When the possibility of the first woman baseball GM is discussed, many men have a go-to.
Gender, they say, shouldn’t be part of the equation. The fact that only men have ever done the job erases that point. But that response, as bland as office carpet, persists.
My unapologetic opinion of hiring a woman GM, is that I don’t care if she’s the perfect fit.
She isn’t required to be the most of the most of all the ones across the land. She doesn’t need to have been hardwired to a lifetime of studying baseball by doing things like “working harder than the men to prove myself” or some variation of what people enjoy hearing when say when asked about learning and working in the industry. They love to hear us scraping our fingernails and heels on the impenetrable wall around baseball. But, no, thank you, she doesn’t have to be a martyr, or identify with “the boys”, or have a special stamp of approval from men baseball fan. I have no opposition to the team hiring her just to hire a woman. In fact, that would be fantastic. Imagine an MLB team ballsy enough to, perhaps, not sign a person who’s committed domestic violence, but, hold onto your hats, have the absolute gall to hire a woman who’s just good enough for the job, but also because she’s a woman. She needn’t be a unicorn. Just a smart woman who knows baseball.
The “issue” of a woman being in power in sports, or anywhere, isn’t an “issue” at all. It’s a failure to commit. It’s fear of trying something new, something that’s never been done before. That fear is understandable if you’re entirely focused on fans fear, or your own. But let’s just get over it, already.
The point of this hiring is to create precedence. The starting point is giving a woman the opportunity. Open the door, see what one woman can do; of course, she’s going to fail. They all do. Every man who’s ever done the job has failed, and every man doing the job has had some level of success. They’ve learned on the job, grown into the role and earned the respect of the fans. OR they don’t. Because that’s sports. Stop using the woman card and saying we’re using it. We see through the charade. The problem isn’t whether she’s going to have failures like any man; it’s that many men in baseball, or watch baseball, don’t feel comfortable with a woman GM. Men who talk about women in sports can’t use that card enough to zero in on her gender, and find all the reasons why she shouldn’t get a shot.
The name mentioned most to receive that shot, Kim Ng, MLB’s Senior VP, has even gotten the vote of confidence from legendary Yankees manager Joe Torre, now MLB’s chief baseball officer. “She’s very well prepared in whatever she does,” Torre told reporters a few years ago. “She’s way over my head when it comes to all the knowledge she has about a lot of aspects of the game.” But for her MLB experience, including four years with the Yankees as Assistant GM, before the Dodgers hired her in the same capacity—she still remains just a possibility.
MLB execs could look to the minor leagues. MiLB has been a strong ally in advancing women in the sport. On the GM front, they’ve been there and done that. In 2018, the Triple-A Reno Aces hired Emily Jaenson as General Manager. She joins a group of five women currently in that role in MiLB: Jennifer Reynolds (Visalia Rawhide), Rachelle Madrigal (Bradenton Marauders), Jane Rogers (Staten Island Yankees), Christina Edney (Pulaski Yankees), and Kim Parker (Burlington Bees).
Those women represent something important. They prove that once you see the value of giving a woman an opportunity, you can begin to reconstruct the boys club model. That is, if you want to.
There’s also a larger point to be made about how professional baseball could change with a distinctly non-white male voice. Would the response to a player committing domestic violence be the same? Would there be so many carefully worded, but woefully misfired statements addressing violations against women?
And in terms of hiring more women, perhaps a woman GM would make more of an effort to balance the scales in the front office, seeking out young women who might be overlooked in a crowd of recent college graduates who are mostly guys.
Men in power in baseball should hire women, period. I’m suggesting they start hiring women across the board to create a balance, and sports editors and front office guys should hire them because they are distinctly not white men. Hire trans women. Hire women of color. Hire them because, yeah, they’re smart, capable and clearly have sports knowledge. Of course. Just like when they hire the multitude of dudes that come through their offices. I’m sure they wouldn’t argue that every guy straight out of college is some brilliant scientific mind of baseball. They interview men who are smart, capable and have a knowledge of the game they’re covering. They can hire twenty of them, and one woman, and, I guess they figure they’re work is done. The actual work of change demands a consistently active focus, and taking actions, big and small. Some of those actions must be revolutionary. And when editors are asked if they prioritized diversifying the sports department or front office, or coaching staff, or any aspect of professional baseball, they should proudly say, “Yes.”
Specifically speaking about hiring the first woman GM, do this without wavering. You can hire a woman to do this job, because she’s shown she’s capable. You do not need to justify that she’s the best of the best, in fear that you’ll be questioned about how “smart” it is to be the team to hire the first woman. Again, the fit doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the bat off your shoulder, and just do it. Create the energy and opportunity; commit to the small but important revolution of changing the face of baseball.
Unless someone steps up and takes that first chance, nothing changes. Focus on moving the needle.