The Miami Marlins made baseball history with their hiring of Kim NG as its new general manager late last year. Ng is the first female GM and first Asian American GM to ever take charge of an MLB team.
The Marlins claimed Ng was the highest-ranking woman in MLB team operations and is understood to be the first-ever woman hired as a general manager of any professional men’s sports team in North America.
“Kim’s appointment makes history in all of professional sports and sets a significant example for the millions of women and girls who love baseball and softball,” Commissioner of Baseball Robert Manfred Jr. said on the appointment.
“The hard work, leadership, and record of achievement throughout her long career in the National Pastime led to this outcome, and we wish Kim all the best as she begins her career with the Marlins.”
While the Marlins broke a lengthy streak of missing the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s third year of being CEO and part-owner, there was obviously still lots of work to do. The team traded almost all of its top players in the last few years, with Jeter looking to rebuild on a limited budget. The organization has also severed ties with its head of baseball operations in recent times but, when the time came to appoint a new GM, Jeter didn’t have a list of potential candidates; he went straight to Ng.
The two already shared a relationship from when Jeter was a player in the league and the union saw to three consecutive World Series wins, with Ng working as the New York Yankees assistant GM from 1998 to 2001.
“When we decided to make a change, Kim was the first person I called,” Jeter said on Today Show. “She was the only person I called.”
Boasting 30 years of experience in the MLB under her belt, the 52-year-old Indianapolis native was waiting on such a call for 10 years. Despite her success with the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, two of the MLB’s winningest organizations, as well as at least five interviews, she hadn’t been offered the role.
When she was brought in as the Marlins GM last November in a history-making move, she was thrust into one of the toughest jobs in the MLB, tasked with changing the fortunes of a perennially struggling team all while working under extra scrutiny because of her gender.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Marlins aren’t exactly strapped for cash. They have one of the lowest payrolls in the league, if not the lowest, and experience the poorest attendance of all teams. It doesn’t help that they have very few big-name players as part of their roster.
That she took over in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the finances of all teams, certainly added to the difficulty. The crisis has also kept players off the field league-wide. The Marlins aren’t enjoying much success as they’re battling with the Washington Nationals just to stay out of last place in the NL East, and the baseball odds today don’t reflect positive expectations.
The team will miss the playoffs after finally making it back last year and, with nearly a year gone since she took up the role, they appear to have taken a step backward.
“When Derek told me I got the job, there was a 10,000-pound weight lifted off of [one] shoulder—and then about a half an hour later, I realized that it had just been transferred to [the other] shoulder,” Ng noted in her first press conference as the team’s GM. “You’re bearing the torch for so many and that is a big responsibility. I take it on.”
A number of injuries led to poor performances back in June and the Marlins have also seen legacy problems affect the fanbase while making LoanDepot Park even less attractive to star players. The team joined the MLB as an expansion side in 1993 and won a World Championship just four years later in 1997, repeating the feat in 2003. However, key players were traded away after both wins, which led to struggles experienced several years on.
“After they do well, they don’t reinvest in their top players, and really try to approach their roster with a small budget,” Florida State University marketing professor and former pitcher in the Dodgers’ minor league system, Michael Brady, pointed out.
While the team’s current owners weren’t responsible for the decisions, it’s been difficult to shake off the reputation. Players are cautious over joining the Marlins as there are worries they could be let go whether or not they achieve success. Fans have also been left disappointed after getting tickets to see a winning team only to witness them crash and burn. Jeter, though, hopes to build a more sustainable team but it will be tough given the finances.
As for Ng, she is keen on turning things around from the business side, which should trickle into the results.
“From a business perspective, I want to be out there more in the community,” she said. “I want the Marlins to be seen as a pillar of the community, so I will be out there at different functions, to make sure that people understand who we are and where we’re going.”