$160 million for Matt Kemp sounds about right

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One can debate whether Matt Kemp is the game’s best outfielder, but the truth is the Dodgers pretty much had to make him the game’s highest-paid outfielder to keep him beyond 2012. The eight-year, $160 million contract he reportedly agreed to Monday is tied for the largest ever given to an outfielder.

Manny Ramirez’s late-2000 deal with the Red Sox, worth that same amount, had been the gold standard for outfielders. Technically, though, Kemp won’t be the game’s highest-paid outfielder, at least not right away. Carl Crawford got $142 million for seven years from the Red Sox last winter, giving him an annual salary of $20.29 million. Ryan Braun will make $21 million per year from 2016-20 under the terms of the extension he agreed to in April.

Kemp still has one year of arbitration left, so his deal rates a little better than Crawford’s. The guess is that he would have made around $16 million next year through arbitration, and if that’s the case, he’s selling his first seven free agent years for $144 million.

So, this would seem to rate as a pretty good deal for both sides. Had Kemp turned in another year like his 2011 next season, there’s no doubt that he would have topped this contract in free agency. However, this protects him if he does falter somewhat. And the truth is that he loves playing in L.A. and had no real interest in leaving.

For the Dodgers, any eight-year deal comes with substantial risk. Kemp, though, is just 27 and he’s been exceptionally durable to date. While he’ll probably spend the second half of the deal in an outfield corner, he’s about as safe of a long-term signing as there is in the game.

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.