It’s not too early to speculate about the GM search because the Giants need to hire someone before the end of October. Larry Baer has said multiple times already that he and the rest of ownership are open to a woman becoming the Giants’ next head of baseball operations. It’s to Major League Baseball’s detriment that there are so few candidates in the current pool, but it’s to the Giants’ benefit that the two most prominent women in baseball’s executive ranks are so highly qualified for the open position.
Kim Ng has been the most frequent name thrown about over the past decade (indeed, she interviewed for the Dodgers GM job allllll the way back in 2005), but another highly qualified candidate who would seemingly fit the Giants’ future needs is the Yankees’ Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager, Jean Afterman.
Afterman was actually Kim Ng’s successor in New York and she caught the attention of Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner with her tenacious, aggressive negotiation tactics on behalf of her international clients through a Japanese-owned sports management firm based in San Francisco. Like Bobby Evans, she’s not just a stickler for deal points, she’s an expert at contract language.
Her expertise is such that she helped create the Japanese posting system that was used up until 2013.
Andrew Marchand wrote of her for ESPN last year:
AN ACTRESS AT heart and a lawyer by trade, Afterman, 60, is in on every transaction, making sure the Yankees are following league rules to the letter. Cashman refers to her publicly as his compliance officer and privately as his wartime consigliere.
”She’s tenacious,” Cashman says. “She’s tough. She’s a pit bull.”
She’s a product of two politically active parents from San Francisco who instilled in her a strong belief system.
If you read that article, you’ll get a scene of her shutting down George Steinbrenner and get a lot of information about her background, heavy in Bay Area history and filled with strong recommendations from the Yankees’ brass. Here’s a segment on her that ran on the Yankees’ cable network, YES:
Of course, the key part of this video that jumps out at you is her Bay Area upbringing.
I grew up in San Francisco... fan of the San Francisco Giants... going to Candlestick Park.
Well, look, a GM job isn’t all about where someone’s from, but you have to imagine it gives her a bit of a leg up should she get an interview.
From Marchand’s piece:
Afterman says she never could have imagined she’d work for the Yankees, but she loves it.
”It is just such an honor to be a Yankee,” Afterman says.
Still, there is a house she purchased in the Napa Valley waiting for her. When the daily grind of the job is no longer fun, she plans to return to the West.
Susan Slusser’s great write-up on her in 2013 for the Chronicle mentioned not only the part about Jean Afterman’s involvement in creating the Japanese posting system, but also her extensive background in San Francisco. She went to Lowell High School with Larry Baer. She went to USF for law school:
Join us for The Art of Negotiation with one of the most powerful and influential women in Major League Baseball, @Yankees SVP and Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman '91. This Thursday, Sept. 6 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. at USF. More info/tickets: https://t.co/prTiU2sqLi pic.twitter.com/V0R5afyp3l— USF School of Law (@usflaw) September 4, 2018
The Bay Area-Baer connection would be enough for most front office candidates to get their foot in the door for at least an interview. Afterman’s very personable and direct personality would be right at home in San Francisco and serve as a great counter to the gruff Sabean era and the engaged, but vanilla Evans epoch. Larry Baer is going to need someone who can make the Giants lengthy, painful rebuild feel okay, and on the surface, Afterman appears more than capable of the PR part of the job.
“I don’t know much about theater - I just know Jean has no fear,” Cashman said. “She is able to put herself out there in her previous life onstage and in this life, and she’s brilliant, and that’s a lethal combination if you want someone to fight for you.”
Working so closely with Brian Cashman and for most popular baseball team on the planet also gives her a leg up on most other candidates — Kim Ng has this same experience, of course — because her base level of experience is not just about scrounging up talent and innovating just to win, it’s about deploying resources to be the best. I think you’d all agree that the Giants, given their revenue and stature in the marketplace, are a team that should always aim to win because they have the resources to win.
Her years of experience would also seemingly put the Giants in a better place than “breaking a baby”, even though Baer has also said that they’re more inclined to go with someone who’s already been a GM, given the scale of the job. But working for the Yankees is a bigger job than working for most other teams precisely because of the organization’s largess.
Finally, there’s real symbolism in the name of Baseball’s first woman GM being Afterman.
Is there a chance she doesn’t want the job? Of course. In the ESPN interview, she doesn’t sound like she’s eager to jump into such a role — but that could all just be a clever negotiating tactic. People are more likely to give you what you want when you don’t act like you want what you want. Maybe. I actually wouldn’t know, I’m a terrible negotiator.
And back in 2013, her response to Slusser’s question about her interest level in becoming a GM was this:
“I don’t want to sound ungracious,” she said, “but I’d rather leapfrog up and be a team president. I think Kim Ng would be a fantastic GM. As my mom would tell you, I’d rather win an Oscar.”
The Giants’ opening is a leapfrog over the GM role. It’s the head of baseball operations. Baer wants someone who can run the whole thing. She can easily assume the role and hire a GM.
This isn’t a “YES, HIRE HER!” post, but if the Giants really are approaching this with an open mind, there’s absolutely zero reason against or downside for interviewing this highly qualified candidate with strong Bay Area ties who just so happens to be a woman.