Friday, July 31, 2009


Older baseball fans will remember Hank Sauer, a slugging outfielder in the 1950s. In 1952 he bashed 37 home runs, batted in 121 runs and hit .270 for the fifth-place Chicago Cubs. For his efforts, he was recognized as the most valuable player in the 8-team National League.

Two years later, Sauer slugged 41 home runs, drove in 103 runs, and hit .288, arguably a better year. The Cubs finished seventh. During the offseason, Cubs management mailed Sauer a contract calling for a $1,500 reduction, a pretty hefty haircut given the modest salaries in those days. Sauer returned the contract unsigned, suggesting that he had had a “pretty good year.” The general manager replied that yes, indeed, he had had a “pretty good year” but that the Cubs “could have finished seventh without him.” He eventually settled for another year at his old salary.

Thanks to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, I had occasion to ruminate on this bit of baseball lore. Cuomo released a report yesterday to the effect that nine of the banks favored with TARP funds had deemed it wise to shower a total of $32.6 billion in bonuses on its employees. A fortunate few – almost 5,000 in all – got bonuses of one million dollars or more.

The geniuses running the large banks could take a lesson from the lowly Cubs management of the 1950s. Let’s dub this the Sauer Rule:

o If we could have lost all that money, collapsed the world economy and bilked American taxpayers to the extent we did without you, then you should be paid no bonus.

o If we could have avoided some of that without you, you’re fired!

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