Pittsburgh’s collapse gets an exclamation point with no-no

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The Pirates appeared to hit rock bottom on Wednesday, when they were shutout primarily by a pitcher they gave up on waivers to the Mets prior to the start of the season (Jeremy Hefner pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, before rookie Jeurys Familia finished up). As it turned out, that was still just a warmup.

On Friday evening, the Pirates were no-hit by a guy named Homer. A guy who had one career shutout in 109 major league starts. And you’ll never guess who that had come against. In fact, both of Homer Bailey’s complete games had come versus the Pirates. He’s now 8-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 starts against the Pirates and 30-31 with a 4.81 ERA in 98 starts against everyone else.

The loss was the Pirates’ 81st of the season, which guarantees they won’t snap their record skid with a winning season. They could still conceivably win five straight and finish at .500 for the first time in 20 years. But, let’s face it, that’s not happening. The Pirates are 6-20 in September after going 11-17 in August.

As for Bailey, he deserves plenty of credit. He fanned 10 and faced one batter over the minimum. His postseason rotation spot was still in doubt as of a couple of weeks ago, but he had moved well ahead of Mike Leake of late even before tonight’s showing. He’s taken advantage of a very weak schedule of late, but 13-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 204 innings is nothing to sneeze at. His no-hitter tonight was the Reds’ first since Tom Browning threw a perfect game in 1988. Incredibly, it was the first no-hitter versus the Pirates since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson threw one in 1971.

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.