Adam Wainwright will need to come up huge again in NLCS

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While they do have the advantage of staying home in St. Louis, the Cardinals won’t have long to rest following their NLDS victory on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers are coming to town on Friday, and they’re bringing their aces.

The Cardinals’ rotation is in flux after their five-game series, but the Dodgers face no such questions with Zack Greinke getting the ball on Friday and Clayton Kershaw following in Saturday’s Game 2. The Cardinals would seem to be at a clear disadvantage both days. The Game 1 starter is still unannounced, with NLDS Game 3 starter Joe Kelly, Game 2 starter Lance Lynn and rookie Shelby Miller all capable of pitching. Kelly would seem to be the favorite to get the nod.

After that, it’ll almost certainly be Michael Wacha in Game 2. With the way he’s throwing, he looks like the fourth-best starter in the series. Unfortunately, he’ll be going against the best in Kershaw.

The Cardinals will be in better shape when the series heads to L.A. Game 3 will pit Wainwright versus an iffy Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers have denied that there’s anything physically wrong with Ryu, but reports have suggested otherwise.

Game 4 figures to feature one of the guys who wasn’t picked from the Kelly-Lynn-Miller trio and Ricky Nolasco, who was passed over in Game 4 of the NLDS for Kershaw on short rest. That’s probably another advantage to the Cardinals, given Nolasco’s poor showing at the end of the season and lack of recent activity. Then it’s back to Greinke and Kershaw for the Dodgers, with Wainwright waiting in Game 7.

While seven-game series take unexpected twists and turns all of the time, it is pretty hard to see the Cardinals beating the Dodgers without winning both of Wainwright’s starts. Fortunately, Wainwright seems more than up to the task. He just finished off the Pirates with a 107-pitch complete game to improve to 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a ridiculous 57/7 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings in the postseason. Including the two against the Pirates, the Cardinals have won each of his last seven starts dating back to the regular season, with Wainwright allowing a total of nine runs in that span.

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.