Jeff Passan

  • Sources: Dodgers pitcher suspended 80 games for PEDs

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 16 hrs ago

    Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Josh Ravin was suspended 80 games on Monday for using a banned substance, sources told Yahoo Sports, and is the sixth major leaguer to face discipline for performance-enhancing drugs this season.

    Ravin, who is on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster but has spent the year on the disabled list after breaking his non-throwing left arm in a car accident during spring training, tested positive for a banned peptide, according to sources.

    His suspension comes on the heels of 80-game bans for National League batting champion Dee Gordon and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Chris Colabello. Cleveland center fielder Abraham Almonte and Philadelphia reliever Daniel Stumpf were hit with 80-game suspensions before that, and New York Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia received a lifetime ban in February for a third positive test.

  • 10 Degrees: Is a juiced ball causing MLB's large home run spike?

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    I am far from the only one. It’s hitters and pitchers and coaches and executives and even rational, cogent analysts who cannot find a reasonable explanation for the spike in home runs dating back to last August. The HR/FB rate – the percentage of fly balls that end up over the fence – spiked over the season’s final two months, and it has continued this April.

    With 11.8 percent of fly balls leaving the yard in the season’s first month, it marked the highest April rate since the league started tracking the data in 2002. The number mirrored those of August (12.2 percent) and September (12.3 percent), which Hardball Times analyst Jon Roegele noticed after not even a month. Roegele studied it and came to an impasse.

    “I couldn't find anything to describe that amount of HR/offensive change, as far as weather, strike zone, where pitchers were pitching, etc.,” he wrote in an email this week. “I suspected that they changed something with the balls after the All-Star break last year as nothing else in the data could explain it.”

    The question, now, is why balls are coming off the bat so much harder now.

    Oh, come on, doc.

    Like a juiced ball!

  • The sad case of Dee Gordon, another unlikely PED user for MLB

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    There was a safeness about him, one furthered with a bright smile flashed liberally, though by now it should be evident that neither the pearliness of a man's teeth nor the composition of his body reveal what's inside of it. In the case of Gordon, it was two types of synthetic testosterone. Not even the safest bets are immune from the drug testing of Major League Baseball and the 80-game suspensions that accompany the ones that come up positive.

    PEDs turn people into whirling dervishes of morality, particularly in cases like Gordon's, where the money and the batting title and the fact that he drove in the game-tying run for the Miami Marlins about an hour before his suspension and the sterling reputation – No, not him, he seems like a good guy – coalesces into a big, bulbous ball of disappointment. Or sadness. Or however you care to phrase it when perception doesn't dovetail with reality and the disbelief can cause a blip on the Richter scale.

    How sad.

  • Miami's Dee Gordon suspended 80 games for PEDs

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    Defending National League batting champion Dee Gordon was suspended 80 games early Friday morning after he tested positive for two types of performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball announced in disciplining the Miami Marlins’ second baseman.

    Gordon, a two-time All-Star who in the offseason signed a five-year, $50 million contract extension after hitting .333, was found to have taken exogenous Testosterone and Clostebol, a modified form of testosterone.

    The 28-year-old Gordon, one of the slightest players in the game at 5-foot-11 and 171 pounds, thrived in Miami after his trade there last season from Los Angeles and won a stolen base title in addition to his batting crown. Gordon, the son of former major league pitcher Tom Gordon, was hitting .267/.283/.344 with six stolen bases and his typically solid defense for the Marlins, who inched back to within a game of .500 on Thursday night.

  • How Jordan Zimmermann is helping make Strasburg and Harvey a ton of money

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Jordan Zimmermann finally gave up a run Monday, the first he deigned to allow this season. His earned-run average skyrocketed to 0.35. No pitcher this century has finished April with a better mark. Zimmermann and the Detroit Tigers weren't the only ones celebrating.

    Across baseball, executives are watching the 29-year-old with a keen eye. He is just one player, just one arm, but Zimmermann is, in many ways, the standard bearer for the return from Tommy John surgery into the class of the ultra-rich. Zimmermann smashed the nine-figure threshold for ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction survivors this offseason when he signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Tigers. And with Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez primed to hit free agency over the next three seasons, some teams' willingness to pony up big money will depend on the success of Zimmermann.

    It shouldn't be that simple, of course, a single arm, unique in every way, charting the course for a series of entirely disparate ones. Nobody ever accused baseball of being a particularly rational place, though, and the willingness to extrapolate one's success to others is not new.

  • 10 Degrees: Free from O's purgatory, Jake Arrieta flourishing with Cubs

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    During their lowest moments, the four pitchers who were supposed to save the Baltimore Orioles looked at one another and asked a simple question: “What the [expletive] happened?” Zach Britton, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz had spent months “doming each other out mentally,” as Britton put it, “trying to fix each other” after the relationship with their pitching coach threatened to ruin their careers. And around came July 2, 2013, and the fourth of the Orioles’ great arms stuck in this baseball purgatory got his pardon.

    Long before he threw two no-hitters over a nine-start span and turned in one of the greatest stretches of pitching in baseball history, Chicago Cubs ace and reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta was a failed Orioles prospect. Like Britton, Tillman and Matusz, he chafed under then-Baltimore pitching coach Rick Adair, whose pitching philosophy ran in direct contrast to those of the players.

    “With Dave and Dom, if Jake had the opportunity to work with them, I don’t see why he wouldn’t have done here what he’s done there,” Britton said. “The stuff was the guy who could throw two no-hitters. That didn’t just come out of nowhere.

    Perhaps there are things at which …

  • Biggest surprise of MLB season so far: Barry Bonds

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    Earlier this spring, when Barry Bonds and Jose Fernandez were engaged in their usual brand of verbal volleyball, the old man laid down a challenge to the young buck. One at-bat. Get me out, Bonds said, and Fernandez could take any one thing from his house. The confrontation never happened. Maybe some other time, they said. If it did, one observer there opined, chances are Fernandez would've gone home empty-handed.

    Let us remind: Jose Fernandez is one of the finest pitchers in the world, and Barry Bonds is a 51-year-old man. He is no ordinary 51-year-old man, of course. He is baseball's home run king, its greatest offensive player since Babe Ruth and its poster boy for steroid use. For nearly a decade, the conflation of the three also made him its chief pariah. And then, penance apparently paid, debt ostensibly forgiven, he was back, ready to be the best again.

    To see him now, then – from persona non grata to playing an integral role for a team full of good, young hitters – almost boggles the mind. Not just the fact that Bonds is the rare superstar to leave his millions for another day and embrace a workmanlike role. It's more how good he is at it.


  • Sources: Zika has Pirates, Marlins players worried about series in Puerto Rico

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    Players from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins have raised significant concerns about their upcoming series in Puerto Rico, expressing fear of exposure to the Zika virus, multiple league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    Officials from Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have not yet given serious consideration to canceling the two-game series, scheduled to be played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan on May 30-31, according to sources. But the sides plan on continuing to weigh the potential danger to teams and their families before making a decision, sources said.

    "The health and safety of our players and staff is our No. 1 priority," said Brian Warecki, the Pirates' vice president of communications. "We are working closely with all parties, including MLB, MLBPA and the CDC, to ensure we are fully educated on the issue. We are very confident that we are taking the overly cautious steps to ensure we have a very successful two-game series in San Juan."

    The Marlins declined comment.

    "It is likely," Fauci said, "we will have what is called a local outbreak."

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  • 10 Degrees: Baseball has its LeBron James and his name is Bryce Harper

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    Because that’s what it is right now. Harper is appointment TV when he’s not on one of his jags. When he’s going all Deadpool on baseballs, locked in and unrelenting and ready to punish, it’s easy to forget Harper is just 23 years old and will be for the rest of the season. That – gulp – he’s actually getting better, and demonstrably so.

    Now, it’s early in the season, and making judgments based off the Washington Nationals’ 11 games is perhaps foolhardy. Especially when the best pitcher Harper has faced this season is … A.J. Ramos? Arodys Vizcaino? Aaron Nola? Julio Teheran? Going back-to-back-to-back with Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia is more soft landing than gauntlet, though that isn’t the point.

    What’s relevant is that Harper, the unanimous National League MVP last season, is through these 11 games and 48 plate appearances an even better version of himself, and he’s showing it with skills independent to the quality he has faced. It’s like Batman learning to shoot spider webs out of his wrist. Talent like Harper’s is unfair enough already. Improving upon it is just greedy, man.

    K/9: 10.23, third in baseball

    WHIP: 1.06, second

    ERA+: 137, fourth

    CG: 9, sixth

    FIP: 2.94, sixth

  • How new laws banning chewing tobacco could change MLB

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    In the 1990s, when airplanes went smoke-free, the ban did not extend to one place: the cockpit. Concern about pilots suffering nicotine fits or losing their ability to fly due to withdrawal prompted an exception. Then the federal government called Dr. Michael Fiore, asked him to apply his smoking-cessation magic and watched as pilot after pilot quit.

    “And that’s a great analogy for baseball,” said Fiore, the director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. “They’ve got similar concerns. ‘It’s going to distract me.’ ‘I’m going to lose my performance edge.’ If you follow tobacco control over the last 50-plus years, since the first surgeon’s general report in 1964, every step along the way we heard the same arguments. You can’t do it because it won’t work.”

    Already, the blowback is palpable.

    Players were provided with tins of coffee pouches to use instead of tobacco. Heard some players emptied those tins and put tobacco in them.

    “I have a hard time thinking it makes sense,” he said. “We’re all grown men. It’s hard to take that away from people who are adults.”

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