Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Go Teddy Go!

Friday, February 29th, 2008

As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge Washington Nationals fan – even though I didn’t get the winning bid to own the team. What non-Washingtonians may not be too familiar with is the great Nationals tradition of the Presidents Race.

In the middle of the fourth inning of every home game, the four presidents featured on Mount Rushmore — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt – race around the stadium. They’re puppets – huge puppets.

Alas, Teddy Roosevelt – one of my favorite presidents (I get that from John McCain, I guess) – never wins.

So unfair.

A grassroots movement has sprung up, with thousands of fans chanting “Let Teddy Win!” I’m with them. I say to the Powers That Be: Even out the playing field! Give Teddy a chance! Don’t rig the race – just be fair.

If you’re a Teddy Roosevelt supporter, I encourage you to check out this great new blog I discovered: http://blog.letteddywin.com/ . You can follow all the latest Presidents Race (and Nationals) news and even show your support for Teddy. And hopefully I’ll see you at the new ballpark.

Let’s go ‘Nats1 Let’s go Teddy!

Joe Torre and Performance-Based Baseball

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Joe Torre should have taken the deal!

After 12 years as manager of the New York Yankees, and twelve post season appearances and four World Series titles to his credit, Joe Torre yesterday turned down a one-year contract to continue. The reason as reported in the Washington Post was because of a pay cut from $7.5 million to $5 million, which as the Post reports is still the highest in Major League Baseball.

Well, in my view it wasn’t a pay cut. Rather, Yankees’ ownership took a page out of the pay policies that the smartest companies are adopting – pay for performance. The contract included incentive bonuses of $1 million if the Yankees reached the playoffs, another $1 million if they made it to the American League Championship Series, and a further $1 million if they reach the World Series. Add it all up and it’s $8 million, an actual increase. What’s wrong with that? Let’s compare Torre’s pay with that of other manager who have won titles recently. The baseball fan site The Red Sox Times lists the pay of all MLB managers for the ‘07 season. Turns out that with an ’07 salary of $7.5 million, Torre is already getting paid more than three times as much as Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona ($1.65 million), Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen ($1.1 million), and Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia ($2 million).

As the highest paid manager in baseball – and perhaps in the history of the game – and with the highest payroll in Major League history, why not agree to incentives vs. guarantees, as do most of the corporate world and many in sports? In my view Yankees ownership acted responsibly, and I wish this great manager had agreed to return. The world of sports and baseball has lost (hopefully for only a short time) a legend.

On a related note, contrast the Yankees with the Washington Nationals, who operated with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and a rookie manager, Manny Acta. When I led the group partnered with the city to bring baseball to Washington, it was my dream to see a team developed from the ground up along the lines of the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies. That’s what Manny Acta and Jim Bowden are doing under the able leadership of team President Stan Kasten – and at a fraction of the cost in management and players. I like what I see there and look forward to the day they enter post season competition.

Most Powerful Washingtonians

Monday, September 24th, 2007

In its October issue, Washingtonian magazine puts me on its “Super Power” list — the 150 most influential people in Washington.

Here’s what they say:

“Fred Malek. He lost his bid to own DC’s baseball team, but the GOP insider and corporate-buyout artist doesn’t lose often.”

I appreciate the praise. But as far as DC’s baseball team in concerned, here’s what the Washingtonian magazine said about me last year:

“Fred Malek: … we wouldn’t have baseball without him.”

It was a pleasure to work with a visionary leader like Mayor Tony Williams and all the members of my Washington-based ball group team. I am deeply gratified to have played a role in bringing baseball to our city. We are also pleased that it is in the hands of strong local owners, with a solid team president like Stan Kasten.

 

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Talkin’ Baseball: Cal Ripken and Everyday Leadership

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

In a wonderful departure from my usual world of business and politics, I was privileged to spend this past weekend as Cal Ripken’s guest at his induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. And what a privilege it was for this lifelong baseball fan.

You may wonder, how does a Washington business guy get to be friends with one of baseball’s greatest legends? It started by chance when one of Cal’s former assistants, Desiree Pilachowski, came to be my executive assistant. At the time, I was leading the Washington Baseball Group in partnership with the Mayor and D.C. Sports Commission to bring Major League Baseball to Washington. It was through Desiree I met Cal and turned to him for periodic advice on navigating the waters of Major League Baseball in general. In the process we became friends – and, oh yes, our partnership with the city was successful. We shared expenses with the city and worked closely with Mayor Tony Williams and the Sports Commission Chairman, Mark Tuohey, and we won out in the contest to find a new home for the Montreal Expos. We were gratified to receive a unanimous Resolution from the City Council for having succeeded in this hotly contested process.

But back to the topic at hand – the Hall of Fame induction. On Saturday night the Hall hosted a dinner for present Hall of Famers, their spouses, and the inductees and a small group of their guests. It was stunning. Over here was Dave Winfield, over there was Willie Mays, here came Ralph Kiner, approaching from the left is Frank Robinson and from the right, my friend Jim Bunning, and – oh my, is that Bob Feller? Talk about being a kid in a candy store. I found all of the Hall of Famers to be eminently approachable and eager to talk. Cal and Kelly Ripken had three tables for family and friends, and he made each of us feel special, as if we were honoring him with our presence. Cal was the man of the hour but he was just being Cal – soft spoken, no swagger, all humility, and total concern for those around him.

The induction itself on Sunday was the greatest turnout by far in the Hall of Fame history: 75,000 in all, to see the induction of two great players, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, who played their entire 20 plus year careers with a single team. I suspect their work ethic and character had as much to do with the turnout as their playing statistics. Of course, Cal’s records of 2,632 consecutive games, and Tony’s .338 career batting average, were also great draws.

Both Tony Gwynn and Cal delivered superb acceptance speeches. They set a great example for everyone in attendance and the millions watching on television. The highlight was Cal’s speech, where he talked in a humble but moving manner. It was a tremendous moment when he said, “I just look at it as showing up to do your work every day. Teachers, mothers, fathers, business people, and many others: You may not receive the accolades that I did through my career. So I’d like to salute you all for showing up, working hard and making the world a better place.” The high point was when he choked up talking about his and children. The iron man showed a chink in his stoic amour – but at the right place and in the right way. Many of us shed a tear with him.

I wish every day was Sunday and every Sunday like this one. And I wish every great athlete was a role model in the mold of Cal Ripken.