The Yankees and Hideki Matsui have been in contact

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We heard earlier today that the Yankees are only willing to spend about $1-2 million on a designated hitter. This would seem to rule out Carlos Pena and possibly Johnny Damon, unless they are willing to take severe pay cuts.

The Yanks will likely shuffle their aging veterans in and out of the DH spot all season, so there’s an argument to be made that they don’t need to sign anyone, but with so many veteran hitters still available in free agency and so few opportunities left, one will likely fall into their laps at a bargain rate.

With that in mind, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that there has been “some contact” between the Yankees and Hideki Matsui about a possible reunion.

Matsui, who turns 38 in June, batted .251/.321/.375 with 12 home runs, 72 RBI and a .696 OPS with the Athletics last season. It was easily the worst season of his nine-year major-league career, but hitting in the pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum surely didn’t help matters (.663 OPS at home compared to a .729 OPS on the road) and he had an .820 OPS with the Angels in 2010.

Setting aside the obvious sentimentality, Matsui might not be the worst fit at DH if the price is right. While he struggled against right-handed pitching last season, he has an .840 OPS against them during his career. And we all know Andruw Jones is quite capable of mashing left-handed pitching.

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.