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.

  • Astros acquire left-hander Scott Kazmir from A's

    In 18 starts this season, Scott Kazmir is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings. (Getty)In 18 starts this season, Scott Kazmir is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings. (Getty)The resurgent Houston Astros traded for Oakland A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir on Thursday, kicking off a weeklong march to the July 31 deadline still teeming with gridlock because of persistent questions about which teams are buying and selling.

    The 31-year-old Kazmir, struggling in an independent league as recently as 2012, joins an Astros team in need of pitching depth as it tries to catch the red-hot Los Angeles Angels, who surged to the American League West lead on the back of a seven-game winning streak. For two months of Kazmir, a free agent-to-be, Houston sent Class A right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham to Oakland.

    In 18 starts this season, Kazmir is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 109⅔ innings. Because he was traded midseason, he will not be subject to a qualifying offer and thus will enter free agency unrestricted, a huge boon for him.

    [Play a Daily Fantasy contest for cash today!l]

    The rest of the pitching market will sort itself out in the

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  • Lorenzo Cain has the best smile in baseball and wore it for good reason against the Pirates

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the 6.3 seconds between the time he released the ball and the umpire at home plate punched his fist to signal an out, Lorenzo Cain leaned against the center-field fence, lips pursed, silently cursing himself. It was the ninth inning of a late-July game between the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates that felt like it wouldn't at all be out of place in late October, and what unfolded in front of him existed only because of the rarest kind of play: a Lorenzo Cain misread.

    Cain in center field is baseball sonar, tracking every ball hit with precision and speed, and he had malfunctioned in the worst moment. Even after letting Jung Ho Kang's fly ball soar over his head, Cain managed to embody these Royals in six seconds of delirium. The perfect throw to shortstop Alcides Escobar. And his perfect relay to catcher Salvador Perez. And his perfect tag on Starling Marte for the first out of the inning.

    And, finally, the smile.

    The best smile in baseball belongs to

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  • 25 Degrees: It's Mike Trout's world

    Six years ago, the first version of this column grew from the kung-fu grip Manny Ramirez held on the baseball world. Everything revolved around him, swallowed whole by his immense orbit. The second half of 2009 started with him ready to carry the Dodgers and ended with him missing the ninth inning of a playoff game to shower.

    Today, the centerpiece of the baseball world is there for a different reason. It’s certainly tiresome after nearly four seasons of fawning over …

    1. Mike Trout to keep coming up with ways to describe what we’re witnessing. Perhaps it’s best to be simple with it then: This is perhaps the greatest start to a career ever. Trout’s evolution into a destructive slugger took time, but his 26 first-half home runs are almost as many as he hit in 2013, when he should’ve won the MVP award. He’s got 124 career homers, 30 shy of passing Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews for the most through an age-23 season. In fact, Trout’s numbers could practically mirror Alex Rodriguez’s by the

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  • It’s time for Rob Manfred to end All-Star Game’s absurd World Series tie-in

    The first six months of Rob Manfred’s tenure as baseball commissioner can’t be seen as anything other than a success, some his doing, some by happenstance. Among his welcome gifts were Alex Rodriguez playing good citizen and a ready-made excuse for Pete Rose’s continued exclusion from the game dropping in his lap and an unprecedented wave of great young players joining the major leagues. It’s like Manfred calling heads 25 straight times and staring at George Washington’s face every single one.

    Giving all the credit to luck would be wrong, though, because Manfred has positioned himself as a baseball progressive, thorough and open-minded, not resistant to change so long as the change is pragmatic. He oversaw the successful new Home Run Derby format. He has sliced nearly 10 minutes off the average game time. In anticipation of the upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations – the informal discussions will turn formal after this season, according to sources from both sides – Manfred has

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  • How a clock – and a free-swinging kid from Jersey – saved the Home Run Derby

    CINCINNATI – Clocks are supposed to be baseball's mortal enemy, forbidden at the ballpark, where time is immaterial, the game unfolding at its own pace. Baseball, of course, enjoys little more than holding onto its history and traditions until they're relics, and the introduction of the between-innings clock this year paved the way for an unexpected occurrence Monday night: a clock saved the Home Run Derby.

    Absent a Josh Hamilton reckoning, the Derby had fallen into a stale stasis, a few minutes of oohs and aahs yielding to a few hours of the same … thing … over … and over. Small tinkering in past years lent little improvement, so baseball this year overhauled the whole thing and watched its finest Derby since Hamilton took New York in 2008 and one of its best ever.

    Almost certainly that wouldn't be the case if Todd Frazier hadn't stormed Great American Ball Park with the backing of 43,587 fans who cheer him daily as one of the only things on the Cincinnati Reds worth cheering. The

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  • Three years later, Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper is a one-sided knockout

    CINCINNATI – Here, in one simple thought experiment, the difference between Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

    At Monday's All-Star Game media session, the best players in the world were given a hypothetical scenario. Brand-new team, starting from scratch. You're the GM and get to pick one player around whom to build the franchise. Who is that player?

    "Maybe Clayton Kershaw?" Trout said. "I like to watch Kershaw."

    Mike Trout (left) and Bryce Harper shake hands before a game last season. (AP)Mike Trout (left) and Bryce Harper shake hands before a game last season. (AP)Trout is 23 years old, the center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels, reigning MVP of the American League, favorite to win this year's, too. He is, by most measures, the best player in baseball. And as he chose Kershaw, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace typically seen as his pitching doppelganger, Trout was reminded he could select himself if he so desired.

    "Naw," Trout said. "I'm not gonna take myself."

    In 2012, Trout made his first All-Star team as a 20-year-old, and he looked positively wizened next to the 19-year-old Harper, he of the Sports Illustrated cover and skipping of his

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  • The nerd who throws 98: Meet the top prospect who stays true to his gamer roots

    CINCINNATI – In the downtime during the tedium that is recovery from Tommy John surgery, Lucas Giolito would retire to his hotel room and try to kill a dragon. Its name was Alduin, and it was the chief villain in “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” the video game that consumed much of Giolito’s ample free time in 2012 and 2013.

    “I got heavy into that,” Giolito said Sunday morning, hours before he threw two scoreless innings as the United States’ starting pitcher in the Futures Game that kicked off All-Star week at Great American Ball Park. On one hand, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise Giolito got lost in the video-game world considering his father, Rick, was in charge of producing the Medal of Honor series that sold more than 30 million copies.

    Lucas Giolito throws a pitch in the first inning Sunday in the Futures Game. (Getty Images)Lucas Giolito throws a pitch in the first inning Sunday in the Futures Game. (Getty Images)Then there is this: Giolito might be the best baseball prospect in the world, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound monster whose fastball threatens triple digits and whose curveball goes from 12 to 6 like a rave and whose ability to throw both for strikes

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  • Quick pitch: How the most inventive team in baseball is at it again

    Down they went, first Alex Cobb, then Drew Smyly, eventually Jake Odorizzi, and the one thing upon which the Tampa Bay Rays thought they could rely abandoned them in a flurry of damaged ligaments and muscles. Living on a $75 million payroll in Major League Baseball today already feels like sporting poverty. Doing so with a disabled list full of potential frontline starting pitchers makes an inequitable existence damn near impossible.

    So the Rays did what they do better than just about everybody else in baseball: brainstorm. Even without general manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, both gone to richer pastures in Los Angeles and Chicago, the Rays’ braintrust remained the envy of many. Matt Silverman slid over seamlessly from team president to GM, Kevin Cash impressed people across the game with the sort of intelligence and open-mindedness rare in a rookie manager, and the cohesion between the front office and coaching staff never flinched, not even in desperate times.

    The Rays have noticed how starters aren't as effective the third time through an order. (Getty)The Rays have noticed how starters aren't as effective the third time through an order. (Getty)The

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  • The ridiculous snubbing of Clayton Kershaw and how the MLB All-Star Game lost its way

    Baseball loves to fall back on this notion that its All-Star Game is the finest in American professional sports, which it unquestionably is, even if that’s like being the best-smelling durian. The NBA All-Star Game embraces that it’s not a game with 48 minutes of back-and-forth dunking. The NFL’s Pro Bowl is so bad the league’s commissioner wanted to cancel it. Players regularly come down with mysterious injuries on the eve of the NHL All-Star Game in order to skip it.

    At the same time, MLB’s All-Star Game is suffering from a bit of identity crisis in the wake of the full-team announcements Monday night that left one of its most recognizable players – one of the only players who embodies the star in All-Star – needing to win another round of fan voting simply to participate.Clayton Kershaw is 5-6 with a 3.08 ERA this season, but those numbers are deceiving. (AP)Clayton Kershaw is 5-6 with a 3.08 ERA this season, but those numbers are deceiving. (AP)

    Clayton Kershaw is not some random jabroni. He is The Best Pitcher In The World, earning every one of those capital letters with a five-year run that stands with the best in the game’s history. And because his

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  • 10 Degrees: First-half awards feature Max Scherzer as king of the hill

    The halfway mark of the season for most teams passed last week, and the era of serial mediocrity is upon baseball. The worst team in the American League came into Sunday on pace to lose 89 games. The best team in the AL is on pace to win 93. The worst team, the Oakland A's, have a plus-49 run differential. The best team, the Kansas City Royals, are at plus-46.

    Throw out St. Louis and Philadelphia, the season's outliers of excellence and malodorousness, and the National League is a mighty similar wasteland of parity. Really bad teams, like the Milwaukee Brewers, are capable of ripping off eight-game winning streaks. And really good teams, like the Washington Nationals, can lose six straight one time and 11 of 14 another and still lead the East by 4 ½ games.

    A million numbers exist to show the chasm between good and bad in baseball, measured in inches and not miles. It's why one general manager this week predicted a trade deadline sponsored by the mute button: "Everyone thinks they can

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