Don't call it a comeback

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Nick Swisher had a great night last night:  two homers, including the walkoff job.  He’s had a great season, too: he’s hitting .254/.378/.506 with 26 homers, many of those in key situations.  The New York fans love him too, and no matter how good a year Jeter, Teixeira, and Rivera are having, one gets the sense that, if this Yankees team wins it all (and with the hype they’re starting to get, it will be a disappointment if they don’t), Swisher is going to get an outsized amount of credit for it.

Given how poor his 2008 was, he’ll also likely get a ton of consideration for the Comeback Player of the Year award.  The Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig, however, wants you to know that Swisher’s 2009 has less to do with him doing anything to “come back” than it does with him simply avoiding the awful luck he had in 2008:

What’s changed? Well, scenery, for one. Swisher is having a lot more fun contributing to a winning team in New York than he did languishing for a winning team in Chicago. That’s to be expected.

But the real answer lies in Swisher’s luck.

It’s not so much that Swisher has gotten incredibly lucky this season. It’s more that his luck hasn’t been horrendous.

According to Fangraphs, Swisher’s line drive rate this season is 16.5, which is actually a dropoff from his miserable 2008 campaign. But unlike last year, there is virtually no difference between his expected BABIP (.285) and his actual BABIP (.286).

In other words, even though he’s not hitting the ball as hard as he did in ’08, Swisher is getting exactly what he deserves for the contact that he is making.

A lot of folks have been surprised by Swisher’s season, but given how freakish his 2008 BABIP was, the stat savvy aren’t. And you can probably include Brian Cashman in that group, so kudos to the GM for making a wise move in acquiring him.

And heck, you can still give him the Comeback Player of the Year award if you want to.  He’s from West Virginia and went to Ohio State, and guys like that are pretty awesome no matter how good or bad their luck happens to be.

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

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Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.