressed with her. I think she is [ready]."
Torre said Ng would be a groundbreaking hire, for women and for baseball. But he stressed Ng's qualifications as the reasons she should be a general manager some day.
Ng also spent six years working for the Chicago White Sox, where she served as assistant director of baseball operations. She worked one year in the American League office, where she oversaw waivers procedures and approved trades, before joining GM Brian Cashman's staff with the Yankees.
So not only has Ng worked for owners such as George Steinbrenner and Jerry Reinsdorf, and with experienced GMs such Cashman, Ron Schueler, Dan Evans, Paul DePodesta and Ned Colletti, she has earned high marks for her work in arbitration cases and in running player development systems.
"Absolutely, it would be a tremendous honor, and obviously it would get a lot of attention," Ng said. "But if it did happen, my main goal would be to make the club I work for better and get them to the playoffs."
Ng believes she is ready to take that historic step.
"I don't feel like you've ever learned all you can. I learn something new every day," Ng said. "But I will say, in addition to that, being farm director for a year, overseeing pro scouting for the last couple of years ... in terms of being prepared, I've seen a lot of things and I feel fortunate to be a part and contributed to a team that went to the World Series four times, won it three.
"I feel privileged to work with Joe for the second time and working with Ned. I've worked for some good people and learned a lot. Hopefully, somebody thinks I'm ready."
Ng faces competition from a number of other impressive up-and-comers, including Cleveland vice president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti; Arizona assistant GM Peter Woodfork; Washington assistant GM/VP Mike Rizzo; Oakland assistant GM David Forst; Boston assistant GM Jed Hoyer; Chicago White Sox VP/assistant GM Rick Hahn; and former Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle, now with the Royals.
Even with impeccable credentials, landing a GM job is extremely difficult. Assistant GMs work their way up through the ranks, and even if their resumes pass muster, they usually have to go through at least one interview, and often two or three, before getting that first GM job offer.
"I think it was a great process," Ng said of her interview with the Dodgers three years ago. "I think it gave me an entree into a owner's thinking about things that are important to them, Frank and Jamie [McCourt]. I think [owners] think about the game and the business a little bit different than we as baseball executives may. I think the job of the GM has changed so much in the last 20 years, and I think it gave me some insight into some the ancillary things you might not necessarily think are on a GM's plate but really are."
Ng earned her degree from the University of Chicago, where she studied economics and public policy. She has a reputation as an excellent negotiator and is a student of all aspects of the business of baseball.
"I think it's really interesting when you think about what you learned in college and what you learned in the real world," Ng said. "Certainly there are some applications, but I think it's nothing like having been in baseball for 18 years and having seen the changes that we have firsthand. But I think the most I got from college education was figuring out and learning how to analyze."
Ng has learned something from each stop on her career. She has seen the old-school approach, which typically relies heavily on scouting, and the newer GMs, who rely more on statistical analysis.
"I think I'm in the middle," Ng said. "I've seen first- or second-hand the benefits of both, having worked with Ron Schueler early in my career and having worked with Paul later in my career, a big proponent of statistics. I think I've come across a lot of different people who think different ways. It's nice for me because you can pick and choose what you really believe and some of the things that don't necessarily make sense. I'm right in the middle."
She's also willing to keep an open mind, another attribute which should serve her well as GM.
"Absolutely, knowledge is huge in this game," she said. "You've seen in the last 15 years the game has changed, our thought processes have changed. You have to be open-minded. I think that's one of my strengths, being able to listen to people, hearing them out, knowing after you hear the information to synthesize the information and coming up with your own judgments as far as what makes sense and what doesn't."
Though most of her experience is with large-market clubs, Ng doesn't believe the lessons she has learned wouldn't apply were she to land a GM job for a small-market franchise.
"Any market would want to have more resources than they do, but obviously there are parameters and restrictions we all have to abide by," Ng said. "It just makes it more challenging, but it would also be an opportunity to be more creative. You would have to stress certain things as opposed to others."
If and when that GM job offer does come, Ng knows it will come with enormous responsibility. Skeptics will call it a publicity hire. She will be under tremendous pressure to succeed.
"What GM isn't?" she said, smiling. "The bottom line is it doesn't matter who you are, you have to do the job. I've seen first hand how successful people do their jobs. I've learned a great deal. I believe I'm ready if I'm fortunate enough to get the opportunity."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.