Reminder: PEDs didn’t create the inflated offense of the 90s, drug testing didn’t eliminate it

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I’m not so much of a PED-guy defender that I believe PEDs have zero effects. I’m sure they do. They likely allow for players to recover from workouts quicker, thus allowing them to work out more. Some build strength and muscle mass, obviously. All of these effects likely lead to a situation where players can throw harder and hit the ball farther or, for hitters, wait on a ball longer before uncoiling on it. I say “likely” because I am no expert in any of this, but I am as sure as any lay person who hasn’t immersed himself in the research of the matter can be that, yes, many banned PEDs do, in fact, enhance performance.

But I have long believed that the effects on offense are overstated. Again, I don’t have exact empirical evidence of this, but I have found in life that highly-pitched hysteria about anything is likely evidence that someone’s case is being overstated. I’ll grant that there were communists in the U.S. government in the 1940s and 50s.  I won’t buy crazy claims that they were systematically working to topple democracy and were one alcoholic senator from Wisconsin away from succeeding. Life just doesn’t work like that, usually. There are a lot of factors in play in almost any complicated system and people who point to one thing as a singular, efficacious factor in any phenomenon are usually trying to sell you a bill of goods or have another agenda altogether. And when some other factor emerges that makes the “threat” seem less threatening — like, say, large-scale expansion and a spate of cozy, home run-friendly ballparks coming online in the 1990s — those factors tend to be ignored.

Today David Schoenfield rounds up some past research on the matter from Joe Sheehan and David Cameron which demonstrates that there was a lot more going on in the 90s and early 2000s besides PEDs inflating offense and that there is a lot more going on now besides drug testing and players’ changing attitudes about PEDs that is deflating it. It’s well worth your time. And note: Schoenfield is not some crazy, unhinged PED-apologist. He’s just an analyst looking at data and showing that maybe, just maybe, the folks who think that PEDs ruined or distorted baseball are full of beans.

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.