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Tomas Nido’s last stand for the backup catcher gig

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Tomas Nido’s time as the New York Mets backup catcher could come to an end before the year begins. Does he deserve one last chance?

The New York Mets begin the 2020 MLB season with high aspirations and championship dreams. For the first time in years, the team boasts several dangerous hitters such as Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto. This, in tandem with the franchise’s loaded pitching staff of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Dellin Betances, and Edwin Diaz, should put the team in an excellent position.

However, while the roster looks as loaded as it has been in several seasons, there are still a few question marks remaining. Chief among them is the battle at backup catcher. The Mets wisely elected to retain 2019 starter Wilson Ramos. The 32-year-old’s 14 home runs, 73 RBI, and .288 average gave the franchise the most productivity they have seen from their catcher position in several years.

However, a recent reunion with journeyman Rene Rivera has created competition for the second backstop. Rivera, who has played for the Mets one and off since 2016, will compete with incumbent Tomas Nido for the right to back up Ramos.

Let’s take a look at how the two options compare.

Defense

Both players are considered to be defensive specialists at the major league level. While it is important that either be ready to work under any circumstances, there is one factor that rises above all others: a rapport with Syndergaard.

While Syndergaard is clearly a gifted pitcher, he struggled working with Ramos. In fact, the went as far as asking to work exclusively with a personal catcher last season.

Both Nido and Rivera have a good track record with Thor. Rivera played two games (12.2 innings) with the starter last season to the tune of a 2.84 ERA, a .265 batting average allowed, and five stolen bases allowed.

Nido, on the other hand, recorded 78 innings in tandem with Syndergaard. During that time, the pitcher posted a 2.88 ERA, with a .230 batting average allowed along with 16 stolen bases allowed. The pair also recorded 73 innings in 2018 (with a 1.97 ERA, .219 batting average allowed, and 10 stolen bases allowed).

While the production is similar, Nido gets the edge based on his larger sample size with Thor.

Offense

Neither player is considered to be a dangerous hitter. However, the player that wins the roster spot will likely receive multiple at-bats every week.

Rivera has a career average of .221, including .235 last season. While this is considered poor production by any standard, it easily tops Nido’s career mark of .187 (including .191). Rivera also posted a higher overall WAR (-0.1) compared to Nido (-0.7) in 2019.

Give the offensive advantage to Rivera.

Other Factors

The only other major factor in the battle deals with the player’s ages. Nido, who is currently 25 years old, has spent his entire three years MLB career in Flushing. Rivera, who is an 11-years journeyman, is currently 36 years old.

To be clear, there is a distinct value in veteran experience. The Mets, who are obviously in “win-now” mode, could also benefit from a better bat in their lineup. These factors make this a difficult decision for general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and company.

Conclusion

Considering all of this information, Nido should be given a slight edge to begin the season on the main roster. Not only does he have the benefit of more time working with Syndergaard, but his age gives him additional overall value. Unless the Mets are able to trade Nido for something worthwhile, they should select Nido has their backup catcher in 2020, while keeping Rivera on speed-dial in the event an injury occurs.

However, the player’s performances during Spring Training could be enough to turn the tables.

Next: Three Pete Alonso predictions for 2020

Who do you think is most deserving of the backup catcher position?

 



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Egypt wants to register millions of gig workers for state insurance, aid

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CAIRO: Egypt will start registering millions of gig workers in order to offer them health insurance and emergency state aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a particularly heavy toll on the nation’s ad-hoc employees, officials said.

There are at least 14 million gig workers in Egypt, and while some workers and campaigners welcomed the government’s drive, others warned that many workers could be reluctant to sign up – fearing tax and social security payment demands.

The government said it plans to identify and support two million gig workers in the country of 100 million people by the end of this year, labour ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din said on Saturday.

“It is part of a government plan to give assistance to this segment of the society which has been majorly affected by the pandemic,” he said, adding that officials were focusing first on identifying casual construction labourers.

Gig workers who have their employment status registered on their national identity cards under a new “irregular employment” category will be given free social security insurance and be eligible for state welfare programmes.

Egypt’s state-run insurance plan includes life insurance and disability cover, as well as covering healthcare costs.

The announcement is the latest in a series of government measures aimed at shielding vulnerable groups from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak began, it launched a programme that supports irregular workers with monthly aid, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for financial support to be boosted when a second virus wave took hold.

State welfare spending surged 36% in the first half of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said recently.

On the books

Some daily labourers hailed the registration drive as a positive step, saying it would help bring them into the formal economy and recognise their economic contribution.

“Millions of Egyptians have been affected by this pandemic but it’s really good that the government is not leaving us behind,” said Farouk Mahmoud, 35, a temporary worker from the city of Sohag.

Still, while the latest data puts the number of gig workers at 14 million, the real number may be much higher – making registering them a daunting administrative task, said Bassant Fahmi, a member of parliament’s economic affairs committee.

Some workers may also be wary about being on the books.

“Many of them may fear being asked afterwards to pay taxes or insurance. That could mean a lot of gig workers avoiding being identified by the government,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But besides any misgivings about being under the government’s radar, many gig workers in Egypt are more concerned about the dearth of permanent job opportunities – especially for young people – and the health of the wider economy.

“It isn’t crucial for me to have a job on my ID,” said Abanoub Lotfi, a 26-year-old driver for ride-hailing service Uber, who has a degree in commerce.

“What really matters is that the government offers me a stable job that suits my academic background and helps me afford my needs and those of my family.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation



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Self-employed, gig workers still waiting on PPP rules for bigger loans

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Virojt Changyencham | Moment | Getty Images

The self-employed and gig workers are anxiously waiting for the Small Business Association to update guidelines to its Paycheck Protection Program, which could mean bigger loans for the group.

The Biden administration announced last week changes to how the SBA will calculate forgivable loans for sole proprietors and other small businesses without any employees. The updated formula — which will likely lead to larger loan amounts for non-employer firms, including sole proprietors and independent contractors — will be announced this week.

It’s still unclear when in the week the SBA will update its guidelines, meaning that those who would benefit from the change should still wait to submit their applications for the program.

More from Invest in You:
Smallest businesses getting extra PPP help. What to know before applying
Black small-business owners are being left behind in pandemic, survey finds
Black leaders offer several key steps to help close racial wealth gap

“Loans submitted prior to the official rule changes are subject to the rules in effect at the time of application,” said Carol Wilkerson, an SBA spokesperson.

That’s led to frustration for some who want to take advantage of the two-week priority application window for the smallest businesses that went into effect on Feb. 24 and ends the second week of March. Of course, sole proprietors will still be able to apply for PPP loans until the program deadline at the end of the month; they just won’t get priority treatment once the 14-day exclusivity window closes.

For now, lenders are working to help borrowers prepare what they can to be ready for the updated guidelines.

“We’ve always taken the approach of, ‘Hey, we don’t have all the answers, but let’s proceed as far as we can without the answers,'” said Ed Barry, CEO of Capital Bank, based in Rockville, Maryland.

Barry added that the bank is also working to build awareness among small businesses that may not realize that they’re now eligible for a PPP loan.

What is known about the formula change so far

For firms with employees, maximum PPP loans are 2.5 times average monthly payroll costs, per the SBA. As a stand-in for payroll costs for solo workers, the SBA used net profit information from tax returns, even though payroll and profit are different measures.

In addition, the net profit line includes deductions, which reduced or eliminated profit numbers for some, yielding small loans or making them ineligible for the program.

The updated formula will instead use gross income as a stand-in for payroll costs, a larger number than net income, meaning many firms will get more money in forgivable loans.

Loans submitted prior to the official rule changes are subject to the rules in effect at the time of application.

Carol Wilkerson

SBA spokesperson

“It’s a tremendous change,” said Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed.

The change is important, as sole proprietorships are the most common business structure in the U.S. The IRS says there are some 41 million self-employed people in the country and, in 2018, more than 27 million had filed a return with an IRS 1040 Schedule C form for sole proprietors, according the agency.

Many of these businesses have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. About 70% of such firms with no employees are owned by women and people of color, and 95% of Black-owned and 91% of Latino-owned firms are sole proprietorships, according to SBA data.

But so far, very little forgivable funding from the SBA has gone to sole proprietorships — according to a recent survey from NASE, nearly two-thirds of its members said they didn’t get any money from the program.

Much of that was due to confusion in the early days of the program around eligibility and forgiveness, which are hopefully clearer today, Hall said.

“Many of the reasons that those small-business owners did not either apply or get approved for a PPP loan — I think many of those barriers have been removed,” he said.

Questions remain

To be sure, other changes to the PPP program that the Biden administration announced last week do go into effect today, March 1 — some student loan borrowers, legal non-residents and those with certain criminal records are now eligible to apply for forgivable loans.

Still, there are further questions for sole proprietors around the timing of applications, especially for those who already got a loan approved but would get more under the new formula. So far, there isn’t a process for amending a dispersed loan, or holding back an application that’s currently pending.

“All unknowns right now,” said Alex Cohen, CEO of Liberty SBF.

If you’re a small business with a story to share about PPP, email Carmen Reinicke at carmen.reinicke@nbcuni.com

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CHECK OUT: Here’s the credit score you need to buy a home via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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Dream realised in compelling live gig

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MATT KEEGAN
Mary’s Underground, February 28

★★★★

In another bid to reach beyond the musical horizon, Matt Keegan composed Vienna Dreaming as a tribute to his great grandfather, Heini Portnoj, an Austrian Jew forced to abandon his musical career in Vienna to escape the rising tide of Nazism. Three years after releasing a recording of the suite, Keegan finally presented this ambitious music in concert.

Matt Keegan and Veronique Serret. Shane Rozario

Matt Keegan and Veronique Serret. Shane RozarioCredit:Shane Rozario

Its strength lies not only in the imagination brought to bear, but in Keegan’s empathy for his subject, his intent being to slide inside the mind of his great grandfather, both as events unfolded in 1930s and in the aftermath, with Portnoj looking back after settling in Australia.

The concert’s instrumentation and personnel differed from the album, with only Keegan (clarinet, saxophone) and drummer Miles Thomas being shared. The album’s cello now became Veronique Serret’s violin and the double bass became Brendan Clark’s electric bass, with Ben Hauptmann (electric guitar) and Freyja Garbett (keyboards) completing the cast. These changes were much more than cosmetic, with the improvisational aspect of the work expanded, allowing for some startling individual contributions, most notably from Serret.

As consistently strong as the suite was, the opening Vienna Overture was especially compelling, with the main waltz-time theme materialising from skimming fragments of sound, dissolving back into those fragments and reassembling itself yet again – an evocation of an elderly Portnoj musing on an impossibly different time and place, long, long ago.

As with the album, the sound was carefully calibrated to shift between the familiar – the bruising intensity of Keegan’s baritone saxophone, for instance – and an extreme use of electronic treatments, including occasionally radical reverb and delay on the drums, amplifying the work’s prevailing oneiric quality and intentionally blurring clarity of outline. Ghosts of Johann Strauss, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis all seemed to materialise and dematerialise at various points, but without any sense of appropriation.

Providing an instantly engaging opening set was Yulugi, with Gumaroy Newman’s arresting voice and yidaki leading us deep into his ancestral culture, in dialogue with Keyna Wilkins’ piano and luminous flutes.

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