It’s been a very busy couple of days for trailblazing women in Major League Baseball, though it’s yet to be seen exactly how everything will play out. The news out of Miami on Monday morning is that Kim Ng, baseball’s first female general manager, will not return to the Marlins after the expiration of her contract. On Sunday, it was reported that Alyssa Nakken, who became the first woman named to an MLB coaching staff in 2020, has interviewed for the open managerial position in San Francisco.
Craig Mish of the Miami Herald tweeted the Ng news and Jordan McPherson wrote a brief piece for the paper, but there are few details at this point. The parting of ways seems a little odd on the surface, as the Marlins just made the postseason after putting up an 84-78 record in the wake of losing seasons in Ng’s first two years at the helm. Perhaps the decision not to return was hers, which the club indicated was the case in a press release.
Ng’s predecessor, Michael Hill, was likewise not brought back following the expiration of his contract at the conclusion of the 2020 season. The Marlins made the postseason that year too, so maybe ownership doesn’t actually want the team to succeed. Even though we don’t know what all went into these decisions, Ng’s departure sets or maintains a strange precedent.
Update: The decision to leave was indeed Ng’s, as she shared with Tyler Kepner of The Athletic.
“Last week, (Marlins majority owner) Bruce (Sherman) and I discussed his plan to reshape the baseball operations department,” Ng said. “In our discussions, it became apparent that we were not completely aligned on what that should look like and I felt it best to step away. I wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Marlins family and its fans for my time in South Florida.
“This year was a great step forward for the organization, and I will miss working with Skip (Schumaker) and his coaches as well as all of the dedicated staff in baseball operations and throughout the front office. They are a very talented group and I wish them great success in the future.”
Sure sounds like winning isn’t necessarily a priority for ownership, or maybe it’s a matter of not wanting to spend what it takes to maintain a winner. Between that and the potential to find another gig with an organization that isn’t a shitshow, like maybe the Red Sox, it’s understandable that Ng would want to bounce.
Update 2: Jeff Passan reported that the Marlins were planning to hire a president of baseball operations, making Ng second in command in terms of baseball decision-making. Now her departure makes even more sense.
Speaking of precedents, Nakken is now the first woman to officially interview for an MLB manager gig. As Andrew Baggerly of The Athletic wrote this past weekend, she joined bench coach Kai Correa and third base coach Mark Hallberg as members of the current coaching staff to go through the first round of the process. Former third base coach Ron Wotus and catching bullpen coach Craig Albernaz also received interviews.
The 33-year-old Nakken was hired by former manager Gabe Kapler prior to the 2020 season, but she had been with the Giants organization since 2014. Originally hired as an intern, she “transitioned to a hybrid role within the front office that included event logistics, business development, and coordinating health and wellness initiatives” prior to joining the coaching staff. Her role with the team over the past four years has focused on baserunning, outfield instruction, and in-game preparation.
Giants president Farhan Zaidi has said that he’d like to have a new manager in place by the time free agency starts, so things should move fairly quickly. It appears as though the preference is for a first-time skipper who is familiar with modern analytics and the organization as a whole. Zaidi might also want someone who’s willing and able to stay in lockstep with the front office, though I don’t necessarily think he’s seeking a yes-(wo)man.
While this news will surely irritate a few misogynists who don’t believe women belong in baseball, it’s a good thing for the game as a whole. Getting new and different perspectives has never been a bad thing, and just getting an interview is a step that will open doors for other women. I don’t think the likelihood is particularly high for Nakken, though she’s still very young and has a bright future ahead of her in San Francisco or elsewhere.