Grant Balfour’s deal with Orioles in “serious jeopardy” due to shoulder issue

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The Orioles reportedly reached a two-year, $15 million deal with free agent closer Grant Balfour earlier this week, but the agreement has hit a snag.

According to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com, Balfour’s deal with Baltimore is in serious jeopardy due to issues with his physical that “need to be resolved.” While the signing was supposed to be announced today, there’s now a chance that it won’t happen at all. Kubatko hears that official word one way or the other could come by tomorrow.

The nature of Balfour’s issue isn’t yet known. The 35-year-old didn’t spend any time on the disabled list this past season, but he did have knee surgery during spring training. He previously had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in 2006.

John Axford and Joaquin Benoit have both signed elsewhere this week, so if the Orioles are forced to move on from Balfour, they will likely consider names like Fernando Rodney and Chris Perez. Kubatko hears that they have checked the medical records on Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, but neither pitcher is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

UPDATE: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the issue is with Balfour’s shoulder. As we mentioned above, he previously had surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff, but hasn’t had any problems since.

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.