Jeff Passan

  • 10 Degrees: A trade deadline primer, with the Royals going all in (yes, really)

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 21 hrs ago

    Rather than glorify itself for two consecutive years of success, Kansas City has shown the sort of adaptive skills that weren’t present early in Dayton Moore’s tenure as Royals general manager. No longer are the Royals making decisions looking solely inward. Their place in the baseball world – atop the AL Central by 7½ games, better than the rest of the league by four – brought not a greater sense of security but one of urgency. The Royals could win a pennant with the team they had before Sunday. They should win it with the one they have after it.

    Even if Kansas City manages to lock up two of them, the planets aligning as they have this season in either of the next two is no given, particularly with the approach of free agency bumping their salaries via arbitration and hamstringing Kansas City’s ability to bring in big-time free agents. All of which is to say: Getting …

    4. Cole Hamels was made quasi-available by the Philadelphia Phillies. At this point, the Phillies might as well be the DMV, because they’re made people wait such an interminably long time they’re tired of the inefficiency.

     

  • Pedro Martinez's poignant Hall of Fame speech perfectly sums up pitcher's brilliance

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    Your browser does not support iframes.

    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – There is a man, a father to five and a son to a nation, a beacon and a pillar, an overflowing heart and an expansive brain, a deep, vivid human being who fulfills others more than they could ever fulfill him. And this man has 30 minutes to encapsulate a life so rich there's not enough fire in the world to boil it down to its essence.

    This is complex. This is real and tangible, life outside of the bubble in which the ability for a quarterback to read a Cover 2 defense or ornamental lettering on a diploma connotes intelligence. This was Sunday for Pedro Martinez, in front of his family and everyone watching back in the Dominican Republic, showing the world what he grew into and how others could do the same, digging into the deepest reservoirs of himself to imbue others with the sense that even the poorest kid could find himself here, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, his face on a plaque alongside the finest players in the sport, forever a part of the game.

    "When you see me," Martinez said, "you can see a sign of hope, of faith, of determination, of strength, courage, with dignity."

     

  • Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson appropriately enter 'Hall' together

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    They are so different. One is right-handed and the other left-handed. One is uncharacteristically short and the other cartoonishly stretched out, like products of a funhouse mirror. One is Dominican and the other Californian. One is typically boisterous, bombastic, ebullient and the other measured, contemplative, surly.

    They are so similar. Both are mononymous, known simply as Pedro and Unit. Both turned batters into dithering fools. Both threw a baseball at speeds incomprehensible to those standing 60 feet, 6 inches away. Both turned craft into art through the unlikely pairing of intimidation and precision. Both ushered in the era of the strikeout. Both changed baseball forever.

    And it's not because of the struggles, the hardships, the issues, though those do make them more fully fledged characters than pitching automatons. No, it's simpler than that. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, maybe more than anyone, did things they simply weren't meant to do.

    ____________________

    "I wanted to actually see if I could get just a small chance, even though I felt like I had no space to fail," Pedro said. "And I was able to pull it off."

    Pedro. Forever Pedro.

  • Astros acquire left-hander Scott Kazmir from A's

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    The resurgent Houston Astros traded for Oakland A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir on Thursday, kicking off a weeklong march to the July 31 deadline still teeming with gridlock because of persistent questions about which teams are buying and selling.

    The 31-year-old Kazmir, struggling in an independent league as recently as 2012, joins an Astros team in need of pitching depth as it tries to catch the red-hot Los Angeles Angels, who surged to the American League West lead on the back of a seven-game winning streak. For two months of Kazmir, a free agent-to-be, Houston sent Class A right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham to Oakland.

    In 18 starts this season, Kazmir is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 109⅔ innings. Because he was traded midseason, he will not be subject to a qualifying offer and thus will enter free agency unrestricted, a huge boon for him.

    Oakland’s next moves are obvious: With Kazmir gone, utilityman Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard could follow in the coming days.

     More MLB coverage:

  • Lorenzo Cain has the best smile in baseball and wore it for good reason against the Pirates

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the 6.3 seconds between the time he released the ball and the umpire at home plate punched his fist to signal an out, Lorenzo Cain leaned against the center-field fence, lips pursed, silently cursing himself. It was the ninth inning of a late-July game between the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates that felt like it wouldn't at all be out of place in late October, and what unfolded in front of him existed only because of the rarest kind of play: a Lorenzo Cain misread.

    Cain in center field is baseball sonar, tracking every ball hit with precision and speed, and he had malfunctioned in the worst moment. Even after letting Jung Ho Kang's fly ball soar over his head, Cain managed to embody these Royals in six seconds of delirium. The perfect throw to shortstop Alcides Escobar. And his perfect relay to catcher Salvador Perez. And his perfect tag on Starling Marte for the first out of the inning.

    And, finally, the smile.

    "This thing," Royals manager Ned Yost remembered thinking, "can go a while before either team scores."

    "It's like he was stuck in the mud," Dyson said.

    More MLB coverage:

     

  • 25 Degrees: It's Mike Trout's world

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    Six years ago, the first version of this column grew from the kung-fu grip Manny Ramirez held on the baseball world. Everything revolved around him, swallowed whole by his immense orbit. The second half of 2009 started with him ready to carry the Dodgers and ended with him missing the ninth inning of a playoff game to shower.

    Today, the centerpiece of the baseball world is there for a different reason. It’s certainly tiresome after nearly four seasons of fawning over …

    1. Mike Trout to keep coming up with ways to describe what we’re witnessing. Perhaps it’s best to be simple with it then: This is perhaps the greatest start to a career ever. Trout’s evolution into a destructive slugger took time, but his 26 first-half home runs are almost as many as he hit in 2013, when he should’ve won the MVP award. He’s got 124 career homers, 30 shy of passing Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews for the most through an age-23 season. In fact, Trout’s numbers could practically mirror Alex Rodriguez’s by the end of the year.

  • It’s time for Rob Manfred to end All-Star Game’s absurd World Series tie-in

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    Giving all the credit to luck would be wrong, though, because Manfred has positioned himself as a baseball progressive, thorough and open-minded, not resistant to change so long as the change is pragmatic. He oversaw the successful new Home Run Derby format. He has sliced nearly 10 minutes off the average game time. In anticipation of the upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations – the informal discussions will turn formal after this season, according to sources from both sides – Manfred has embraced the possibility of all sorts of modifications, from relatively easy ones like instant replay and the strike zone to massive undertakings like a 154-game season and expansion.

    All of this serves to show that as a man with ideas and the conviction to implement them in a baseball landscape so historically averse to evolution, Manfred can end the farce perpetuated by his predecessor and return the All-Star Game to its rightful place as an exhibition with zero bearing on anything of significance.

    [Play a Daily Fantasy contest for cash today!l]

  • How a clock – and a free-swinging kid from Jersey – saved the Home Run Derby

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Absent a Josh Hamilton reckoning, the Derby had fallen into a stale stasis, a few minutes of oohs and aahs yielding to a few hours of the same … thing … over … and over. Small tinkering in past years lent little improvement, so baseball this year overhauled the whole thing and watched its finest Derby since Hamilton took New York in 2008 and one of its best ever.

    Almost certainly that wouldn't be the case if Todd Frazier hadn't stormed Great American Ball Park with the backing of 43,587 fans who cheer him daily as one of the only things on the Cincinnati Reds worth cheering. The symbiosis of Frazier and the clock was perfect: It pushed him and he pushed it, ramping up the drama, tamping up the enjoyment and crescendoing with a memorable Derby victory over Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson, whose performance was nearly as impressive as Frazier's.

    In the new format, eight participants were bracketed for one-on-one matchups against other players. Rather than 10 outs, each player was given four minutes of swings, an all-you-can-hack buffet that included one timeout for breath-catching. Whacking two home runs at least 425 feet added 30 seconds of bonus time at the end.

  • Three years later, Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper is a one-sided knockout

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    CINCINNATI – Here, in one simple thought experiment, the difference between Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

    At Monday's All-Star Game media session, the best players in the world were given a hypothetical scenario. Brand-new team, starting from scratch. You're the GM and get to pick one player around whom to build the franchise. Who is that player?

    "Maybe Clayton Kershaw?" Trout said. "I like to watch Kershaw."

    Trout is 23 years old, the center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels, reigning MVP of the American League, favorite to win this year's, too. He is, by most measures, the best player in baseball. And as he chose Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace typically seen as his pitching doppelganger, Trout was reminded he could select himself if he so desired.

    "Naw," Trout said. "I'm not gonna take myself."

    When asked which player he'd choose, Harper said St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, whom he called "the best catcher in the game." Then came the caveat.

    "Of course I'm gonna pick myself if you give me that opportunity," Harper said.

    The opportunity, he was told, was his.

    And then came 2015.

  • The nerd who throws 98: Meet the top prospect who stays true to his gamer roots

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    CINCINNATI – In the downtime during the tedium that is recovery from Tommy John surgery, Lucas Giolito would retire to his hotel room and try to kill a dragon. Its name was Alduin, and it was the chief villain in “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” the video game that consumed much of Giolito’s ample free time in 2012 and 2013.

    “I got heavy into that,” Giolito said Sunday morning, hours before he threw two scoreless innings as the United States’ starting pitcher in the Futures Game that kicked off All-Star week at Great American Ball Park. On one hand, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise Giolito got lost in the video-game world considering his father, Rick, was in charge of producing the Medal of Honor series that sold more than 30 million copies.

    “I still consider myself somewhat a nerd,” Giolito said. “I’m a big TV and movie watcher. I still play my video games. The only thing that takes me away from that lifestyle is baseball.”

    “I’ve got a little bit of it in the blood,” Giolito said. “I feel comfortable playing in front of a lot of people. It’s normal to get a little jitters, especially today.”

    More MLB All-Star weekend coverage: