Friday, November 11, 2005

Asian baseball GMs are effeminate!

According to Baseball Prospectus, sometime this week, there's a very good chance that Kim Ng will be promoted to General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise. For those of not familiar with the baseball power structure, the GM is pretty much the most powerful position on each team. While not the top of the power structure, the GM is the one who makes all of the personnel decisions--what players are acquired on all levels of competition, who manages the team on the field and how money is allocated throughout the organization.

Should Ng get the position, she would be the first female and first person of Asian descent to command that power in any of the male Major League sports in the United States.

Ng's rise has been fun to watch. She was hired out of the University of Chicago by Dan Evans of the Chicago White Sox and showed immediate ability in arguing arbitration cases, one of the more challenging duties in baseball personnel negotiations. From there, she served as assistant GM of the New York Yankees from 1998-2002, and then in the same position with the Dodgers (again hired by Evans) from 2002 to the present. In those positions, she continued to develop her skills in player acquisition and development including directing the entire Dodgers farm system in 2004.

However, there is some concern in how successful Ng's tenure in L.A. will be should she be named to the position. The previous GM, Paul Depodesta, while white and male, also had traits that caused many to question his qualifications for the job and he was fired after intense pressure on ownership from the local media. The media demanded his expulsion despite him delivering a division title in one of his two years heading the franchise. This was very unusual as GMs normally receive a grace period in order to enact their own regime and "turn-over" the roster (fill it with their own acquisitions).

So is there reason to believe that Ng may not receive fair evaluation during a tenure as GM? It's certainly a risk. Already, she has faced racism in her capacity as assistant GM. In 2003, a New York Mets scout confronted her with racial slurs during baseball's annual winter meetings:

Executives from several teams had retreated to the hotel bar after watching Arizona Fall League play. According to people at the conference with knowledge of what happened, an apparently drunken Singer approached Ng and belligerently asked: "What are you doing here?"

"I'm working," Ng replied.
"What are you doing here?" Singer repeated.
"I'm the assistant general manager of the Dodgers."
"Where are you from?" Singer asked.
"I'm from Indiana," Ng said, referring to her birthplace. She was raised in Ridgewood, N.J.
"No, where are you from?" Singer asked.
"My family is originally from China," Ng said.
Singer then allegedly started speaking gibberish, making fun of Chinese - which led Cashman to act, sources said. Cashman declined to comment.

Current media coverage tends to be very positive, trumpeting Ng's qualifications for the position. But there are some telling reminders of the underbelly of American racism/sexism in sports that will be poised, ready to strike at Ng should she fill the position.
Deadspin supportive, but sarcastic and making racist comparison saying she looks like B.D. Wong
Some of the arguments put forth against her:
Female=can't provide leadership/ not a baseball person/is a "young nobody"
Has never been a GM=Is not qualified to be a GM
I don't know anything about her, so I question her qualifications
Hiring her would make the Dodgers the "laughingstock" of sports
What's interesting is that they are a fun mix of people just being plain ignorant about her record, people adding constraints on what qualifies someone for the position that they would never hold if they weren't addressing a minority candidate, and people who think that we should not hire qualified candidates because racist/sexist people might try to make their job harder.

It's the tired old privileged white boy style of argument--"the kitchen-sink style" in which they decide they hate the idea of something, like "homosexuals getting married" and then just make up shit to try to win the argument:

Asshole: Well, marriage is for reproductions, and gay folks can't have kids...
Normal human being: So infertile people shouldn't be allow to marry?
A: Umm...
N: Or old people? And what about raising adoptive or artificially inseminated kids, do they not count?
A: Umm, well, it would lead to a slippery slope, where people could marry their dogs.
N: So you think dogs can enter into legal contracts?
A: Umm, well, it would erode the institution of marriage...
N: What is the institution of marriage to you?
A: It's about the union before God of the love of a man and a woman...
N: Oh, I see, so we are legislating your idea of God, that's great! So what about a man and woman who aren't in love? Why can they get married? What about people who have 24 hour marriages? They aren't eroding marriage, but two people who want to "till death do us part", raising kids and the whole shebang, are?
A: Well, I just don't think the country is ready for it...
N: So we should limit our citizens freedom to cater to some bigots who can't handle it?
A: I've got to go read Malkin's blog, I better take off...
(Thanks to Matt)

Let's end with a reality check:
Kim Ng is Asian American, female, and highly qualified for this position. She as extensive experience as nearly every single white male has ever had for their first GM gig along with recommendations from every employer in baseball she's ever had. The situation of the job she's a candidate for is one that she's highly familiar with and it's also quite a trainwreck thanks to the bigotry of the local press. Should she get the job, she will be a pioneer of sorts, but also a qualified, competent one.

At the time, many people said, "It's not the right time for Jackie Robinson to cross the color barrier!" People weren't ready (and in many cases still aren't) for social integration, or gender-free hiring. The only way these things change is when powerful, courageous people change them. Waiting for the flow of history only results in equal opportunity continuing to drown.

Now is the time for Kim Ng. There will be adversity and there will be completely unfair, sexist, racist evaluation of her. That's not a reason to avoid ever hiring a woman or Asian American to the position, it's a reason to do it now so we can start to heal.

But we better be ready. Sharpen your letter writing skills, learn about the game and be ready to destroy those who attack her unjustly.

More about Ng:
Interview at the Women's Sports Foundation
Interview at Baseball Prospectus
Sass-a-Thon discussion of (Boston) fan reaction to a female GM


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