Manny Acta still likes sabermetrics and cool hats

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Craig will be thrilled to know that new Indians manager Manny Acta wore another awesome hat while holding a “town hall meeting” for fans (and television cameras) last night.
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince reports that Acta won over the audience with his outgoing personality, but a) what else is an MLB.com writer going to say? and b) I’m more interested in the answer he gave when asked whether he’ll bunt more than predecessor Eric Wedge.
Here’s how Castrovince described the scene:

This would have been an opportunity for Acta to simply tell the fan what he wanted to hear, but instead he turned the tables on him, asking him if he would let one of his best hitters bunt with a man on first and none out in order to get the runner into scoring position. The fan answered in the affirmative, and Acta quickly told him he was wrong, before launching into his sabermetric-aided beliefs. He said unless the hitter in question is batting below .240, the stats suggest that you’re better off letting the hitter swing away.



“People think it’s the absolute right thing to bunt [in that situation],” Acta said, “but you need to check the stats. Back in the day, we didn’t have computers, we didn’t have Twitter, we didn’t have Facebook. They’ve come up with some things that make you open your eyes and not play like Casey Stengel used to play.”

While that’s probably not the most effective way to get the point across to a fan calling for more bunting, Acta is right and it’s good to see that his sabermetric leanings went with him from Washington to Cleveland. Of course, his 158-252 career record also made the trip, so charm and new-school beliefs will need to give way to winning soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy the cool hats and lack of bunting.

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.