Roy Oswalt plays left field in extra-innings loss to Astros

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Who said Roy Oswalt wasn’t going to appear against his former team this week?

Yes, we’ll all remember this one for Oswalt becoming the first Phillies’ pitcher to play a position in the field since Bill Wilson on August 6, 1971, but the game was actually plenty entertaining before that. Cole Hamels and Bud Norris provided quite the duel early on while Jimmy Rollins sent the game into extras in dramatic fashion, slugging a solo home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Braves were busy losing in Colorado again, so the Phillies had a golden opportunity to pull to within 1 1/2 games in the National League East. With the momentum in their favor and a raucous home crowd behind them, this seemed like the sort of game the Phillies were destined to win. They were well on their way to doing so until Ryan Howard struck out on a check swing with two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the 14th inning.

Frustration boiled over for Howard, who was still fuming from another check-swing call earlier in the at-bat. After throwing his bat to the ground, he was ejected by third base umpire Scott Barry. Howard then ran down the third base line to give him a piece of his mind. From what I saw, it looked like he swung on neither pitch, but of more importance, it actually seemed like Barry egged him on a bit. While Howard had every right to be upset, his ejection meant that the Phillies were out of position players.

In turn, Raul Ibanez was forced to play first base for the first time since 2005, which meant that Oswalt went out to play left field. It was a truly bizarre sight. And wouldn’t you know it, the ball found him right away. Jason Castro flied out to left for the first out of the 15th inning and Oswalt received a standing ovation from the Citizens Bank faithful. He couldn’t help but smile, but neither could most of us. It’s worth noting that Ibanez had a gem of his own for the final out of the 15th, diving to tag the first base bag to retire the speedy Michael Bourn.

The game entered the 16th at the same 2-2 score, but the Astros finally pulled ahead on two groundballs that didn’t even leave the infield. Facing a 4-2 deficit in the bottom of the inning, the Phillies did their best to stage a late rally. Placido Polanco drew a walk, but it ultimately set-up an intentional walk to Chase Utley which, of course, brought Oswalt to the plate with two outs. The Phillies’ fans tried to will him into a hit, but it was not to be. He was retired on a weak grounder to third base to end it.

The 16-inning affair checked in as the second-longest game of the season, only topped by the 20-inning thriller between the Mets and Cardinals on April 17. Without any rooting interest in last night’s game, I found it endlessly more entertaining.  

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.