Something Isn't Adding Up
By Nick Wilson, Miles Bolton
The Mets search for a new General Manager has come to a puzzling close. The team announced they have signed Brodie Van Wagenen an agent, to the position. He will become the 13th general manager in team history, and one of only a handful of agents to be to the named to a GM position. The hire has had a wide array of responses from sports pundits and League insiders alike. ESPN’s Buster Olney referred to Van Waganen as absolutely “not qualified at all” for the job.
Agent Scott Boras questioned hiring citing that Van Wagenen hiring creates a clear conflict of interest as he represented 5 players currently on the Mets while he was with CAA sports group. His most notable clients are some of the teams key players in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
While Van Wagenen and the Wilpons claim to have made "provisions" in Van Wagenen contract to deal with said conflicts, this will mean the Mets just hired a person who can not negotiate contracts with the teams top arms. Further, the Mets have cost themselves the opportunity to go after the one of most qualified candidates in the sport, Kim Ng.
WHO IS KIM NG?
Mrs. Ng has nothing left to prove in the game of baseball. She has 20+ plus years in the game, has held the assistant GM position for over half that time, and has worked for big market teams for the entire length of her career. She knows how to handle big market payrolls, media, and player personalities. Her resume is filled with record breaking accolades and clearly points in the direction of an ideal GM candidate.
Specific highlights of Kim’s success are certainly not few and far between. By 1995, Kim Ng made the massive leap from intern to “Assistant director of baseball operations” with the Chicago White Sox. (Five years after being hired as an intern). Part of her job was negotiating waiver claims and salary arbitration. The White Sox threw her right into the fire, as her first arbitration case was against legendary agent Scott Boras. Ng was 26 at the time had no prior experience with arbitration negotiations. Regardless, Ng won the case and saved the team nearly $625,000. She was the youngest person in history to ever win a salary arbitration case.
By 1998, Ng’s place in baseball was solidified, gaining honorable mentions from highly respected pillars in the sport such as Frank Wren and Jerry Reinsdorf. As she worked her way up through the ranks, her core ideology and focus remained the same: evaluate and understand the best players on the team. Her work in salary arbitration taught her how to assess value and learn the ins and outs of being a baseball executive. She made connections, one of which was Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who offered her a role of assistant GM, making her the youngest VP and assistant to the GM in the game.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner referred to her as “Diligent and hardworking”. Brian Cashman, the man who hired Kim spoke about her involvement with the Yankees during her time with the club from 1998-2001. “I was looking for the best person”. Cashman said. “Since (then) she’s been involved in everything the front office does”.
After her contract ended with the Yankees, Ng moved on to work for the Dodgers as VP and assistant GM. Since then she’s held the position for more than a decade, assisting GM Ned Colletti with every facet of the game. In 2004, Ng assumed the interim position of Player Development. Along with her current role, she was in charge of overseeing the Dodgers Minor League Department. She was tasked with evaluating talent, hiring minor league coaches and staff, monitoring the clubs winter ball participation, and managing relationships between the Dodgers and their minor league affiliates. Thus elevating Ng to a status of well-roundedness few executives ever achieve in their career. A status which should have earned Mrs. Ng the opportunity to become a key decision maker for any team in the league. And yet, here we are. Another opportunity to hire Kim Ng, and another swing and miss.
SO WHAT'S THE HOLD UP?
At least on paper Kim Ng matched up beautifully with the New York Mets. For one, the candidates aside from Ng were underwhelming. Chaim Bloom was highly analytics driven interviewing for a team who all but rejects analytics. Doug Melvin is a former GM and baseball lifer, but was nixed from the interview process even before Kim Ng. In the end, the person who never actually held a position within the game of baseball was hired. And even if the candidates had been better suited, Kim Ng is one of the most qualified names the game has to offer. This time around, things aren’t adding up. So it’s time to say the thing your not allowed to say: It was bias.
Of the 30 teams in the MLB, only has 3 Gm’s of color. The Tigers in Al Avila, and the Marlins co GM/Presidents Derek Jeter and Michael Hill. All other Gm’s are white men. During the 2009-10 season, the MLB had 5 GMs of color. This was the largest amount there had ever been at one time A figure which is notably way behind the NBA and NFL. GM’s are seen as leaders. They must correct and address mistakes, right the ship when it is lost, and inspire people In the US, asians are the least likely group to be promoted to management positions.
MORE REASONS TO LOVE NG
Kim is still in the game for a MLB general manager position as she interviewed with the San Francisco Giants recently and the Baltimore Orioles have requested an interview with her as well to helm their front office. The bid for becoming the first female GM in the game remains in play but as a New Yorker and a baseball aficionado, the Mets GM decision has left a bad taste in my mouth. Beyond her stacked resume, her numerous accolades, stellar references, and the need for the Mets to catch up with the new analytical realities of baseball, Kim Ngs childhood further paints a perfect picture of why she belongs in Flushing.
Though Ng was born in Indiana, she grew up in Flushing Queens playing stickball on the street before going into softball where she went on to play for 4 successful years at the University of Chicago. At the University of Chicago she graduated with a A.B. in public policy and was recognized as the MVP infielder of the college softball team. She's the perfect blend of intellect and real world experience, as a common gripe that baseball people have when it comes to hiring/promoting female candidates is their lack of playing experience. While Kim Ng didn't play in the MLB, she has more playing experience than a lot of male candidates in the GM field, which you'd hope would play to her advantage in the next round of interviews.
So what's the Mets deal? Kim Ng would significantly upgrade their analytics department, she's proven she can handle the throes of NYC, and she'd be a PR godsend. It would've been a storybook-like ending if the Mets had hired her. She's a homegrown success story, she played ball, and as the first female GM she would be thought of as the Jackie Robinson of the front office. Maybe the Jackie Robinson comparison is a stretch but you know what I mean.
If Kim Ng had lost out to a supremely qualified candidate maybe one could better understand the thought process of the Mets but instead they hired a man who is not only completely inexperienced but also represents a major conflict of interest as a former agent. The only explanations that come to mind as said before are bias or a masochistic desire by the Mets to shoot themselves in the foot with another bone headed move.
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