I’m way too excited about this post, because it combines four of my favorite things: Baseball, podcasts, Chelsea Peretti, and snooping for information about people on the internet.
Chelsea Peretti is a great stand-up comedian, writer, and tweeter who just started her own podcast in which she takes calls from the audience. I was listening to the second episode this afternoon when about 12 minutes in a caller named “John” started talking about how he’s 24 years old and “blew a small fortune” of $210,000 after being drafted by the Mets as an 18-year-old.
Peretti asked: “And then what happened, you started sucking at baseball?”
“They thought I was a good baseball player,” our mystery man explained, adding that he was a pitcher before his “elbow blew out” and he spent most of the signing bonus on a truck and “buying sushi every night.”
That was more than enough information to discover our mystery man’s identity via the magic of the internet: John Holdzkom, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who was the Mets’ fourth-round pick in 2006 and signed for $210,000. He underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 2009 and has yet to make it past high Single-A, throwing a total of 135 innings in seven seasons. He spent this season in the Reds’ farm system, but appeared in just six games and walked 13 batters in nine innings.
Holdzkom shared some interesting details about his arm problems and various off-field issues, showing a really good sense of humor about the whole thing. And he’s apparently headed to Australia to continue his career. You should definitely listen to their whole chat, if only so I feel less silly about spending time researching the identity of an anonymous podcast caller.
To experience my internet detective work unfolding in real time you can follow me on Twitter.
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.