ATLANTA -- The question was simple, and so was the answer. Somebody asked me during the live television show I do every Sunday night for the local ABC affiliate to name the most impressive executive in the history of Atlanta professional sports, and I responded within milliseconds. No, faster than
ATLANTA -- The question was simple, and so was the answer. Somebody asked me during the live television show I do every Sunday night for the local ABC affiliate to name the most impressive executive in the history of Atlanta professional sports, and I responded within milliseconds. No, faster than that.
Terry McGuirk. Hank Aaron loves him, so it's a wrap.
"Yeah, Terry always has been fair since I've been working in the Braves' front office, and we've been buddies going way back to the time we used to play racquetball together," Aaron said.
About that office: When Aaron retired with 755 career home runs after the 1976 season and became a Braves executive, he received a tiny place for working and relaxing at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
"Terry pitched a fit when he found out where they put me," Aaron said recently with a laugh, especially after he remembered how he promptly got a larger office after McGuirk made it happen in a flash.
This was nearly as impressive: Earlier this week, McGuirk, the chairman and CEO of the Braves since 2001, displayed his splendid leadership skills by announcing a hire and delivering a confession. Just like that, Braves fans knew all is well for their franchise on the verge of resurrecting its days of consistent goodness and beyond.
As for the hire, McGuirk huddled with his fellow executives to determine exactly what they needed in a general manager, found the definitive guy and convinced him to take the job without a hassle. We're talking about Alex Anthopoulos, the 40-year-old baseball whiz who helped push the Dodgers into the World Series this season during his second year as vice president of baseball operations in Los Angeles.
Before that, Anthopoulos spent six seasons making the Blue Jays potent enough to win the always competitive American League East in 2015. He won MLB Executive of the Year from The Sporting News that season, and it was that experience in Toronto that made McGuirk want to pursue him.
Which brings us to the second of McGuirk's wonderful week. He called a news conference, not only to introduce Anthopoulos as his new baseball operations leader, but to display his usual class and integrity. With cameras rolling and journalists scribbling, McGuirk discussed the recent struggles of the Braves both on and off the field. He suggested neither he nor the franchise would hide from any problem, most notably the recent investigation of the franchise for infractions on the international free agent market that led to the resignation of former GM John Coppolella.
"The past few months have been the toughest in the storied history of the Atlanta Braves franchise," McGuirk said during his opening comments, without prompting from questioners at SunTrust Park. "Frankly, the Braves have not lived up to our standard that the fans expect of us and what we expect of ourselves. On behalf of the entire Braves family, I want to apologize to the fans and our partners. We have let you down, and we will work to regain your trust, which actually begins today with this announcement."
Officially, that "announcement" involved Anthopoulos becoming the Braves' 12th general manager since they arrived in Atlanta in 1966. Unofficially, this was about McGuirk leaving his preferred spot in the background to do whatever the Braves need most during a given stretch.
For verification, Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox had much to do with the Braves winning a record 14 consecutive division titles, five pennants and a World Series championship. The same goes for John Schuerholz, the GM during that stretch, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. McGuirk was their boss.
Soon after McGuirk joined Ted Turner's recently purchased TV station in Atlanta during the summer of 1972 as an intern, he began to rise through the organization. Quickly, too. By the end of the decade, with Turner launching TBS and CNN and buying the Braves, McGuirk served as Turner's right-hand man for all of those endeavors.
Turner asked McGuirk to wear a Braves uniform during Spring Training to help the boss learn more about the players. The otherwise loyal employee didn't believe that was such a splendid idea. His goal has always been doing what he can behind the scenes to make sure the franchise is doing things the right way, and those principles have been on display again this week.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com.