Kim Ng's record of fiscal restraint is the perfect qualification for the Angels' job.
In 2003, Eric Gagne went 55-for-55 in save opportunities and won all but four of the 32 votes for the National League Cy Young Award. It was probably the greatest season a relief pitcher has ever had.
The next winter, Kim Ng beat him in arbitration. Gagne earned $5 million in 2004 instead of the $8 million his agent, Scott Boras, argued for.
Earlier in her career, Ng did what virtually no American League hitter could: She beat Mariano Rivera.
Those two arbitration victories tell you pretty much all you need to know about how Ng would do if Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno, the first Hispanic owner in major U.S. sports, is willing to shatter one of the thickest glass ceilings in American business: baseball’s old-boy network.
Ng is among a handful of candidates the Angels are looking to interview for their vacant general manager position, as first reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney. Her record of fiscal restraint is the perfect qualification for this job.
If there’s one thing that has dragged the Angels down and allowed the Texas Rangers to take over dominance in the AL West, it’s their habit of taking on bad contracts. The man currently involved in the GM search, Bill Stoneman, bears some of the fault (Gary Matthews Jr., Justin Speier), as does the guy who just stepped down, Tony Reagins (Scott Kazmir, Vernon Wells).
So, too, do Moreno and even manager Mike Scioscia, who was gung-ho about the Wells acquisition.
Ng might be able to protect the Angels from themselves, to convince them not to make the one bad financial decision that could set the franchise back for years to come. If only they’d hired her earlier, maybe they wouldn’t have played last season under the crushing weight of more than $50 million in bad contract obligations.
The objections will come pouring in from all over the baseball world, which usually enters the modern world kicking and screaming, then finds it’s not such a bad place: Ng didn’t play the game. She doesn’t have a background in scouting. She can’t look at a 180-pound high school pitcher and automatically know how he’s going to throw as a 215-pound major league pitcher.
When it comes to making a deal -- the grist of the job -- few can beat Ng's track record.
"As an agent, I always make sure I'm thoroughly prepared before I talk to her. If I'm not ready, I say, 'Kim, I'll call you back,' because that would be like taking a knife to a gun fight. You know she is going to be prepared for every angle you come at her from," one prominent agent told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Tony Jackson last year.
The four American League teams that qualified for the playoffs have four of the brightest GMs in the game: Brian Cashman, Dave Dombrowski, Andrew Friedman and Jon Daniels. Not one of them played professional baseball. Who cares? Scioscia, a 14-year major league veteran, has got his fingerprints all over every baseball decision, anyway, one of the reasons no powerful current GM will jump at the Angels’ job, or even be contacted. Stoneman pitched two major league no-hitters. He’s still there.
There are plenty of smart scouts looking for better jobs who could form a powerful advisory board, with Ng making the final determinations. By her mid-20s and fresh out of the University of Chicago, Ng had risen to take over arbitration cases for the Chicago White Sox. At 29, she was an assistant GM for the New York Yankees. She went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where she was one of two women (and the only Asian-American) to hold executive positions in baseball. She never lost an arbitration case and penned a handful of minor-league contracts that proved useful in helping the Dodgers contend.
She has extensive relationships with other GMs, with agents and with league officials. The Angels need a smart administrator and fresh perspectives more than they need another former player or seasoned scout. It's time for an organization that sometimes seems to live inside a box to think outside it.