It’s not complicated: the A’s would have been a whole lot better off this week having to face Justin Verlander twice in seven games than twice in five games.
And just as it’s always been, it’s absurd that MLB starts off the postseason with a best-of-five round before moving on to two best-of-sevens.
Given time to set their rotation, the Tigers are obviously a more dangerous team in a five-game series than a seven-game series. It’s not that the rest of their rotation is bad, but Verlander in 40 percent of the games works a whole lot better than throwing him in 29 percent of the games.
The A’s couldn’t beat Verlander, and they couldn’t sweep the other three games. There’s a good chance they would have lost a seven-game series, too, but at least that would have been the fair fight. In six trips to the playoffs under Billy Beane, the A’s have five ALDS losses, all of them 3 games to 2. They had to face Roger Clemens twice in two of them and Pedro Martinez twice in another.
If there’s one thing that’s already been made obvious this postseason, it’s that no team is head-and-shoulder above the rest. It’s never made any sense to let five games decide one round and seven the others, particularly since so many of these LDS matchups seem just as evenly matched as any series that will be encountered later on. Perhaps a second straight ALDS loss for the Yankees would increase momentum for the extra games.
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.