Hard to figure those Cardinals out. They continued their dominance over the first-place Reds with a 3-2 win last night, putting an end to their five-game losing streak. They are now 11-5 against Cincinnati this season, however they have just five wins against teams not named the Reds since August 6. Alas, they are currently seven games back in the NL Central and 5 1/2 games behind the Phillies for the Wild Card.
The odds of the Cardinals making the postseason are still a meager 12.4 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus, but Jamie Garcia is cementing his place for the National League Rookie of the Year award. He allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings last night, improving to 13-6 on the year. The 24-year-old left-hander currently ranks eighth in the league in wins and sixth with a 2.35 ERA through 26 starts.
Just with my cursory research, I’ve found that Garcia is currently on pace for the lowest ERA by a rookie starting pitcher (at least among those who qualify for the ERA title) since Mark Fidrych led the American League with a 2.34 ERA in 1976. That’s something pretty special.
The National League has a host of outstanding rookies this season, including Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Starlin Castro, Gaby Sanchez, Jonny Venters and Jon Niese, just to name a few. If they were in the American League, each of them would have a legitimate case to win the hardware. But unless Garcia really stumbles over his last few starts here, he should have this thing locked up.
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.
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.