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New Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng's business plan: Win, and change the franchise's reputation

Daniel Roberts
·4 min read

The Miami Marlins made history on Nov. 13 when the club named Kim Ng its new general manager. Ng (pronounced “ang”) is the first female MLB GM and first Asian-American MLB GM.

Ng has worked in pro baseball for 30 years, with stints for the Chicago White Sox, the New York Yankees, and the L.A. Dodgers. As an assistant GM with the Yankees, she won three World Series rings. Most recently, she was MLB senior vice president of baseball operations. But she first interviewed for a GM job 15 years ago, which has led many to point out—even while celebrating the achievement—that it should not have taken this long for a team to hire her.

In a media call on Monday conducted over Zoom, Ng answered scores of questions about her mantle as the first female GM and addressed the 15 years it took for her to get a GM job: “It’s a tribute to the idea that you just have to keep plowing through. That’s what this is. It’s like what we tell the players: You can go down, and you can mope and sulk for a few days, but that’s it, then you gotta come back. Yes, I’ve been defeated and deflated numerous times, but you always still keep hoping and plowing through.”

Nov 16, 2020; Miami, FL, USA;  Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng poses for a photo at Marlins Park.  Mandatory Credit: Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Nov 16, 2020; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng poses for a photo at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

And now she’d like to get to work.

The Marlins last won the World Series in 2003, and haven’t won a pennant since. A new ownership group backed by Bruce Sherman and headed up by Derek Jeter bought the team three years ago for $1.2 billion and immediately cleaned house, trading off sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Sports media coverage since then has been brutal: Sporting News wrote in 2017 that Jeter’s short tenure as Marlins CEO “has eroded his baseball reputation”; Sports Illustrated in 2019 ranked the Marlins No. 3 on a list of the most hopeless MLB franchises.

But things are looking up. This fall, the Marlins finished the 60-game pandemic mini-season second in the NL East and clinched a playoff spot, ending what was the longest playoff drought in the NL. The Marlins then swept the Chicago Cubs to make it to the NLDS, where the Marlins got swept by the Braves. Marlins manager Don Mattingly was named 2020 NL Manager of the Year.

Ng’s first priority for the organization is, naturally, winning on the field.

But when asked by Yahoo Finance what else she’d like to get done from a business perspective, Ng said, “I want to be out there more in the community. 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, where we’re going, and where we want to take this organization.”

Of course, the 2021 MLB season is still a question mark. The league got through its pandemic season, but teams lost a combined $3.1 billion by playing a shortened season without fans in the stands. (MLB is more reliant on gameday ticket sales than some other big leagues.) If the league has to keep out fans again in 2021, it will take an even more severe financial hit. Ng knows well what the league office is dealing with, having just left her role as SVP of baseball ops.

COMPTON, CA - JUNE 19: Kim Ng, Sr. VP Baseball & Softball Development for Major League Baseball looks on during the Breakthrough Series at the Compton Youth Academy on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in Compton, California. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Kim Ng, then Sr. VP Baseball & Softball Development for Major League Baseball, at the Compton Youth Academy on June 19, 2018 in Compton, Calif. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

“In terms of the upcoming season, that’s really just going to be pending Covid, and vaccines, and where we end up on that issue,” she told Yahoo Finance. “That is yet to be determined, but I think the folks at MLB are looking at all the different avenues that we could be heading down in the next six months.”

And beyond next season and the pandemic, MLB has a larger existential reckoning to solve: game attendance has been in dramatic decline, and the Marlins ranked dead-last for attendance in 2019.

Like Jason Wright, the new president of the Washington Football Team and the NFL’s first Black team president, Ng has the chance to be a change agent and financial transformer for the Miami Marlins franchise.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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