First-half record: 57-34
Standings: 3 games up on Braves in NL East
Bullpen: Ryan Madson should return to form after he comes back from a hand injury, but the Phillies can’t rely on either Brad Lidge (shoulder, elbow) and Jose Contreras (elbow). Adding another late-game reliever should be this team’s priority. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an experienced closer, not with the way that Madson has stepped up.
Outfield: I think the Phillies can pass on an adding an outfielder. Rookie Domonic Brown is hitting .371/.436/.400 through 35 at-bats this month, and even when he has struggled at the major league level, he’s never looked overmatched. It wouldn’t hurt to bring in another part-timer — preferably a backup center fielder who could also serve as a defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez in left — but Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. make for a nice pair of backups as is.
Infield: I’d rather see the Phillies go get themselves a legitimate backup for Chase Utley and Placido Polanco. Wilson Valdez is a nice defender, but he’d be an awfully weak option as a regular if either Utley or Polanco gets hurt at the wrong time. Omar Infante would be a great pickup if the Marlins decide they’re out of it. Jeff Keppinger and Mike Aviles would also work.
Luke Gregerson (RHP Padres): Gregerson makes more sense for the Phillies than Heath Bell: he’s an extreme groundball pitcher and he wouldn’t stretch the team’s budget. He certainly won’t come cheap, not when he’s under control through 2014, but the Padres figure to be open to moving him if the right offer comes along. They have plenty of needs, and they’ve never been shy about trading relievers to fill them.
Gregerson for RHP Brody Colvin
Colvin entered the year as the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, but he’s fallen behind Jarred Cosart while missing some time and amassing a 4.16 ERA and a 43/22 K/BB ratio in 62 2/3 innings for high-A Clearwater. He’d still be a really nice get for the Padres here, and he could be part of a promising 2013 rotation that’d also potentially include Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly and maybe Simon Castro, with Keyvius Sampson and Joe Ross on the way up.
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.
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.