The Marlon Byrd trade has worked out well for the Pirates

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If you had Marlon Byrd as a trade acquisition making the biggest impact in the post-season, please step forward to claim your prize. Everything about the 35-year-old’s 2013 season has been unlikely, from the 21 home runs and .848 OPS he posted in five months with the Mets, to the three homers and .843 OPS he compiled in a month-plus with the Pirates, to the second-inning home run he hit to stake the Pirates to a 1-0 lead in the Wild Card game against the Reds, to tonight’s outstanding performance in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals.

The Pirates picked up Byrd (and John Buck) from the Mets on August 27 for Minor Leaguers Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. At the time, the Pirates were still in a knock-down, drag-out fight in the NL Central with the Cardinals and Reds, and Byrd was as good an upgrade as was available at the time. Like most moves GM Neal Huntington has made to put together the current iteration of the Pirates roster, this move has been a boon to the club.

Byrd went 2-for-3 with a two-run single in the first, a double in the sixth that helped move Andrew McCutchen to third base (he would subsequently score), and a walk in the eighth inning to set the stage for Pedro Alvarez, who would knock in the game-winning run with a single to right. Byrd was the catalyst for the Pirates, involved in every meaningful run they scored tonight, defeating the Cardinals by a 5-3 margin.

If the Pirates are able to advance to the NLCS, whether tomorrow at home or on Wednesday in St. Louis, they will have many players to thank, but Byrd will certainly be at the top of the list. Who knew a 35-year-old journeyman outfielder with a career .749 OPS would be such an important contributor in the post-season?

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

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Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.

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.