Jeff Passan

  • 10 Degrees: MLB All-Star voting is down, and the Cubs want ballot-box anarchy

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 27 days ago

    This year, almost certainly by design, All-Star voting results are down significantly. Baseball hasn't released numbers, but the top vote-getters in 2016 have received less than half of what their 2015 counterparts had at the same juncture. Part of that is due to a change in the rules that allows fans the same number of votes as last year, 35, but caps the per-day limit at five, meaning those who want to cast their full complement of ballots must do it over seven days.

    While MLB hasn't publicly affirmed its efforts to root out automatic voting scripts that can stuff e-boxes, the notoriety of last year's vote – and Omar Infante's near selection at second base – wasn't exactly a boon for a game that counts for home-field advantage in the World Series. The absurdity of an exhibition determining something as potentially important as home field remains enough of a blight. Voter fraud wasn't exactly a good look.

    4. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who along with Evan Longoria make third base in the AL one of the game's best positions – so strong that the exceedingly deserving Kyle Seager may well get snubbed.

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  • Prospect Heat Check: The most unhittable pitcher you haven't seen

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    By the time he makes his next start Monday, Tyler Glasnow will have pitched five times over the previous month and allowed a total of five hits. In three of those starts, Glasnow held his opponents hitless. He is, quite simply, the most unhittable minor league pitcher in the last half-decade, and perhaps even longer.

    How Glasnow manages to so embarrass hitters isn't fully clear. It could be that Glasnow's 6-foot-8 frame gives him an unfamiliar angle from which he can launch his pitches. Or the fact that his fastball hits triple digits. There could be some fear and apprehension that because Glasnow walks a lot of hitters he doesn't know where the ball is going. Maybe he just induces soft contact and that's that. Or it could be luck, though doing this hitless thing over and over tends to render that possibility rather unlikely.

    Glasnow leads this month's Prospect Heat Check, a gander at 25 assorted names comprising who's hot, who's not and who's next. With the promotions of so many top minor leaguers, Glasnow is now at the top of the latter list.

    1. Tyler Glasnow, SP, Triple-A, Pittsburgh

    2. Joey Gallo, 3B, Triple-A, Texas

     

  • Mission impossible for 2 Brazilian MLB players: defending Rio Games

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Over the past month in Brazil, a financial meltdown threatened its ability to put on the Olympics, a Paralympian was robbed at gunpoint, accusations of widespread corruption plagued the national government, the sitting president clawed for her political life amid impeachment proceedings, the specter of superbugs and polluted water loomed and, to top it off, a cop killed a rogue jaguar on the Olympic torch route. It takes some kind of unmitigated disaster to make 150 experts recommending the cancellation of the Summer Games because of Zika virus look like the least of your problems.

    "I haven't been there to experience things going on in Rio," Yan Gomes said last week, "but if you pick up a newspaper, you're going to be scared of going."

    Surely some of them have parents like Gomes' father, Decio. He keeps up with Brazilian politics and isn't shy about airing his grievances over the state of his homeland.

     

     

  • How the best pitcher in the AL got past the Adam LaRoche incident

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Seven years in, and Chris Sale still doesn’t know what October feels like. There’s emptiness there, a hole that goes to a deep and dark place. He tries not to think about it. Sometimes he fails.

    “It’s the only reason I play,” Sale told Yahoo Sports in a recent conversation. “I’ve done all the individual things I need to do. That doesn’t motivate me. I want to win. I want to win with this team. And I want it to happen now.”

    Seven years. It doesn’t seem like Sale has been around that long, doing his Gumby routine, long and lean, limbs flailing at impossible angles, fastballs kissing corners, sliders tilting like a pinball machine with one leg shorter than the rest. Sale is 27 now, still impossibly baby-faced and, at this point, somewhat inarguably, the best pitcher in the American League, when taking into account past and present production.

    “I’m not sure I saw myself being that guy,” Sale said. “But someone had to do it. I want to stand up for what’s right. If that means I have to say something, I’m going to say it.”

    He chuckled.

    “It wasn’t what it was made out to be,” Sale said. “It’s spring training. People need a story. This was a pretty good story.”

     

  • 10 Degrees: Here’s why Bryce Harper might not be worth $500 million

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Now, what is broken in baseball can be fixed, and plenty of players would love to be broken like Harper is broken. The six weeks since the Cubs series have made him human after a National League MVP season and start to 2016 in which he looked like some evolved baseball-whacking automaton.

    Before the four games in Chicago, Harper was hitting .266/.372/.649. Over the four-game series at Wrigley, Harper managed to raise his on-base percentage 60 points. In 19 plate appearances, Chicago walked him 13 times, including six in the series’ final game. Since then, Harper’s line: .246/.383/.373 in 36 games.

    1. Bryce Harper spending the last month and a half looking like a modern-day Dave Magadan. Behind the triple slash, according to FanGraphs, is a line-drive rate down about 50 percent from last season and a soft-hit ball rate of 21.8 percent – almost double last season. Harper isn’t hitting the ball well, and since the walk festival in Chicago, pitchers have approached him differently.

    Cano is 33. Aging is the worst. Even …

     

  • As Pete Rose tries to steal attention, let's appreciate Ichiro instead

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    These days, Pete Rose is little more than the human embodiment of a comments section. A topic is proffered. He offers an answer that breaches the limits of obnoxiousness. The offended pounce. His defenders swarm. And all of it devolves into something ugly and nasty and so very typical when it comes to Rose. His act is Sleeping Beauty-level tired.

    This will not fall down that wormhole of ignorance. This will be a rejoinder to it. Because even if Pete Rose is correct that the 4,257th hit of Ichiro Suzuki's professional baseball career, laced down the right-field line on Wednesday afternoon, doesn't place Suzuki in Rose's all-time company because the first 1,278 came in Japan – and he is – making this about Rose is exactly what he wants.

  • 10 Degrees: MLB's economic disparity and why its top bargains are so valuable

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Going into Sunday, 18 teams entered with records of .500 or better – and 16 of them started the season with $100 million-plus payrolls. Of the dozen sub-.500 teams, just four carried payrolls over $100 million. The correlation of payroll to winning percentage is almost twice as strong in 2016 as it has been in the other four years of the current basic agreement, and while it's still only moderate in its relationship, alarms are sounding across baseball, particularly in the front offices of the 10 teams with eight-figure payrolls.

    "In what other sport is it OK for one team to spend three times as much as another?" one GM said recently.

    This is why the current negotiations are so vital: The union wants to have its cake and eat it, too, as the only league without a salary cap – a noble and worthwhile fight for the players. For it to work, though, the economic disparity cannot grow so large that no levers within the system exist to lift the perpetually poor out of their doldrums.

    This is why teams do pre-arbitration contracts. Because ones like Altuve are jackpots. It makes deals like …

    Among Kang and Lee and Kim and Byung Ho Park and …

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  • The reason why the Royals have considered trading Yordano Ventura

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    Recently, inside the Kansas City Royals’ clubhouse, Yordano Ventura was talking about how he planned on hitting Jose Bautista with a pitch the next time he faced him. The people around Ventura rolled their eyes, tired of the bluster, done with the immaturity, hopeful he was playing fugazi instead of the on-field arsonist they’d seen too many times for their liking. Among his teammates and in the Royals’ front office alike, they’ve long waited for Ventura to grow up, only to end up amazed at how he manages to plumb beneath even his own low standards.

    And so there Machado was, perhaps the American League MVP favorite, limping toward Ventura, then summoning the strength to throw an overhand right, then DDTing the right-hander into the mound on which he wastes such natural ability. There is a reason why his catcher didn’t sprint to stop the lurching Machado, why his manager admitted after the game that the Royals have grown weary of him, why, according to executives from two teams, the Royals within the past month have offered Ventura up in trade talks: For an act this tired, the performance must validate it, and the chasm between Ventura’s performance and potential is grand.

  • How a 157-pitch game in Kansas explains everything wrong with youth baseball

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    LAWRENCE, Kan. – Outside of Hoglund Ballpark, where his team's season had ended via mercy rule moments earlier, Jeff Hoover stood behind a black fence, banned from the premises. A week earlier in a regional championship game, Hoover, the coach at Wichita West High, allowed a junior named Colby Pechin to throw 10 innings and 157 pitches. Kansas State High School Activities Association rules allow a maximum of nine innings in a day. It suspended Hoover and Pechin for running afoul of the edict.

    West won the game in 16 innings and headed to the state tournament. It was supposed to have been a triumphant day for Hoover. He had resurrected West from the dregs of Kansas high school baseball. The Pioneers didn't win a single game between 2008 and 2012. In April 2014, when Hoover took over the program, they snapped a 122-game conference losing streak that stretched back nearly a decade. Here they were just two years later, facing a Shawnee Mission East High team stocked with Division I kids and one, Joey Wentz, likely to go in the first round of next week's amateur draft.

    "I'm sorry," Hoover said. "I can't talk."

  • The crazy backstory of the closer who doesn't close

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    The closer who doesn’t close was almost the pitcher who doesn’t pitch. Before we get to Hector Rondon’s past, though, it’s important to highlight just how amazing his present is, considering it almost didn’t happen.

    Rondon is the Chicago Cubs’ closer, a job not dissimilar to a gardener in the Sahara. The Cubs are the best team in baseball, and the best team in baseball typically features a closer among the league leaders in saves. And yet Rondon finds himself tied for 23rd overall with just nine saves – two ahead of a pitcher who missed the first month of the season due to suspension, three in front of a guy who locked down his closing job last week, his opportunities lost not because of his failures but his teammates’ successes.

    “I don’t have too many chances this year,” Rondon said. “My teammates are hitting so well late in the game. But I don’t worry about it too much. I worry about the games we’re winning.”

    Now, this isn’t to say Rondon is bored. There might not be a more on-display smile in the Cubs’ clubhouse. Rondon is a wizened 28, his perspective constantly refreshed by the reminder of just how lucky he is to be here instead of working in a Venezuelan factory.