Who needs CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, anyway? OK, well the Yankees do if they hope to go anywhere. But Hiroki Kuroda is holding things down quite nicely at the moment.
Kuroda was dominant this afternoon, allowing just three hits over seven shutout innings as part of a 4-0 win over the White Sox. He tied a career-high with 11 strikeouts while walking just one batter.
Kuroda got off to a bit of a shaky start in pinstripes, posting a 4.50 ERA through his first eight starts, but he has rebounded with a 1.99 ERA over his last eight and has allowed three runs or less in seven of them. The 36-year-old right-hander now has a solid 3.17 ERA and 80/31 K/BB ratio over 102 1/3 innings. Chatter that he couldn’t cut in the American League is but a distant memory.
The offense this afternoon was supplied by, you guessed it, the home run ball. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Dewayne Wise all had solo shots. Wise also added an RBI double. Pretty interesting week for that guy, huh?
Kuroda’s performance overshadowed Jake Peavy, who tossed his fourth complete game of the season. Incredibly, he’s taken losses in three of them. Peavy struck out 11 for his first double-digit strikeout game since May 22, 2009 against the Cubs. While he has lost each of his last four starts, he still has an outstanding 2.96 ERA and 101/24 K/BB ratio over 112 2/3 innings this season. He’s an easy call to make the American League All-Star team.
UPDATE: Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com notes that Peavy will honor the memory of former Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds by donating $100 to pancreatic cancer research for every strikeout in MLB games today. There were 24 strikeouts in this game alone. Good on you, Jake.
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.