Mark Walter has been successful in virtually everything he has encountered in life and it isn’t by coincidence. He has been successful because of his tenacity to tackle things head on and his insatiable competitive drive to win. He is a man who gets what he wants and he hates to lose. In fact, losing is not an option for Mark Walter – it isn’t in his DNA. He has been overwhelmingly successful in nearly every business ventures he has ever taken on, be it real estate, business management, hedge fund investments or his latest venture, the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mark Walter invests to win and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
When Magic Johnson was approached by the Guggenheim Baseball Management Group about possibly becoming an investor in their attempt to purchase the Dodgers, he had one very important question in mind: Were they serious about winning or was this only about making a profit? Walter’s answer to the 5-time NBA World Champion was very simple and very direct – not only does Mark Walter want to win, but he expects to win and he expects to build a championship dynasty for many years to come.
You don’t invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a product without expecting results. That is what Walter is doing. We all read about Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson being fully engaged in the organization’s changes, but Walter is the heavyweight financier behind the signing of Greinke and the trades for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Walter is the man that grants such things as stadium improvements, new scoreboards, new clubhouses and the financial muscle behind the improvements. He is the man with the most at stake and as a result, also the greatest expectations.
In 25 days the Dodgers open this 162 game marathon called a season with an afternoon game against the hated San Francisco Giants. They are the defending champion San Francisco Giants and I think it’s safe to say we hate that. We also are hopeful that they go another 56 years without tasting another championship. Mark Walter expects the Dodgers to be that club that everyone is talking about being defending champs in the near future.
Walter and Kasten have set the mold and explained what they are seeking. A dynasty of 1990s Atlanta Braves proportions. Facts are that they expect much more than Atlanta Braves success as that team won only one World Championship. Multiple World Series winners and on a continuous basis are the true expectations. Prolonged excellence is the goal.
“I’d love to be in the World Series this year but we’re going to win over time,” Walter tells USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “I don’t want to be in the World Series this year and never again. I want us to be a team that people are not looking forward to playing unless they want to play the best.”
He has some George Steinbrenner tendencies in him, entering ownership not understanding the baseball facets of the game completely and being impatient with a losing product. That can be a good trait. A fantastic one for fans seeking a winner if he is able to temper his emotions and not make decisions on impulse. It took Steinbrenner many years to create a comfortable balance between his temperament and rational decisions. Is Walter patient enough to let his baseball people handle the baseball portions of the business? Only time will tell. Nightengale quoted him regarding his impatience with a losing product:
“There was a point when the Colorado Rockies were on the verge of having the worst pitching staff in the history of Major League Baseball and we couldn’t score off of them. I was like,‘Really? So what does that say? They’re the worst pitchers and we can’t hit them, so that makes us the worst batters? I don’t mind losing, but come on, can’t we get a hit now and then?’”
It is this impatience that makes Kasten and Walter a tandem that can’t watch games together. Walter is too emotionally tied to the club. Finances have to play a part too. For that very reason, Don Mattingly has to be on thin ice this year. There’s no contract extension and the team MUST win to satisfy this owner. Patience is wearing thin.
I have one image of Mark Walter that remains in my mind from last season. It was a walk off win in which Adrian Gonzalez knocked in the winning run on September 3rd. Amongst the middle of the Dodgers celebration was a grey haired man in street clothes that jumped on the field from the stands and hugged players in complete celebratory excitement. That was your Dodger owner folks. If you ever wonder if he wants to win, remember that moment. And remember the stadium WiFi, amazing new scoreboards, new restrooms, new concession stands, cell phone service, $230 million payroll, Yasiel Puig and Kool-a-Koos. Mark Walter is financing it all and in the end, he really wants one thing…a consistent winning team. It’s nice to have an owner that cares and can back it up with his wallet.