Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 day 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.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 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 …
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 7 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.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 8 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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Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 11 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
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 13 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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Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago
Facilitating an exit for Sandoval won’t be easy because of the more than $75 million remaining on his Red Sox contract and the team’s desire not to eat all of the money by cutting him. Sandoval’s trip to the 15-day disabled list Wednesday – a trip caused by a supposed left shoulder injury that took everyone, including the team, by surprise – buys the Red Sox enough time to explore all their options and determine whether any trade market exists before possibly jettisoning him.
The curiosity of the DL move grew as the day went on. Sandoval complained of mysterious left shoulder pain, and the Red Sox chose to immediately place him on the disabled list without having tried to diagnose the severity of the injury with an MRI, sources told Yahoo Sports. By the end of Wednesday, Sandoval still hadn’t visited an MRI machine, a standard procedure that precedes a DL trip in nearly every case but catastrophic injuries.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago
Baseball's new sliding rules are not changing. Deep down, players know this. Already, teams have been told this. And though no one in the commissioner's office or the union's headquarters cares to publicly acknowledge it, sources told Yahoo Sports all parties are in agreement: None of the three controversies that came of the rule during the season's first week are worthy of discussion to amend the new edict.
And this is exactly how it should be. Not because Major League Baseball is some Mount Sinai-like entity from which the laws of the world descend but because this rule, specifically, is a good one – well-intentioned, well-crafted and, as the violations thus far have shown, well-executed.
Four components comprise the rule. The runner must begin his slide before reaching the base. He must be close enough to the base to reach it. He must stay on the base all the way through his slide. And he can't change his path to knock over a fielder. It is not complicated. It lays out the rules of the slide in great detail, which is better than MLB can say for its still-fully-unclear plate-blocking rule.
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Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago
Early last week, in the courtyard of a notorious Brooklyn high-rise, an oversized drill bored three holes into the concrete. One of the most important moments in baseball history, and a seminal event in American culture, took place on that very spot, and for it to have sat empty, without a whit of acknowledgement for decades, simply didn't seem right.
About eight months ago, the impetus behind the drill holes started. As part of his new documentary on Jackie Robinson, documentarian Ken Burns started working on a project to be used with Google's Cardboard virtual-reality headset. The idea was to take people through Robinson's life and show them what he endured – including his first at-bat in Major League Baseball.
On the site today stands the Ebbets Field Apartments, named after their architectural predecessor, the late, great home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. While the stadium is long gone, archival imagery gave Google engineers a sense of where everything stood. By overlaying that photograph onto one of the current landscape, Google determined the exact location in the apartment's courtyard, off Sullivan Place and between McKeever Place and Bedford Ave.
Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 23 days ago
It took less than half a second: for the ball to whiz out of the pitcher’s hand at 97 mph, for instinct to implore the batter to get the hell out of the way before it kills him, for the New York Mets to recognize the leviathan on the mound was the very sort they needed that night and for the Kansas City Royals to understand their path to a championship would hit at least one pothole. One simple throw overflowed with meaning.
Five months later, the most memorable pitch of the 2015 season is mostly just a memory to Noah Syndergaard, its author. One tinged with reminders of an incredible run to the World Series by the Mets and regrets of opportunities lost on every night but the one he pitched. And one that looms over the second game of the season, which just so happens to pit Syndergaard against the Royals again, with Alcides Escobar expected to lead off per usual.
“I wouldn’t change anything about that situation,” Syndergaard told Yahoo Sports during spring training. “I feel like it established some dominance on the mound. Make it as difficult as possible to be comfortable in the box.”
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