Adam Laroche

Courtesy of Washington Post

Courtesy of Washington Post

Yes, I have been following this story closely.  And it is not going away any time soon.  The White Sox screwed up, badly, and it could hurt their prospects this season.  Adam is one of the most popular players in all of baseball, and his Sox teammates are supporting his clear moral-high-ground position that being a good father is more important than his baseball career or the $13 million he has left on the table!

Star White Sox pitcher Chris Sale has come out so strongly in support of LaRoche that rumors are now circulating that he may be traded.  The Sox fans are in an uproar, so revenue may be affected.  The team’s clubhouse chemistry, very important in baseball, has been permanently altered.

Laroche’s contract stipulated that Drake would be allowed into the clubhouse with his father.  During LaRoche’s 3 years with the Nationals, Drake was a popular fixture in the clubhouse and on the field.  So, the Sox have reneged on the agreement.

I hope the two sides will cool down and try once more to fix this!

 

Moe Berg—the Inside Story

Subject: A Fascinating Bit of History

When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy Japan in 1934, some fans wondered why a third-string catcher named Moe Berg was included. Although he played with 5 major league teams from 1923 to 1939, he was a very mediocre ball player. He was regarded as the brainiest ballplayer of all time. In fact Casey Stengel once said: “That is the strangest man ever to play baseball.” When all the baseball stars went to Japan, Moe Berg went with them and many people wondered why he went with “the team.

The answer was simple: Moe Berg was a Unites States spy working undercover with the CIA.

Moe spoke 15 languages – including Japanese – Moe Berg had two loves: baseball and spying.

In Tokyo, garbed in a kimono, Berg took flowers to the daughter of an American diplomat being treated in St. Luke’s Hospital – the tallest building in the Japanese capital.

He never delivered the flowers. The ball-player ascended to the hospital roof and filmed key features: the harbor, military installations, railway yards, etc.

Eight years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg’s films in planning his spectacular raid on Tokyo..

Berg’s father, Bernard Berg, a pharmacist in Newark, New Jersey, taught his son Hebrew and Yiddish. Moe, against his wishes, began playing baseball on the street aged four.

His father disapproved and never once watched his son play. In Barringer High School, Moe learned Latin, Greek and French. Moe read at least 10 newspapers every day.

He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton – having added Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver.

During further studies at the Sorbonne, in Paris, and Columbia Law School, he picked up Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian – 15 languages in all, plus some regional dialects.

While playing baseball for Princeton University, Moe Berg would describe plays in Latin or Sanskrit.

During World War II, he was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assess the value to the war effort of the two groups of partisans there. He reported back that Marshall Tito’s forces were widely supported by the people and Winston Churchill ordered all-out support for the Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than Mihajlovic’s Serbians.

The parachute jump at age 41 undoubtedly was a challenge. But there was more to come in that same year.

Berg penetrated German-held Norway, met with members of the underground and located a secret heavy water plant – part of the Nazis’ effort to build an atomic bomb.

His information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombing raid to destroy the plant.

There still remained the question of how far had the Nazis progressed in the race to build the first Atomic bomb. If the Nazis were successful, they would win the war. Berg (under the code name “Remus”) was sent to Switzerland to hear leading German physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Laureate, lecture and determine if the Nazis were close to building an A-bomb. Moe managed to slip past the SS guards at the auditorium, posing as a Swiss graduate student. The spy carried in his pocket a pistol and a cyanide pill.

If the German indicated the Nazis were close to building a weapon, Berg was to shoot him – and then swallow the cyanide pill.

Moe, sitting in the front row, determined that the Germans were nowhere near their goal, so he complimented Heisenberg on his speech and walked him back to his hotel.

Moe Berg’s report was distributed to Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and key figures in the team developing the Atomic Bomb. Roosevelt responded: “Give my regards to the catcher.”

Most of Germany’s leading physicists had been Jewish and had fled the Nazis mainly to Britain and the United States . After the war, Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom. America’s highest honor for a civilian in wartime. But Berg refused to accept, as he couldn’t tell people about his exploits.

After his death, his sister accepted the Medal and it hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown ,

March 2,1902—–May 29, 1972

Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest award to be awarded to civilians during wartime)

Moe Berg’s baseball card is the only card on display at the CIA Headquarters in Washington DC

Papelbon—-The End?

Since I wrote about Pap and his family moving out of the house they had been living in (in Alexandria, Va.), I have seen more info from his neighbors that confirms their departure.  Hope so.

Besides reflecting very badly on Mike Rizzo, this fiasco also indicates the Lerners don’t lose much sleep over “character issues” either.

Why not Mattingly?

Don Mattingly is looking for a job, since he was let go in LA.  Even though I’m sure he knows about the Nats toxic clubhouse, he was a success with the Dodgers.  Apparently he may be interested in the Marlins manager position, one that to me looks even less desireable than coming to Washington.  The owner, Jeffrey Loria, seems to like changing managers as often as he brushes his teeth!  And he also has a penchant for selling off half the team every time they make the playoffs.  Anyhow, on the off-chance that “Donny Ballgame” doesn’t really want to commit career suicide by going to the Marlins, the Nats ought to invite him for an interview.

He would be better than Dusty Baker, and as good as Bud Black.  He lead the Dodgers to 3 straight post-seasons.

If You Don ‘t Know Where You Are Going, You Might End Up Somewhere Else!

Party Like It’s 1908
Patience is generally a virtue in management of a baseball team, a business or an investment portfolio.

By Bill Nygren | Posted: 10-08-15 | 11:47 AM | Email Article
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
-Yogi Berra
(May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) RIP

Bill Nygren is a Portfolio Manager of the Oakmark fund, the Oakmark Select fund, and the Oakmark Global Select fund.
As I write this, something wonderful is happening in Chicago: There is excitement about winning an October baseball game for the first time in twelve years.1 The Chicago Cubs are finally back in the playoffs. As every Chicago Cubs fan knows, it has been a long road back from our last World Series win in 1908. In 2003, we were one game from going to the World Series, leading the Florida Marlins three games to one, but went on to lose three consecutive games to the eventual champions. Since then, the Cubs compiled a cumulative regular season record of 90 games below .500 and lost all six of their playoff games, bringing their post-season losing streak to nine games. Until this year.
Twelve years ago, in our June 2003 report, I wrote about the Michael Lewis book Moneyball. It tells the story of how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane built a team that made the post-season, even though it had one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball. Beane used advanced statistics to identify valuable players whom other teams had given up on. (I liked how Beane’s approach resembled Oakmark’s approach to buying stocks.) In 2002, after taking the A’s to the playoffs for three consecutive years, Beane turned down an offer from the Boston Red Sox to become baseball’s highest paid general manager.
Spurned by Beane, the Red Sox instead hired another young statistical guru, Theo Epstein. The Red Sox had just missed the 2002 playoffs despite having one of baseball’s highest payrolls, and the owners had lost patience with the team’s direction. By 2004, Epstein had overhauled the roster, hired a new manager and won the World Series. From 2003 through 2011—while the Cubs struggled—the Epstein-led Red Sox won two World Series, went to the playoffs six times and ended each season an average of 25 games over .500.
In 2011, the Cubs’ record was 71-91. The Cubs’ owners lost patience with the team’s direction, so they hired Theo Epstein away from Boston. With a starting point of 20 games under .500, the Cubs were more of a teardown than the Red Sox had been. But by 2015, the roster had been overhauled and a new manager was put in place. The team’s record improved to 32 games over .500, they earned a spot in the playoffs and they are now widely considered the most promising young team in baseball.
Baseball and Business Aren’t That Different
Though I enjoy writing about baseball and the Cubs, the purpose of these reports is to share how we think about investing. Baseball is just a convenient analogy for examining businesses. An owner of a baseball team gets frustrated, hires a new GM and watches for signs of a turnaround. The shareholders of a poorly performing business get frustrated, the board of directors hires a new CEO and everyone watches for signs of a turnaround.
In both baseball and business, a turnaround isn’t always immediately apparent in the numbers. In Epstein’s first year with the Cubs, the team lost 40 more games than they won, 20 worse than the prior season. The next two seasons weren’t much better, totaling 46 games under .500. But beneath the surface, the culture was improving as toxic veterans were replaced by highly talented, motivated rookies. Strategic trades took advantage of teams that were focused on the short term. (Can you believe we got Jake Arrieta for a three-month rental of Scott Feldman? Or Addison Russell for three months of Jeff Samardzija?) A new manager was hired, Joe Maddon, who had a proven track record of getting the most from young players. Individual goals finally took a back seat to team goals. But it still took three painfully long years before that progress was visible in the number of wins.
I remember many years ago talking to Warren Batts, then-CEO of Premark, which he headed after it was spun out from Kraft. (We owned it in the Oakmark Fund.) Batts said that a new CEO needs about two years to complete strategic acquisitions or divestitures and to build a new team of top managers. Then it takes those managers a year to build their teams. So three years in, the turnaround is finally in gear, yet investors have often already given up. If Theo Epstein’s tenure with the Cubs was judged by the one-, two- or three-year win-loss record, it would have been deemed a failure. In year four, he looks like baseball executive of the year. Similarly, we’ve often used Oakmark’s long investment horizon to try to gain an advantage over shorter term investors. Patience is generally a virtue in management of a baseball team, a business or an investment portfolio.
What Is the W-L Record of a Business?
In baseball it is generally agreed upon that the number of wins defines success. (Some might say success should be measured by World Series Championships, but I agree with the purists who argue that luck plays too big a factor in an individual series whereas it tends to even out over the course of a 162-game season.) In business, however, there isn’t a generally agreed-upon metric to grade the success of a CEO. In a recent political debate, a particular candidate’s tenure as CEO of a public company became a topic of discussion. Various statistics were cited, including changes in sales, earnings, stock price, number of people employed and dollars spent on R&D. Depending on which statistic was used, the resulting conclusion ranged from miserable failure to huge success.
Of those metrics, the one that interests us most is the change over time in stock price. Stock price presumably takes into account all of the other metrics and weights them appropriately. If markets were perfectly efficient, we’d say that change in stock price is the best measure of a CEO. But since we have seen markets sometimes overwhelmed by irrational exuberance or pessimism, we believe that an individual CEO can be unfairly blamed or credited for what is in fact a broad shift in valuation of many similar companies. When Jack Welch retired as CEO of General Electric in 2000, he was replaced by current CEO Jeff Immelt. Say what you will about Immelt’s tenure as CEO, but it wasn’t his fault that it started just as the large-cap bull market of 2000 was ending, when GE traded at 40 times earnings, a multiple at which almost no large company sells today. So, we need a better metric than stock price.
At Oakmark, we believe CEOs should have one goal: to maximize the long-term value of the business (including dividends), adjusted for net-debt and measured on a per-share basis. Interestingly, during the political debate, not one person mentioned any metric that included changes in the balance sheet or the number of shares outstanding. I don’t know any business owners that would judge success or failure based on how their businesses grew without also considering how the balance sheets or their equity ownership percentage had changed. If a company doubles its size by doubling its share count, it is effectively just running in place. Many acquisitions that increase a company’s sales and earnings fail to add value when considering the cash or stock that was paid to the seller.
Today it seems unpopular, especially in the political arena, to say that a CEO’s goal should be to maximize value for the owners of a business. When you hear that view being challenged, remember that a company can only maximize long-term value by treating its employees fairly (or they will work elsewhere), by treating its customers fairly (or they will buy elsewhere) and by allocating its capital to the highest return projects. When a company doesn’t have high return projects to invest in, returning excess capital to shareholders either through dividends or stock repurchase frees that capital to be invested in other businesses that do have growth opportunities. A no-growth company building new plants doesn’t help anyone in the long run. For example, think of the societal gain that occurred when declining mainframe computer companies returned capital to shareholders and that money was invested in Internet startups. Capital returned to shareholders doesn’t just get stuffed into mattresses.
At Oakmark, we believe the win-loss record of a CEO is the change in value per-share over his or her tenure. A good CEO will build a team to help maximize that change, just as a good baseball GM will build a team to maximize the number of wins. I hope by the time you read this the Cubs have passed their first playoff challenge and are on their way to the World Series. But if not, we fans will take comfort that the foundation appears to be in place for long-term success. It’s a lot like our investment portfolios: When Oakmark invests in undervalued businesses run by CEOs with good win-loss records, our portfolios might not perform well next quarter or even next year, but we believe the foundation is in place for long-term success.
William C. Nygren, CFA
Portfolio Manager
oakmx@oakmark.com
oaklx@oakmark.com

View other commentary and letters from Bill here.
1I’m ignoring 2005 when the White Sox won the World Series, and 2008 when they won one game in the playoffs against the then-Joe-Maddon-coached Tampa Bay Rays because in Chicago, Cubs fans ignore the Sox’s accomplishments and vice-versa.
As of 09/30/15 Premark International, Inc. represented 0% and 0%, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. 0% and 0%, and General Electric Co. 2.3% and 6.6% of the Oakmark Fund and Oakmark Select Fund’s respective total net assets. Portfolio holdings are subject to change without notice and are not intended as recommendations of individual stocks.
Click here to access the full list of holdings for The Oakmark Fund as of the most recent quarter-end.
The Oakmark Fund’s portfolio tends to be invested in a relatively small number of stocks. As a result, the appreciation or depreciation of any one security held by the Fund will have a greater impact on the Fund’s net asset value than it would if the Fund invested in a larger number of securities. Although that strategy has the potential to generate attractive returns over time, it also increases the Fund’s volatility.
Because the Oakmark Select Fund is non-diversified, the performance of each holding will have a greater impact on the Fund’s total return, and may make the Fund’s returns more volatile than a more diversified fund.
Oakmark Select Fund: The stocks of medium-sized companies tend to be more volatile than those of large companies and have underperformed the stocks of small and large companies during some periods.
The discussion of the Funds’ investments and investment strategy (including current investment themes, the portfolio managers’ research and investment process, and portfolio characteristics) represents the Funds’ investments and the views of the portfolio managers and Harris Associates L.P., the Funds’ investment adviser, at the time of this letter, and are subject to change without notice.
Comments 1-5 of 5 CommentsCardsFan 3 hours, 43 minutes ago
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Might have to sell out my Oakmark positions. The Cubs are doing pretty well now after tanking for years and stacking up draft choices. How will they hold up if they become a perennial contender?

Mets up 2 zip. yawkey5 9 hours, 48 minutes ago
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Just for the Record, Billy Beane and the A’s have got only as far as one AL Championship Series and NO World Series in 18 years. Meanwhile, the Team he turned down, the Red Sox have won 3 World Series. ClemG 15 hours, 1 minutes ago
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I like the Oakmark process and understand it. I agree with it. They will be the last fund family I probably would ever sell. Unless something dramatic changes you’ll have to pry my OAKWX shares from my cold dead hands. I wish I could have invested in OAKLX back in the late 90’s like I really wanted to. Because of my situation I couldn’t at that time in my life.

I own OAKWX & OAKBX along with FMIJX & SEEDX. Greg Jackson at SEEDX was the manager of OAKGX before he left. Actually the best yrs of the fund.

I’m an Oakmark fan…tbonds67 20 hours, 23 minutes ago
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>>The team’s record improved to 32 games over .500, they earned a spot in the playoffs and they are now widely considered the most promising young team in baseball.

Not only that, but the Cubs may go on to win the world series.BravesFan 22 hours, 1 minutes ago

Here is a Suggestion for Replacing Mike Rizzo

WILL KIM NG BE MLB’S FIRST FEMALE GM?

By Jim Caple | Sep 26, 2015
espnW.com

As the senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, Kim Ng lives and breathes sports, which is immediately clear when you walk into her window office at MLB headquarters in New York. There’s a baseball glove, of course. (At 46, she still plays co-rec softball in Central Park.) And a bicycle helmet. (She occasionally commutes by bike.) And even a fishing pole. (She once caught a shark off Long Island.)

But the piece of sporting equipment that might have helped tee off Ng’s career is her golf club. Former White Sox and Dodgers general manager Dan Evans, one of Ng’s mentors, recalls a particularly revealing round she played a few weeks into her first job in baseball in the early 1990s. It was during spring training and White Sox staffers were picking teams during a golf outing. Ng, as she has been many times throughout her career, was the only woman in the group.

“She was drafted by a member of our field staff. The other guys all laughed and said, ‘Oh, we don’t even know this girl,'” Evans recalls. “I was thinking, ‘I know she can play golf. She wouldn’t hit from the women’s tee. She only wanted to hit from the men’s tee. And she held her own and played very well.

“A lot of people went, ‘Whoahhhh!'”

Ng has made plenty of other people sit up and take notice in the two decades since. Now the highest-ranking woman in baseball, she was the second woman to be hired an assistant general manager, first with the Yankees and later with the Dodgers. And she aspires to become a general manager, which would make her the first female to run the on-field operations of a major pro sports team.

Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president for operations and Ng’s boss, says she has all the qualifications necessary to be a GM — broad experience in both the boardroom and the negotiating room, top-notch communication skills, a deep knowledge of the game and the drive to handle a demanding schedule. And then there’s that fire she showed on the golf course.

“She’s very competitive,” Torre says. “And for someone as bright as she is, she has no trouble relating to people on everyone’s level. She is there, she doesn’t delegate, she does it herself.”

Ng became the first woman to interview for a GM opening when she did so with the Dodgers in 2005, but she didn’t get the job. As Evans, Torre and others will attest, she clearly has all the experience, knowledge and skills necessary for the position. The question is whether a baseball team will finally allow a woman to hit from the men’s tee.

“I want to say yes,” Torre says. “I always talk her up at owners meetings. At some point, somebody just has to ignore the fact that she’s a woman and just make a baseball decision. And if they do that, then I think she will get an opportunity. Somewhere.”

Ng is not only a rarity in baseball’s upper echelon because she’s a woman. If she lands a GM job, she’ll also be the first Asian to do so. Ng’s father, Jin, was born in America of Chinese ancestry. Her mother, Virginia Cagar, was born in Thailand and also is of Chinese descent. Ng was born in Indianapolis but grew up in Queens and then New Jersey, rooting for the Yankees and Thurman Munson because, she says, “he was an incredibly gritty player.” Ng still has the scrapbooks in which she pasted new stories about the catcher’s death.

Ng’s father was a financial analyst. Her mother earned her MBA while also raising her four daughters and later worked as a banker for Manufacturers Hanover Trust after Jin died when Kim was 11.

“Working hard was obviously a big theme in our house,” Ng says. “It wasn’t that my parents micro-managed me at all as a kid. They just expected certain levels. You knew if you didn’t get to that level you were a big disappointment for them. Perseverance was important. From my mom, I learned not to take a backseat from anybody.”

And though her mother might have preferred Kim choose a more stable profession such as law or business, a young, baseball-obsessed Kim had other ideas.

“I think the best adjective for her is tenacious — she stuck in there until she got it right,” Cagar says. “She was a very friendly kid who loved sports — she especially loved to play softball — and she was a good listener. And she was very analytical. She would observe, and try to see different ways of attacking the problem or the obstacle. She would look at it from all angles.”

Ng majored in public policy at the University of Chicago, where she also earned MVP honors as an infielder for the softball team, and served as the sports editor of the school newspaper and editor of the yearbook.

Brian Cashman, Kim Ng and Joe Torre
Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images
At age 29, Ng became the youngest person — and one of only three women — to hold an assistant general manager position, when she was hired in that capacity by the New York Yankees.
Ng calls herself a product of Title IX; in fact, she wrote her college thesis on the landmark law. And that thesis — as well as the effect that playing sports had on her — played a significant role in following her passion to pursue a career in sports.

“The more you play sports, the more you understand about yourself, the more you get a picture of what you can do,” she says. “Everyone talks about how sports are beneficial and how they force you to test and challenge yourself, going up against adversity — all the clichés. But they’re true. And for girls to experience sports the way boys experienced it was incredibly important. It was important for their growth not just in academics, but in their work lives and personal lives.

“Playing sports has really helped me understand what I am capable of and how to bear down.”

Several months after she graduated from the University of Chicago, Ng was still looking for a job when one of her coaches told her the White Sox were looking for an intern. Ng rushed over with her résumé. They interviewed her on the spot.

“And here’s where her tenacity and tendency to go against the grain showed,” her mother says. “After the interview, she called them back up and pitched herself again. On top of that, she said, ‘I’ll work without pay.’ So they said, ‘OK. We’ll give you a chance.”’

After a couple of months, Ng had impressed the organization with her knowledge of the game and propensity for crunching numbers so much that the White Sox offered her a full-time job, in which she compiled statistical research for contract negotiations and the Rule V draft. Pretty soon, she took over the team’s salary arbitration duties too. Analytics were starting to infiltrate the sport, and Ng was one of the brainy, technologically savvy, elite-school grads who was comfortable with computers in ways that many ex-ballplayers weren’t. “You could just tell that she was going to make contributions to our organization,” Evans says. “And she did. She was a wonderful addition to our group.”

She quickly proved herself a skilled negotiator, too. One of Ng’s early triumphs was arguing for the White Sox in their arbitration case with pitcher Alex Fernandez and agent Scott Boras. Going up against Boras in a salary case is a little like batting against current Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw with shadows creeping in front of the mound. Nonetheless, Ng — who was both the youngest executive, at age 26, and the first woman to present a salary arbitration case — won.

“When she stood up [to make her case], people were a little surprised,” Evans said. “But it was a statement that another gender barrier was being erased. It takes a special person to break barriers.”

Ng was that special person.

“I think one of her greatest attributes is she has an insatiable appetite for understanding why things work,” Evans says. “More than anything, it gave her the motivation to ask questions about strategic aspects of our organization. She was consistently asking questions that displayed a line of thinking that was far superior to what you usually hear from an entry-level person.”

Ng rose to become assistant director of baseball operations with the White Sox before being hired away by the American League offices after the 1997 season to serve as the director of waivers and records. At the league office, she approved all player transactions and contracts, and helped AL general managers interpret and apply MLB rules. The job allowed her to meet and network with baseball’s power brokers, including Brian Cashman, who was then the Yankees’ assistant GM.

Cashman, who hired her a year later — making her, at age 29, the youngest assistant GM in MLB at the time — says now he offered her the job simply because “she was the best-qualified person.” She helped Cashman build a team by successfully negotiating the contracts of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Paul O’Neill, among others, which won three World Series championships in four years.

“Kim has an amazing demeanor,” Cashman says. “A lot of times people who are that smart don’t play well with others or are bad communicators. She’s extremely intelligent, has a complete working knowledge of everything, and her likability factor is off the charts.”

So likable, in fact, that even irascible Yankees owner George Steinbrenner took a shine to her. “I wasn’t certain how he was going to respond to the recommendation of an assistant GM being a woman,” Cashman says, “but to his credit, he was open to it.”

Torre says Ng fit right in as “one of the guys” from the very start. “She spoke the language, and she understood how a baseball person would look at the things she was talking about,” he says

In 2002, Evans, then the Dodgers’ GM, lured Ng away from the Yankees to become L.A.’s vice president and assistant GM. She also served as the franchise’s interim director of player development, which meant she oversaw the Dodgers’ minor league system and added scouting and player development to her portfolio. She handled it deftly, too. The Dodgers were named the 2006 Organization of the Year by Baseball America.

Ng still itched to help shape the game on a larger level, so she left the Dodgers in 2011 and moved to MLB’s headquarters, where she oversees international operations as well as the league’s scouting bureau and the fall league. She travels regularly to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and other countries to help develop the game — and her influence within the game continues to grow.

“With a club, you’re sort of up to your eyeballs every day and are very focused on the daily issues and wins and losses,” she says. “It’s been amazing to see how the game has grown in just the last four years. There is a lot more money being spent in the [Latin American] market than there was just four years ago. We’re seeing lots of building of infrastructure and facilities in the Dominican Republic. Teams are looking to branch out. It’s an exciting time.”

Phyllis Merhige, baseball’s senior VP for club relations, says Ng’s combination of experience at the club and league levels makes her uniquely qualified to lead a team. “Every time you break open a barrier, you open a door for other people and you give people hope,” Merhige says. “And sometimes that’s what it takes to get a ball [rolling].”

Ng hasn’t given up on her goal of landing a GM job. She lost out to Ned Colletti with the Dodgers in 2005, Jack Zduriencik with the Mariners in 2008, Jed Hoyer with the Padres in 2009, Jerry Dipoto with the Angels in 2011 and A.J. Preller with the Padres last year.

Kin Ng
Larry Goren/Icon SMI
Ng’s baseball acumen has impressed everyone from Tommy Lasorda to George Steinbrenner. “She spoke the language, she seemed very knowledgeable in terms of how a baseball person would look at stuff she was talking about,” says her boss, Joe Torre.
Given Seattle’s performance under Zduriencik (only two winning seasons and no finish higher than third place in seven seasons) or San Diego’s under Preller (another losing — and far more expensive — campaign this year), perhaps the Mariners and Padres are having second thoughts about passing on Ng.

While there are a handful of female GMs in the minor leagues — including Kattie Meyer, who served in that capacity for the Rookie League Great Falls Voyagers for four years — it’s a a different job at that level, where the focus is more on business operations than acquiring and evaluating players.

The challenges facing women in baseball are “tough,” says Meyer, who grew up a fan of the game but still had to prove her bona fides. “And yet there are people within the game who are great. Our affiliate, the Chicago White Sox, was supportive [of me]. But some visiting teams and umpires were old school, and didn’t really respect what a woman has to say on the field.”

There are multiple GM openings across baseball right now, and while that role has traditionally been filled by a former ballplayer, since the Moneyball revolution many of the new-generation execs have been hired because of their fancy degrees and facility with analytics. The Milwaukee Brewers filled their vacancy earlier this week when they hired former Astros assistant GM David Stearns, a 30-year-old Harvard grad who fits the new-age, number-cruncher profile.

Ng fits that profile as well.

“There is no one in the game who could question her ability to be that person,” Evans said. “If you debate that, then you have gender issues. This is a very talented, intelligent person who has won and has been part of three really good organizations. She understands player development, she understands the complexities of the game. There is no doubt in my mind that she has what it takes to perform those responsibilities. All she needs is the opportunity.”

So why exactly hasn’t she gotten the opportunity yet?

ESPN analyst and former Cincinnati Reds GM Jim Bowden doesn’t think gender is the issue. “I worked for Marge Schott, who was a female owner,” he says. “People are people.”

Bowden, who frequently negotiated trades with Ng when he was with the Reds, calls her a “solid negotiator” but that her “weak spot” might be scouting. “From what I’ve heard, evaluation of talent may not be her strength. That may hold her back,” he says, adding that she would have been a great hire for the Red Sox. “I hope she gets her chance.”

Or it could be simply that she simply hasn’t been in the right place at the right time — yet. “There are only 30 GM jobs,” Bowden notes. “You go to a local fast food place and there are 30 people working there alone.”

Or, as Evans puts it: “One of the problems with [GM] jobs is plenty of talented candidates don’t get them. It’s not about gender inequality, it’s just about timing and fit.”

For her part, Ng remains philosophical — and hopeful.

“There are a lot of things in this world that are a lot more unfair [than me not getting a GM job]. It’s hard for me, given that fact that I’ve been an assistant GM for 13 years and hold the job that I have now, to say that being a woman has held me back,” she says. “I think that having a woman as a GM would certainly be a novelty. Having a woman as an assistant GM was a novelty for a while. So I think it’s going to take time.

“I’ve interviewed for several positions, but I can name a lot of other people who have been interviewed for the same number [of openings] or more and they still haven’t gotten one. I’m just a little different, so people tend to focus on me.

“If it comes, it comes; then that’s great. And if not, I’ll just keep plugging away.”

 

More Nats Info at the End of the Season

The scuttlebutt and rumors are now building on Matt Williams’ departure.  He will be gone very soon.  Papelbon should go with the same speed, but his contractual details may take the lawyers a bit more time.

The acquisition of Pap clearly really upset team chemistry, which had always been pretty good.  But the worst effect was clearly on Drew Storen, who was having a great season with 29 saves up to that point.  He may now be “un-salvageable.”  So the Nats may be faced with having to find another closer for 2016, and THAT is always very difficult.

Thursday’s Washington Post (9/30) had two great articles.  One was about how the trade for Pap, and Williams’ bad running of the bullpen, along with his poor communications with the players all combined to send the Nats into their season-ending tailspin.  Barry Svrluga wrote this article, based on a whole season of talking with the players.  His best quote was when Jason Werth said to Matt Williams “When do you think you lost this team.”  I tried to import a link to the article but apparently the Post has made that impossible to do.

The second article (same date by Kevin Blackistone) is about how Bryce Harper was quoted, commenting on Papelbon’s beaning of Manny Machado), essentially saying it is time for pitchers to stop intentionally hitting batters who had show-boated a little after hitting a homer.  This has long been one of baseball’s “unwritten rules.”  What made Papelbon’s  act so reprehensible was that he threw AT MACHADO’S HEAD!  I applaud Harper for having the maturity at the tender age of 22 to stand up against  a “rule” that needs to go away.

The Nats will have a lot of work to do during the off-season if they want to be a contender in 2016.

 

Ripped the Shirt Off Fister’s Back!

Most of you have already heard how “Mr. ME” (otherwise known as Jonathan Papelbon) made another demand; this latest selfish act was getting Doug Fister’s number, which Doug has had since he became a pro player.  Last night Fister was the starting (and winning) pitcher and he has a new number-33- I think it was.

Meanwhile The Philadelphia newspapers were full of stories about how glad that city is to see the last of Papel-jerk.  I tried to import one here, but had to give up after 30 minutes.

Mike Rizzo likes to brag about how much he and the owners value “character” when they evaluate potential new players.  Sadly, that is clearly not the case, if it ever was.

 

Trea Turner

The annual “Futures Game” took place this afternoon at the Great America Ballpark in Cincinnati.  It is an all-star game for the best young talent in today’s minor leagues, many of whom are expected to be playing in the major leagues very soon.

I listened to the game on XM-radio as I was coming home from playing in a game myself.  When I got home I turned on the TV and watched the Nationals Trea Turner hit a double and triple.  His speed running the bases is spectacular.  He was one of the stars of the game.

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Last Spring Turner was playing for N.C. State University.  This year he has rocketted up to AAA Syracuse already.  Some are expecting him to be the Nats Shortstop by next year.  I listened to a commentator today on XM predict that the trade that brought Turner and Joe Ross to the Nats may end up being the best trade Mike Rizzo has EVER pulled off.