Emilio Bonifacio is enjoying his return to the National League with the Cubs; he delivered his second straight four-hit game Wednesday against the Pirates, making him just the fifth player in 100 years to have two in a team’s first two games.
The last four to do it:
Ira Flagstead – 1926 Red Sox (went 8-for-11 against the Yankees)
Showboat Fisher – 1930 Cardinals (8-for-10 against the Cubs)
Wade Boggs – 1994 Yankees (8-for-10 against Rangers)
Dante Bichette – 1998 Rockies (8-for-10 against Diamondbacks)
Less spectacular than Bonifacio’s hitting has been his baserunning. He was picked off first base for the second time in two games Wednesday. He would have been picked off twice on Monday, but first baseman Travis Ishikawa dropped the throw the first time.
Bonifacio was picked up by the Cubs after being designated for assignment by the Royals on Feb. 1 and going unclaimed on waivers. The Royals had previously signed him to a one-year, $3.5 million contract, so they’re paying him $583,333 this year (one-sixth of the original amount), and the Cubs are paying him $2.5 million, with the possibility of $425,000 in bonuses. He’s being used as a utilityman by the Cubs, having started in center field and at second base the first two games.
Update: Bonifacio picked up a fifth hit in the 15th, making him the first player in at least 100 years to start off with nine hits in a team’s first two games.
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.