Blundering Reds fire pitching coach, retain rest of staff

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Blame the pitching coach. That’s what the Reds did Friday when they announced that Dick Pole was being terminated while the rest of the coaching staff would return in 2010.
So, why Pole? The Reds have boasted above average pitching this year, with an ERA+ of 105. They rank seventh in the NL in ERA and eighth in the league in runs allowed despite playing in a ballpark that’s kind to hitters.
The offense, in comparison, has been brutal. The Reds have an 83 OPS+, barely ahead of the Giants at 82. The league’s next worst team comes it at 89. They rank 11th in runs scored anyway, but they’re closer to last place than they are to the Nationals in 10th. Only the Petco-deflated Padres have a worst average, and the Giants are the only team with a lower OBP.
So, I ask once again, why Pole? Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Aaron Harang have all improved from 2008. Homer Bailey has also shown signs of progress. Nick Masset has gone from fringe property to middle-relief stud, and Daniel Ray Herrera has proven a bunch of people wrong by succeeding in a setup role. Pole can hardly be blamed for Edinson Volquez’s injury, and if he failed to turn Micah Owings around, well, maybe Owings just isn’t destined to make it as a starter. The only pitcher to take a big step back this year was setup man Jared Burton, and even he’s been much improved over the last two months.
Better if the Reds had just fired Dusty Baker. Pole would have been gone anyway, too, but at least the blame would have fallen where it belongs.

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.