Pirates designate Akinori Iwamura for assignment

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To make room for top prospect Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates on Wednesday designated big offseason acquisition Akinori Iwamura for assignment.
The Pirates picked up Iwamura from the Rays in November for reliever Jesse Chavez. But more important than the talent surrendered for him — Chavez was later dealt to Atlanta for Rafael Soriano and is now back in Triple-A — was that Pittsburgh took on a $4.85 million commitment in order to solidify their second-base situation.
It seemed like a safe enough play, if not the wisest way for a likely fifth- or sixth-place team to spend money. Iwamura, 31, was remarkably consistent in his three seasons with Tampa Bay, finishing with OPSs of 770, 729 and 745. He also proved to be an above average defender at second after moving off the hot corner to make room for Evan Longoria.
Iwamura, though, was a disaster for the Pirates, hitting just .182/.292/.267 in 165 at-bats. Primarily a leadoff man, he had scored just 18 runs all season. He had driven in nine.
Given his success in the other league and his ability to play two infield positions pretty well, Iwamura shouldn’t have to wait long to find work after clearing waivers. The Twins would be an obvious fit, given their injury problems and their poor production from third base. The Tigers, Angels, Yankees, A’s, Blue Jays and White Sox are other possibilities. Most would probably want him to head to Triple-A for a few weeks to find his swing, but it’s possible some team would give him a chance right away.

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.

 

 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.