Jeff Passan

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Jeff Passan is an award-winning columnist who has covered baseball since 2004. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • 10 Degrees: The worst contract in MLB history is finally ending soon

    The single worst contract in baseball history expires this year, when one final payment of $10 million extricates its payor from further misery involving far too many zeroes, on both the checks they cut and the production they get on the field. From the moment it started in 2012 to today, when the Philadelphia Phillies could at any moment rid themselves of its acrid taste, Ryan Howard’s wholly unnecessary five-year, $125 million extension has barreled toward its place on worst-of lists and by any fair measure positioned itself at the apex.

    Ryan Howard (AP Photo)Ryan Howard (AP Photo)So fare thee well, Mike Hampton and Darren Dreifort, and fear not, Carls Crawford and Pavano. All of the other past qualifiers (Jason Bay, Kei Igawa, Chan Ho Park) can relax for now, and future challengers (Josh Hamilton, Rusney Castillo, anyone getting paid $200 million-plus) know they’ve got a mighty low bar to slum beneath.

    Because with June just 10 days away and the Phillies somehow still well above .500, Howard is the pimple on the prom queen’s

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  • The legend of Jackie Bradley Jr. grows with his 24-game hitting streak

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Jackie Bradley Jr. arrived on campus at the University of South Carolina as a freshman, the first thing his new teammates did was ask whether the legend was real. A few months earlier, at a high school showcase event that uses radar guns to clock everything aside from the speed of the groundskeeper, a reading popped up on a Bradley throw from the outfield that seemed too high to believe: 101 mph.

    "We ask him, 'Is it true?' " said Whit Merrifield, one of Bradley's college teammates. "He's in street clothes, kind of hanging out. He said, 'Give me a ball.' So he grabbed the ball, went to home plate and threw it over the batter's eye."

    Jackie Bradley Jr. has rarely cooled off since the season began. (AP)Jackie Bradley Jr. has rarely cooled off since the season began. (AP)At Sarge Frye Field, the old home of the Gamecocks, the center-field fence was 390 feet away and the batter's eye past that. No warm-up. No stretching. Bradley just took a baseball, chucked it about 400 feet and let everyone there know that this was some different kind of talent.

    And seven years later, finally, others are coming

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  • Why David Ortiz still plans on retiring despite his amazing start

    Earlier this week, after another age-defying night, David Ortiz received a text message from a friend: “Man, you’re [expletive] your retirement up!” Ortiz laughed, because what else could he do? He is 40 years old. For the first six weeks of what he said would be his last season, he was the best hitter in baseball. That’s what everyone knew. They didn’t understand that it hurts Ortiz just to walk. And the energy it takes to steel his mind against his own second-guessing, let alone others’. And here was a friend – a Yankees fan no less – telling Ortiz not to go, not yet.

    David Ortiz (AP Photo)David Ortiz (AP Photo)There’s a magnetism about Ortiz, one that developed in 2003 and grew more ferrous by the year. He is outsized and beloved for it. He doesn’t talk; he thunders. He doesn’t hit; he wallops. He is Boston’s and the Dominican Republic’s and the world’s, and as much as the prospect of baseball without Big Papi feels like a donut without coffee to dunk it in, the reality of it is magnified by what he’s doing. It’s like Kobe

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  • Sources: Tim Lincecum closing in on a deal with Los Angeles Angels

    Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is closing in on a deal with the Los Angeles Angels, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports. While the terms of the contract have yet to be finalized, the expectation is it will be a one-year major league deal.

    Tim Lincecum (AP Photo)Tim Lincecum (AP Photo)Lincecum, 31, is returning from hip surgery and expected to need a few starts in the minor leagues before he joins the Angels’ injury-plagued rotation. Other teams interested included the San Francisco Giants, with whom Lincecum had spent his nine-year career and won three World Series rings, and the Chicago White Sox.

    The Angels emerged as the most involved in recent days, hoping to reverse what thus far has been a disappointing season, with Lincecum helping to stabilize their rotation. He impressed scouts and executives in a recent showcase, hitting 92 mph with his fastball and spinning good curveballs and changeups.

    It was the healthiest Lincecum has felt in years. The hip surgery sapped him of the freakish athleticism that was the hallmark

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  • 10 Degrees: Meet the worst baseball free agent class in decades

    Late last week, in the midst of one of his unconscious jags, Yoenis Cespedes did something that sounded impossible: walk in five consecutive games. Cespedes is professionally impatient, addicted to swinging. Only once before had he gone at least five straight games drawing a walk. That was in September of his rookie season after an 18-game stretch he went without a single base on balls.

    Yoenis Cespedes (Getty Images)Yoenis Cespedes (Getty Images)All of which is to say: If this is more than a small sample and Cespedes actually has evolved in his approach at the plate, it only strengthens his case as the No. 1 free agent in the class of 2016-17 following the Washington Nationals spending $175 million to remove the incumbent, Stephen Strasburg. Cespedes’ case is strong: He is among the best hitters in the class, at 30 years old he’s a few years younger than the better bats, he has acquitted himself well enough in center field and this is the worst free agent pitching class since perhaps 2007, when Carlos Silva received the only multiyear deal

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  • Prospect Heat Check: The kid with more hype than Clayton Kershaw

    Dodgers prospect Julio Urias is receiving more hype than Clayton Kershaw. (AP)Dodgers prospect Julio Urias is receiving more hype than Clayton Kershaw. (AP)At some point this season, Julio Urias will arrive in Los Angeles, the finest pitching prospect to wear a Dodgers uniform since some kid named Kershaw came up in 2008 to the sort of breathless hype he somehow managed to exceed. Those were the nascent days of prospect fetishizing. Now it's a full-on industry and Urias is its pure embodiment.

    From the moment he played full-season minor league ball as a 16-year-old, he was different: preternaturally confident, unnaturally talented beyond his years like a particularly supple new vintage that tastes a couple decades old. The Dodgers let him ripen even more, and here he is now, throwing six-inning no-hitters at Triple-A that ended only because the Dodgers needed to return the 19-year-old to his glass case.

    It would feel wrong if anyone else led off the year's first Prospect Heat Check, a look around the minor leagues at who's hot, who's not and who's next. Urias' arrival isn't necessarily imminent, but it will happen at some point this

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  • If Bryce Harper wants to be baseball's biggest star, he has some lessons to learn

    Eight days before Bryce Harper got himself suspended for furrowing his brow, pointing at an umpire and unleashing a vitriolic F-bomb that TV cameras caught in all their high-definition glory, he was talking to me about the importance of his relationship with young baseball fans. In retrospect, it's an interesting conversation that shows the chasm between the place Harper is and where he wants to be.

    In Harper's mind, he is the player trying to Make Baseball Fun Again. He is the most marketable player of his generation, the reigning MVP who happens to match his talent with a cool coif of hair and a big personality. All of these things are true. They do not exist in a vacuum, though. When you foist yourself into the center of a sport whose customs and traditions don't necessarily dovetail with your whole vibe, certain requirements exist. It's not kissing the ring so much as acknowledging who wears it and what it's going to take to win them over.

    Because while Harper, an outfielder for

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  • The Nationals' $175 million gamble on Stephen Strasburg's elbow

    No team in baseball treats surgically repaired elbows with the cocksureness of the Washington Nationals. They engaged in a shutdown that angered more Washingtonians than Ted Cruz’s and refused to budge from it despite immense public pressure. They spent not one but two first-round picks on kids who needed Tommy John surgery and watched one develop into an untouchable prospect and the other into a likely major leaguer. What they did Monday is the most cavalier of all, because this bet on themselves – on an elbow – will cost them $175 million.

    Stephen Strasburg (AP Photo)Stephen Strasburg (AP Photo)The Nationals, Stephen Strasburg and the scar that traces his right elbow – and understand, the scar is more than your average accessory – finalized a seven-year, $175 million contract extension during Strasburg’s start Monday night. The deal will include opt-outs after the third and fourth seasons if the 27-year-old Strasburg decides to test the free-agent market.

    Washington lavished enough cash on Strasburg to make what seemed like a free-agency

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  • Source: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals agree on $175 million extension

    Stephen Strasburg (Getty Images)Stephen Strasburg (Getty Images)Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals agreed on a seven-year, $175 million contract Monday, a league source told Yahoo Sports, wedding perhaps the most hyped pitching prospect in history to the team that drafted him and saw him through a controversial shutdown after his Tommy John surgery.

    The news, first reported by The Washington Post, shocked a baseball industry that had expected Strasburg, 27, to test free agency this offseason. Instead, Strasburg agreed to a contract that makes him among the 10 highest-paid pitchers in history despite the injury issues that have limited him to just one 200-inning-plus season.

    Strasburg was in the midst of his worst start of the season when the news of the deal, which a source said includes an opt-out after the third or fourth season, broke. The deal also includes a $1 million bonus for each year he throws at least 180 innings, the source said. Strasburg entered Monday’s game with a 2.36 ERA, 47 strikeouts and nine walks in 42 innings and

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  • 10 Degrees: The scary trend Matt Harvey and other aces are facing

    The number of frontline starters who have lost a significant amount of fastball velocity compared to the first month-plus of last season is startling. This isn’t just a few stragglers. It’s a half-dozen of the game’s best pitchers and a handful more in the next tier. It’s Cy Young winners and superheroes and $200 million men and royalty.

    Matt Harvey (AP Photo)Matt Harvey (AP Photo)No great unifying explanation seems to exist. Some are hard throwers who aren’t throwing as hard. Some have considerable mileage on their arms. Some are showing the vagaries of age. One, actually, is purposely not throwing as hard. Not all velo dips are the same, though all do raise eyebrows at a time when pitches zoom in faster than ever.

    A year-over-year drop in April doesn’t necessarily portend doom. Pitchers can find their stuff in a snap. (See: Mat Latos, whose fastball averaged 91.4 mph in his last start after sitting at 89.3 mph for all of April.) The fear, of course, is that when fastball velo goes, it’s often for a permanent vacation. And

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