The Padres settled on their new general manager Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller. Preller replaces Josh Byrnes, who was fired by the team in late June.
(Technically, Preller takes over for the interim GM trio of Omar Minaya, San Diego’s VP for baseball operations, and assistant general managers A.J. Hinch and Fred Uhlman, Jr. That threesome engineered the trades of Huston Street, Chase Headley and Chris Denorfia, which added eight prospects to the Padres’ minor league organization.)
Preller probably is the right guy for the job. Obviously, the Padres think (or hope) so. As reported by MLB.com’s Corey Brock, Preller’s background in player development and scouting — especially internationally — gave him the nod over the other three finalists for the position.
Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler was thought to be the front-runner for the job, but Preller reportedly overtook him during final interviews. Also considered were Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen and MLB senior VP of baseball operations, Kim Ng.
I’m here today to express my disappointment that Ng didn’t get the job. I think it would’ve been a really cool thing for a MLB team to hire the sport’s first female general manager. Had Ng been hired, she also would have been the first Asian-American GM in baseball history.
This isn’t to suggest that the Padres should have hired Ng simply because for the historical significance. I doubt she would want that either. There’s no reason to think Preller isn’t the best person for the job. His résumé is an impressive one, perhaps even more meaningful for a team with a mid-market payroll like the Padres. So he rightly deserves the opportunity to run a team’s front office.
I’m also not suggesting that any sort of sexism or racism entered into this process. (Though she’s unfortunately — and perhaps unsurprisingly — encountered bigotry in her career.) That would be extremely unfair, not only to Padres ownership and higher executives, along with Preller and the other six candidates interviewed for the GM position, but also to Ng. There are presumably valid baseball reasons that she didn’t get the job.
For one thing, Ng hasn’t been involved in a MLB team front office for three years, since leaving the Dodgers to work under Joe Torre in the league offices. San Diego probably wanted someone more recently involved in the day-to-day operations of running a baseball team.
Ng also worked as an assistant GM for the Yankees and Dodgers, the two biggest spenders in MLB. Perhaps the Padres preferred a GM with some experience in smaller markets. However, I’m going to dismiss my own speculation here, since the other candidates were from the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers, clubs among baseball’s top 10 payrolls.
Looking at the Rangers’ recent success in getting players like Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Rougned Odor, it’s certainly promising to think that Preller could bring a similar influx of international talent to the Padres organization. While San Diego can’t compete with large-market teams for top free agents, maybe the team will have a better chance in this arena.
(Though the Padres will need to make the same investment in international talent as the Rangers have. According to Baseball America, Texas spent $8.42 million on international players last year, compared to the Padres spending $2.73 million.)
I realize there are some who will wince at this topic, balking against political correctness and Ng being some sort of token hire. I get that. Let me just put my bias on the table: I’m Asian-American. I’d love to see an Asian-American GM, to see a face like mine running a MLB team’s front office. I was excited when the Mariners made Don Wakamatsu baseball’s first Asian-American field manager, and was a bit bummed out when he was fired.
I also just think it would’ve been cool for MLB to follow up Tuesday’s news of the San Antonio Spurs hiring Becky Hammon as the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach by announcing a woman was going to be one of their 30 general managers. That would’ve been a nice one-up moment for baseball, the sport of Jackie Robinson.
Yeah, it’s cool you hired a woman as an assistant coach, NBA. We just hired one to be a GM. Oh, and she’s also a minority. Pardon us while we stand here and watch this ball go into the seats.
Maybe Ng will get another opportunity to be a major league general manager. She could very well interview again, though not that many GMs seem to get fired. (However, Kevin Towers, Ruben Amaro Jr., Dayton Moore, Jack Zduriencik, Sandy Alderson and Bill Geivett are all making strong cases for dismissal.) She’s only 45 years old.
But Ng has now been passed over by the Dodgers, Mariners, Angels and Padres (twice now). How many more chances will she get? How many will she still want, when she has what appears to be a great job with MLB? Ng has almost quit baseball before, back when she was with the Yankees. Yet I certainly hope she keeps trying, because I will keep hoping she eventually breaks through.