Jeff Passan

  • The long recovery of Matt Harvey, and why that's a good thing

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Five hundred ninety days. Matt Harvey ponders the time he's spent in the trainer's room, grinding through shoulder-strengthening exercises, stomaching all the other nonsense that comes with recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it comes back to that: When he steps on the mound at Nationals Park on opening day April 6, it will have been 590 days between major league pitches.

    This seems like a lot because it is. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Doctors and trainers almost all agree that to get a true sense of a pitcher's recovery from an ulnar collateral ligament transplant takes 18 months. The tendon used to tie together a pitcher's elbow doesn't transform into a ligament until about that time. To rest the arm throughout the process is a blessing most don't get.

    Whatever disappointment Harvey had in not returning last season has vanished. Eventually he recognized that he's one of the lucky few – the pitcher who gives his arm even more time to heal than the standard 12-month timetable – and that while no data exists to prove longer recoveries equal better results, enough experts agree on it to give him comfort.

  • The 2014 Ultimate Free-Agent Tracker

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    Here is the free-agent class of 2014-15, ranked from Nos. 1 to 165. The rankings are based on a number of variables, including each player's history, age and potential, and are as much about predicted performance as market value, providing a general outline as free agency unfolds between now and spring training.

    Bookmark this page in your browser or favorite it on Twitter – and return frequently. As the offseason progresses, Yahoo Sports will update it with news of signings and their impact on the other free agents.

    1. Max Scherzer, SP: SIGNED To turn down a guaranteed $144 million contract, as Scherzer did last spring, takes an enormous amount of faith in self and elbow. And while Scherzer’s luck on balls in play waned a bit from his 2013 Cy Young season, his strikeout, walk and home run rates were practically identical over the last two seasons. Scherzer, 30, agreed to a seven-year deal with the Nationals.

    50. Ryan Vogelsong, SP: SIGNED At that point in the list where consistent 180-inning guys become eminently valuable. The Giants retained him on a one-year deal.

  • Why David Ortiz's rant against new pace-of-play rules is off-target

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    FORT MYERS, Fla. – Red Sox star David Ortiz ripped baseball’s new pace-of-play provisions Wednesday, which was not altogether surprising, considering MLB emphasizing the edict that requires hitters to keep one foot in the batter’s box might as well be called the David Ortiz Rule. He is the prince of procrastination, a malingerer worthy of comparison to Mike Hargrove and Nomar Garciaparra, the patron saints of between-pitch futzing around.

    Every time he removes himself from the 24-square-foot box this season, Ortiz risks a maximum fine of $500. “Well,” he said, “I might run out of money.” Going into this season, he has made more than $125 million in his career.

    Bankruptcy threats aside, Ortiz’s condemnation of the rules resonated for two reasons. The first was obvious: More and more players are speaking out against baseball’s efforts to hasten pace, and Ortiz’s voice carries an immense amount of weight among fellow players and fans still trying to judge whether the decrees will hold. And the second was more obvious: His explanations as to why he should be able to loaf around are so full of illogic and red herrings they collapse in on the weight of their own absurdity.

  • What it's like to spend a day inside Alex Rodriguez's world

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    TAMPA, Fla. – It's hot out here on the sidewalk of North Himes Avenue, the kind of hot that burns skin and makes a mockery of antiperspirant. The sun is unrelenting, laughing at the suckers camping beneath it and waiting to be part of the farce yet again.

    This is how it works with Alex Rodriguez, how it's worked ad infinitum. Sometimes it is in an antiseptic room swathed with the logos of the New York Yankees and the Yankees' sponsors, and others under a tent, the literal big top, and on Monday it is outside the Yankees' minor league complex, which is off-limits to non-Yankee personnel, leaving two groups on the sidewalk: a horde of media and autograph-seeking fans, neither a particularly well-regarded phylum in the baseball kingdom.

    The crowd grew, and word of A-Rod's imminent arrival spread on social media, alerting the autograph hounds to join. The parties stood on opposite sides of the complex's driveway, like boys and girls at a seventh-grade dance. Together they endured the heat, the boredom and the helplessness of knowing they were at the mercy of A-Rod's whims.

    "Eight hours," he says. "Well worth it."

    "Tampa."

  • Cuban super prospect Yoan Moncada agrees to sign with Red Sox

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    TAMPA, Fla. – Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada agreed to sign with the Boston Red Sox for a $31.5 million bonus Monday, smashing records and delivering one of the most talented young players in the world to a franchise already teeming with them.

    A dark horse lurking behind the more publicly favored New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Sox landed Moncada despite having players tied to his potential positions for the next half-decade. A switch-hitting 19-year-old who can play second or third base, Moncada is a brutishly athletic five-tool player, a ballplayer masquerading in a linebacker’s body, mature enough that one team in the bidding considered jumping him straight to the major leagues.

    Instead, Moncada is expected to start out in the lower minors, where he can remember what it’s like to play baseball after a harrowing 14-month journey to this point. Moncada is believed to be among the first players to leave Cuba legally, and he sat in limbo in Guatemala for months awaiting approval from the government to seek employment in the United States.

    More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

  • Why David Price has concerns about MLB's effort to pick up the pace

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    LAKELAND, Fla. – One of the fastest pitchers in baseball likes going slow, thank you very much, and the game’s coming culture war is aimed right at him. He throws as hard as any left-handed starter, his fastball sitting in the mid-90s. He also takes a lunar cycle to throw it – 26.6 seconds between pitches last year, to be exact, the longest wait by a major league starter.

    That is 6.6 seconds more than the 20-second pitch clock Major League Baseball will implement in the minor leagues this year and, it hopes, introduce at the big league level in the coming seasons. Take those 6.6 seconds, multiply them by 100 pitches and that’s 11 minutes of game time, vanished. And, so, yes, in theory David Price does understand why baseball is talking about a pitch clock, which would complement less-drastic changes the league implemented Friday to increase pace of play in what it worries is becoming an increasingly interminable game.

    [Baseball is back! Check out Yahoo For Spring Training for the best spring training pics.]

    “Initially, I think it’s a bad idea. But I guess I kind of get it.”

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  • Sources: MLB could alter strike zone as response to declining offense

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    Major League Baseball is considering altering the textbook definition of the strike zone for the first time in nearly two decades, fearful that the proliferation of the low strike has sapped too much offense from the game, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    Concern around baseball about the strike zone filtered down to the MLB’s Playing Rules Committee, which must formally adopt a rules change before it’s implemented. The committee will pay close attention to the size of the strike zone in 2015 with an eye on change as early as 2016 after studies showed it has expanded significantly since 2009, coinciding with a precipitous dip in run scoring. Of particular concern, sources said, is the low strike, a scourge not only because it has stretched beyond the zone’s boundaries but is considered a significantly more difficult pitch to hit.

    Since 2009, the average size of the called strike zone has jumped from 435 square inches to 475 square inches, according to Roegele’s research. The results: Pitchers are throwing more in the lower part of the zone, and hitters are swinging at an increased rate, knowing the tough-to-drive pitches will be called strikes.

    More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

  • Little League took easy route in punishing kids for wrongdoing of adults

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    The mouth-breathing moralists won Wednesday. They punished children for the behavior of adults. The corporation that enriches itself on the backs of unpaid labor played to type: hypocritical authoritarian bully. The little man who started this all by cocooning himself in the notion of fair play got what he wanted. And the Jackie Robinson West Little League team, a group of Chicago-area kids whose physical addresses mattered so much less than what they represented, are no longer U.S. champions.

    Here’s what happened: Kids from around Chicagoland joined JRW. A man named Chris Janes, who runs a league that lost a game 43-2 against JRW, complained to Little League International that the team used players from outside its boundaries. Little League investigated, found that JRW redrew the boundaries without consulting nearby leagues and stripped it of the 2014 U.S. title. In a statement, Little League president Stephen Keener said: “As painful as this is, we feel it a necessary decision to maintain the integrity of the Little League program.”

  • The night Tark zinged Fresno State, and nobody could pin it on him

    Jeff Passan at The Dagger 19 days ago

    The party was in his honor, and he didn’t want to be there. These weren’t his people – the stuffed shirts, the empty suits, the clowns he spent a career fighting. All of it was disingenuous anyway. They didn’t want him there, either.

    Never one to let a potential victory slip away, Jerry Tarkanian waved me over. My first job out of college was covering Fresno State basketball’s first season after Tark, and I’d grown to appreciate his humor, his honesty and, best of all, his joy in embarrassing authority figures.

    The din of the party was loud enough where Tark motioned me closer, so I could hear his whisper.

    “Make sure you’re watching halftime tonight,” he said.

    [The sports world reacts to the death of Jerry Tarkanian]

    Instead, the school named the arena’s basketball wing after him. One of Tark’s friends that night joked: “They might as well have named the men’s bathroom after him, because they [expletive] all over him.”

    Tark smiled when I asked what he thought.

    “Just watch,” he said.

    Tark smiled and didn’t say a word. Like always, the victory was his.

  • How James Shields fell into the Padres’ laps through strategic bumbling

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 21 days ago

    Around mid-January, the music stopped and James Shields was still standing. Free agency is a game of musical chairs, really, a crawl in which people try to outmaneuver one another for their piece of a finite pie. And Shields’ first foray into free agency is a case study on what happens when a player misreads the tactics of others and the effect they’ll have on him.

    Considering the circumstances in which Shields found himself, the four-year, $75 million deal he fetched from the San Diego Padres is actually a minor miracle. Toward the end, Shields’ market was Black Monday. It got bad enough that teams jumped in with three-year offers because the value for a pitcher like Shields was too good to pass up. The surest sign of a bungled opportunity is when the player loses hand and teams start dictating terms.

    Even if everything ended well enough, with Shields hitting the equivalent of a grand slam in a game you’re down 10, there was a lesson learned: When the music stops playing, make sure you have a seat.