Kim Ng controversy exposes Marlins’ struggles with former Yankees coach

Kim Ng as GM of the Miami Marlins
Amanda Paula
Monday October 23, 2023

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The recent controversy surrounding Kim Ng has brought to light a tumultuous situation in Miami, casting a shadow over the career of a former beloved Yankees coach during his tenure with the Marlins. Initially, it was officially announced that General Manager Kim Ng and the Miami Marlins had “parted ways” in preparation for the 2024 season. However, this description fails to capture the complexity of the issues that unfolded within the organization.

Kim Ng’s MLB controversy

Kim Ng as GM of the Miami Marlins

Over the course of the season and the early offseason, Kim Ng faced persistent challenges to her authority, despite her remarkable achievement of leading the Marlins to a playoff appearance, a rare feat in Major League Baseball. Team owner Bruce Sherman reportedly approached Ng with a proposal to hire someone else for a superior role, effectively undermining her authority. This proposition came in the wake of Ng’s successful acquisitions, including Luis Arraez, Jake Burger, and Josh Bell, along with her efforts to reverse the Marlins’ losing culture in one-run games. Ng, understandably displeased with this proposal, declined the offer. In response, the Marlins extended a one-year “mutual” agreement as a parting gesture, which she also declined. These events have marked a controversial chapter in MLB history.

As we contemplate the future of this accomplished executive, it is worth noting her history as a former Assistant GM with the New York Yankees under Brian Cashman. While it might be tempting to speculate about her possible return to the Yankees, the likelihood of such a reunion seems slim. With a vacant position with the Red Sox, Ng may choose to head in that direction, potentially adding a complex layer to her relationship with the Yankees.

Even if Ng does not make her way back to the Yankees, the aftermath of this controversy has indirectly impacted the team’s reputation. Research by Jon Heyman suggests that the Marlins’ analytics team played a significant role in the turmoil. Notably, this analytics team was assembled by a former Yankee, Gary Denbo, who did not enjoy a favorable reputation during his time with the Marlins.

Gary Denbo’s rocky journey from the Yankees to the Marlins

Gary Denbo, formerly the Yankees’ hitting coach, did not receive much admiration in Miami. Heyman’s findings indicate that individuals within the Marlins’ analytics department opposed Ng, questioned the acquisition of Luis Arraez, and were not supportive of Pablo López, which ultimately led to his departure. This opposition appeared to be rooted in Denbo’s prior role as the Marlins’ Director of Player Development and Scouting.

Denbo’s time as Director of Player Development and Scouting in Miami contrasted sharply with his earlier role as the Yankees’ Hitting Coach in the Bronx. One source characterized his leadership as a “horror show,” a sentiment echoed by many within the organization. Furthermore, it is suggested that Denbo’s team exacerbated their poor draft picks by overemphasizing launch angles, an irony considering that Denbo had previously coached Derek Jeter, one of the best contact hitters in baseball history, before the launch angle era.

In June 2022, Denbo also parted ways with the Marlins, with his midseason departure carrying its own unique implications. Prior to his executive role, Denbo had a long history with the Yankees, having been associated with the organization from 1990 to 2001, then again from 2006 to 2007, and yet again from 2009 to 2017. Notably, he served as the hitting coordinator for the entire organization from 1997 to 2000, a period of significant influence. Denbo also held the position of big-league hitting coach for the Yankees in 2001, a period when Kim Ng was also a part of the organization.

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