Jeff Passan

  • 10 Degrees: The ugliness of the Dodgers' TV mess

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    For the second straight season, the highest-paid baseball team in history can’t be seen legally by more than 70 percent of its viewing audience, and everyone involved seems more than content to let the impasse fester on. Every last bit of it reeks of greed from Time Warner Cable, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball, who have skipped past the stage of caring about the team’s fans and sequestered themselves inside a bubble where this is still a fight worth fighting.

    It must be lonely in there. Because the inevitability of change, of admitting this is a lost cause that needs to be remedied, grows more evident by the day. Time Warner promised $8.3 billion for 25 years of local TV rights for the Dodgers. It was a ridiculous overpay that forced an ask of around $5 a month from other Los Angeles-area pay-TV providers to carry SportsNet LA, the network that broadcasts the Dodgers. Every satellite and cable provider refused.

    The longer they wait in hopes DirecTV and Dish Network and local cable companies relent and pay the asking price for SportsNet LA, the more the ...

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    It’s 2015. That’s not too much to ask.

  • Not too early for 3-0 Royals to take pride in fast start

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Inside the clubhouse that housed the team still seeking its first victory in the 2015 season, Chicago White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton spoke for the winless and small-sample advocates everywhere when he intoned: "Who gives a crap about the first three games?" And he was right. To get worked up over 1.85 percent of the season is like jamming to the opening riff of "Under Pressure" only to keep listening and realize it's "Ice Ice Baby."

    Forgive the Kansas City Royals, then, for their tack following Thursday afternoon's 4-1 victory over Chicago, which pushed the defending American League champions to 3-0 while the overhauled White Sox, of the $150 million in spending and big-ticket trades, bore the wounds of a good beating. The Royals, it turns out, do give a crap about these three games, which count every bit as much as the ones in September do, even if the standings today mean nothing.

  • How bad were the Yankees on opening day? Well, A-Rod was the bright spot

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    NEW YORK – The finest moment of opening day for the New York Yankees came when their soon-to-be-40-year-old designated hitter, returning from a year-long suspension for copious steroid use, laced a single into right-center field. And because this was Game 1 of a six-month journey, and the Yankees have 161 more to rid the acrid taste of a 6-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, lending any sort of significance to a singular game is folly.

    But.

    The Yankees have more buts than Sir Mix-A-Lot. Their rotation could be great … but keeping it healthy is a chore. Their lineup could hit … but they spend too much time searching for their dentures. They do play in a wide-open American League East … but they picked the wrong year to start the season with weaknesses.

    Their Kardashian-sized but is instead a limb, simple and fragile, partially broken already, just waiting for the day the rest goes. It belongs to Masahiro Tanaka, and he was the greatest culprit Monday, yielding five runs in four innings while barely showcasing a fastball because it wasn’t worth throwing.

    “Because they were being hit,” Tanaka said.

  • Fans urinate in Cubs merchandise as season starts woefully for franchise

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    CHICAGO – On the bright side of the 30-minute-long bathroom lines at an under-renovation Wrigley Field that forced desperate patrons to relieve themselves in empty cups and corners of the venerable old ballpark, at least they didn't have to watch what unfolded on the field beneath them.

    This is what progress looks like. It is ugly, it is unseemly, it is bumpy and it is uncomfortable. Rest assured: The ascendant Chicago Cubs will have plenty more nights like Sunday, when they opened the 2015 baseball season with a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that saw them strand 13 runners in scoring position with nary a hit to show for it. Turning from an also-ran into a contender, which the Cubs assuredly will be in the coming years, does not follow a linear path.

    Instead, the stands buzzed with the same conversation throughout the upper deck and lower concourse: How long did you have to wait?

    "We don't need marble walls, marble floors, white-glove attendants handing you gum and perfume and towels," Diaz said. "No, just give me a hole to [pee] in. A mud hut."

  • Sources: Carlos Carrasco agrees to 4-year contract with Indians

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Right-hander Carlos Carrasco and the Cleveland Indians agreed on a four-year contract worth around $22 million, capping the pitcher’s incredible rise and locking up another piece of a strong Indians rotation, sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The deal includes Carrasco’s 2015 salary of around $2.34 million and tacks on three more seasons, running through Carrasco's first year of free agency. It also includes club options for two more seasons, potentially keeping Carrasco with the Indians through 2020. The agreement, which is pending a physical, comes a day after reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber agreed to a five-year extension with two club options.

    A late bloomer like Kluber, the 28-year-old Carrasco was demoted to Triple-A by Cleveland in July 2013, the nadir of a long fall from top prospect to washout. He resurfaced in Cleveland’s bullpen at the beginning of the 2014 season, posted a 2.30 ERA and followed with a star turn over the final two months of the season: In his final 10 starts, Carrasco struck out 78, walked 11 and had a 1.30 ERA over 69 innings.

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  • Sources: Corey Kluber, Indians agree to 5-year contract extension

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Right-hander Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians agreed on a five-year contract extension with two club options, tying the reigning American League Cy Young winner to the ascendant Indians, sources told Yahoo Sports.

    Kluber, who turns 29 this week, is a late bloomer who still was not eligible for arbitration, prompting him to seek a long-term deal with the Indians. The interest was mutual, and after months of negotiations, they came to terms on a deal that could keep Kluber in an Indians uniform through his 35 th birthday.

    After a season in which he went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings, Kluber got a raise to just $601,000 because he still was not eligible for arbitration. While the terms of the deal are unknown, it is expected to juice Kluber’s short-term earnings significantly while providing him the long-term security that even two years ago seemed altogether unlikely.

    In addition to Kluber, the Indians have engaged with their No. 2 starter, Carlos Carrasco, about a contract extension, sources told Yahoo Sports. Both the Kluber extension talks and those about a Carrasco deal were first reported by FoxSports.com.

  • Sources: Yordano Ventura in deep discussions with Royals on 5-year extension

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    Fireballing starter Yordano Ventura and the Kansas City Royals are deep into discussions on a five-year contract extension with a club option for a sixth season that would guarantee him more than $20 million, sources with knowledge of the talks told Yahoo Sports.

    Ventura, 23, thrived in his first full season last year, flummoxing hitters with a fastball that regularly reached 100 mph and peaking with seven shutout innings in Game 6 of the World Series.

    Should they lock up Ventura, the Royals would be betting on his health despite a slight 6-foot frame and the incredible sort of fastball velocity that often portends arm issues. Twice last year Ventura experienced injury scares, first with discomfort on the outside of his elbow – the ulnar collateral ligament resides on the inside – and again in the postseason with soreness in his right shoulder.

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  • Josh Hamilton will not be suspended for drug relapse

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    Josh Hamilton will not be suspended after an arbitrator ruled a binge around Super Bowl weekend that resulted in a positive test did not violate his drug-treatment program.

    After Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association deadlocked on whether to suspend Hamilton for self-reporting cocaine use to the league, an independent arbitrator considered the case of the Los Angeles Angels outfielder and agreed with the union’s argument that one-time use did not merit a suspension.

    Hamilton’s case hinged on what constituted a violation of the program. Under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement, an admission of drug use or a refusal to take a test constitutes a positive result. The failure to comply with the drug-treatment program – which Hamilton has been in for nearly a decade following long battles with cocaine and alcohol – was not undone by Hamilton’s episode, the arbitrator ruled.

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    The Angels released the following statement regarding Hamilton's situation:

     

  • Baseball's greatest challenge? Convincing people it's still cool

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 16 days ago

    BRADENTON, Fla. – Here is where it starts: In a vacant parking lot next to an elementary school on spring break, spare, quiet, empty. A bus loaded with video-game consoles idled next to a makeshift set where a grill burned and a candy cart sat undisturbed. Cameras rolled, and the sun beat down, and Andrew McCutchen smiled his million-dollar smile, hoping days like this turn out to mean something more than just another TV commercial that disappears in the ether.

    As the season is set to begin Sunday, this is the frontline of Major League Baseball’s greatest challenge: selling itself. Which sounds rather counterintuitive, considering baseball as a business never has been better. Nearly $10 billion a year in revenue. Ten-figure television contracts. Franchise values doubling and tripling. As good as it is today, concern at the highest levels of the sport percolate that it’s voodoo math, unsustainable should the demographics of the sport continue to align with the three words no company likes to see: old, white, male.

    This is a baseball problem, and perhaps its greatest.

    “Hey,” he said, “gotta sell tickets, man.”

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  • Sources: Juan Lagares agrees to 4-year, $23 million extension with Mets

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    Outfielder Juan Lagares agreed to a four-year, $23 million extension with the New York Mets that includes a club option to buy out one season of free agency, major league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The 26-year-old Lagares is best known for his brilliant defense in center field, and the Mets are hopeful his bat catches up. In his two major league seasons, Lagares has hit .262/.302/.368.

    The contract, which will be official after a Thursday physical, starts in 2016, at which point Lagares likely would have been eligible for arbitration as a Super 2. The first year calls for a $2.5 million salary, followed by years at $4.5 million, $6.5 million and $9 million, sources said, and the option is for $9.5 million, with a $500,000 buyout.

    Because arbitration tends to reward players on offensive value over defensive brilliance, Lagares fetching $20 million-plus guaranteed is a win. And the Mets, betting his value will be even greater as baseball’s Statcast player-tracking system is launched in all 30 stadiums this season and better quantifies his glovework, gained cost certainty.

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