Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ng Is Ready to Rock; Is Baseball Ready to Roll (the Dice)?

"Hey Donnelly, throw me a ball! Or you're fired!"

Newsweek magazine, profiling Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng in their "Who's Next 2007" issue, puts her "in the best position to become the first female GM in a major U.S. sport—as well as an Asian-American pioneer":

While she may be the most prominent woman in the 30 executive offices of baseball's various teams, her colleagues no longer notice the novelty. They just know the 38-year-old assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers knows her baseball stuff—from negotiating player salaries in the back rooms to assessing talent on the field.

As much as I would like to believe baseball has suddenly become blind to gender and race, the reality of a league which has to mandate minority-hiring measures suggests there are more Bill Singers than Omar Minayas among baseball's decision makers.

Yet, winning trumps tradition. Here are some scenarios in which Kim Ng could be hired as a major league GM:

A small-market team hiring Ng makes sense. The attendant positive publicity combined with a lower payroll and lower expectations from fans and media alike would create an ideal market where Ng could thrive. Plus, the team's owners would be able to get away with paying her a lower salary for "giving her a chance."

Conversely, the Giants could pull a retaliatory reverse-Colletti and hire Ng, simultaneously weakening the Dodgers' front office and burnishing San Francisco's image as the most progressive city in the U.S. Brian Sabean's tenure as Giants GM will be inextricably linked with Barry Bonds; replacing Sabean with Ng would give their organization a clean slate after Bonds finally departs.

And there's another scenario which greatly increases Ng's odds: the Dodgers winning a World Series. After all, isn't kicking everyone else's ass the great equalizer?

photo by Gregg Segal/Newsweek