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New York Mets’ Edwin Diaz in danger of losing closer gig



After his latest ninth-inning blowup, New York Mets‘ closer Edwin Diaz might be in danger of losing the title, after manager Luis Rojas said after Thursday’s game that “we need to talk” about possibly removing him from the role.

Diaz, who came to the New York Mets before the start of last season alongside Robinson Cano from the Seattle Mariners, keeps struggling to find the strike zone and shows a perplexing inability to miss bats with his high-90s heater.

If you look at the numbers, Diaz’s last appearance on Thursday against the Red Sox wasn’t a complete disaster, as he struck out one batter while allowing one earned run on one hit and two walks. But it was the last inning, the Mets lost, and it has been a recurring occurrence.

Will the Mets make a change?

Put in context, Diaz retired just one of the five batters he faced, and that ain’t going to cut it. “We need to talk,” Rojas said. “That’s something that we’re going to do as a staff, me as the manager, and we’ll talk with the player. We want to keep him on track to what he showed us in camp that he didn’t show tonight. It’s something that, from our coaching standpoint, we’ve got to detect right away and just work on it, fix it quick. Because we liked what we saw in the first two camps and what we saw earlier in the season. Tonight was definitely different.”

This season, Diaz has handed three free passes in 2.1 innings, for a 11.57 BB/9. He has a 7.71 ERA and a blown save, and last season, he had seven of those.

“Different Díaz than what I saw [in the] first camp,” Rojas said to “Different Díaz than what I saw in camp now, and then what I saw the first two outings. Arm-side misses, pulling the ball, slider backing up. Not the same Díaz we’ve seen recently.”

If the Mets do decided to remove Diaz from closing duties, they may have several candidates to replace him. The most natural one is Jeurys Familia (4.91 ERA, 2.26 FIP in 2020,) but Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances could also be options.

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Scarypoolparty Livestreaming Three Shows From The Wiltern, With Crew Nation Benefit VIP Gig




Nicole Busch

Virtuoso multi-instrumentalist Scarypool party will perform three livestreams from The Wiltern in Los Angeles Sept. 27, with a VIP acoustic set benefitting Crew Nation. 

Scarypoolparty will perform two full live sets with a band, the first at The Wiltern since March, along with the 5 p.m. Crew Nation acoustic benefit. 

Fans who join early will enjoy a virtual backstage pass to the show with multiple cameras set up throughout the venue capturing live behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the artist before the show starts. 

These live concerts will feature first class show production including LED visuals. The concert is produced by Live Nation.

The first live stream concert will take place at 12pm PT/3pm ET/8pm BT with the second at 6pm PT/9pm ET.

Scarypoolparty, aka Alejandro Aranda, quickly went from doing his very first headlining concerts in his native Southern California to being on the brink of selling out 30 dates on his first true tour.

His manager, Jonathan Shank who recently formed his own Terrapin Station Entertainment company, says the livestream phenomenon has evolved a lot since the pandemic hit in March.

“The first few months were really rooted in people playing in their living rooms and we’ve certainly seen some incredible platforms emerge and festivals really raise  the bar in terms of production,” Shank told Pollstar a few weeks ago. “I think that’s going to continue to work. There’s some spontaneity to that and it does have the feeling of a communal experience. That really is the key to the livestreams – how to make them feel like communal experiences as opposed to existing in a vacuum.

“Another thing I’ll say is as an industry we all need to be supporting our local venues. Getting our local artists to livestream from our local venues is one of the most important things we can be doing now. That’s something I’m working personally on right now – to try to get some of our artists to do livestream shows – no-audience performances – but inside iconic venues. We need to support these facilities and venue owners and all of the crew and staff that are such an important part of our ecosystem. We all know that the longer this pandemic goes on, the more venues are going to be affected. “

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Swiggy Delivery Workers Strike, Gig Economy Rebels & More




Swiggy delivery workers went on strikes on Hyderabad and Noida to protest against low wages

Flipkart has on-boarded Paytm’s e-wallet on its platform to offer customers another payment option

Facebook has said that content moderation is handled by an independent team and not by the public policy head

The season of strikes is upon us. Their sufferings accentuated by the financial disruption caused due to the Covid-19 pandemic, delivery workers with Indian foodtech unicorn Swiggy went on strikes in two cities this week — Hyderabad and Noida. Their grievances were largely similar, reduction of minimum payout per order from INR 35 to INR 15, removal of performance-based monthly incentives of up to INR 5,000 and a lack of social security even as they continue to work in harm’s way, delivering orders to hundreds of customers while the pandemic shows no signs of abating. 

Swiggy’s response to the grievances of its delivery workers also remains cold and distant, like the automated statement aimed to assuage, not by addressing the concerns of its workforce, but by downplaying their reservations altogether. 

“Most delivery partners in Hyderabad make over INR 45 per order, with the highest performing partners making over INR 75 per order. This INR 15 is only one of the many components of the service fee,” a Swiggy spokesperson told Inc42 when asked about the workers’ strike in Hyderabad.

“Naturally, no active delivery partners in Hyderabad have made only INR 15 per order in the last four weeks. It is important to note that the service fee per order is based on multiple factors to adequately compensate our partners including distance travelled, waiting time, customer experience, shift completion and incentives. Regular competitive benchmarking shows that these are at par, if not higher than the industry standards.” 

When asked about the removal of monthly incentives of up to INR 5,000 for delivery workers, Swiggy has claimed that the incentives weren’t benefiting a large section of the delivery workers. So, the company claims to have substituted those with incentives on a daily basis, not disclosing the amount which the worker stands to earn from the same. 

Nevertheless, protesting workers don’t seem to agree with the company’s stance on the usefulness of the monthly incentives.

Tellingly, the company’s delivery executives have now gone on strike in three different cities in the last 30 days. Their ‘season of strikes’ began in Chennai last month when workers took to the streets to protest against low wages. A few days later, Swiggy claimed that it had had a positive dialogue with its delivery workers and that the company was back to serving the entire city of Chennai. However, if the strikes in Hyderabad and Noida prove anything, it’s that the company isn’t willing to accept the demands of its delivery executives. At least not without waiting for the entire issue to boil over, for the workers’ will to protest to die out of desperation, and the need for an income eventually forcing them to return to work. 

The strikes by Swiggy’s delivery executives are only an indication of the sufferings of India’s gig economy workers. You can read this week’s The Outline by Inc42 Plus to gain a comprehensive understanding of why India’s gig economy workers are up in arms. 

Other Developments

  • Hospitality chain OYO has refuted allegations made by a Chandigarh-based businessman Vikas Gupta, who claimed that the company had abruptly terminated its agreement with him and then asked him to pay penalties.
  • Ecommerce giant Flipkart is integrating digital payments giant Paytm’s e-wallet on its platform, allowing users to select the option at checkout. The move is surprising as it could have a detrimental effect on Flipkart-owned digital payments player PhonePe, which competes with Paytm in the digital payments landscape.
  • Meanwhile, even as Chinese investments in India come under a heavy lens amid the border standoff between the two countries, Flipkart has raised $62.8 Mn from Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent Holdings. The Chinese company will own about 4 to 5.3% stake in Flipkart Pte, which is the online retailer’s Singapore-based holding. Though this is a small investment in the ecommerce giant, it comes as a time when the anti-China sentiment is at its peak.
  • Global tech giant Apple will be launching its first online Apple Store in India on September 23 offering a full range of its products and support directly to the customers across India. The company has assured that it will offer the same “premium experience” online as it does in its brick-and-mortar stores.
  • While Facebook’s India public policy head Ankhi Das continues to face the heat for failing to clamp down on hateful posts by politicians of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the company’s India vice president and managing director Ajit Mohan has claimed that content moderation on the platform is enforced by an independent team and not by the director of public policy.
  • This week, Facebook also made the news when it skipped a hearing of the Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee, which is probing the social media giant’s direct or indirect hand in the Delhi Riots of February. Facebook argued that since it had already deposed before a parliamentary panel, and because the centre is in charge of the moderation of intermediaries (Facebook), so the Delhi Assembly should withdraw its summons. The Delhi Assembly committee was peeved by Facebook’s reply and said that it would issue another summons to the social media giant, as a ‘final warning’ to depose before the committee.
  • After months of relative calm, cryptocurrency stakeholders were jolted out of their bliss by a source-based Bloomberg report which said that the Indian government was moving fast to ban all virtual currencies in India and that a bill for the same would be introduced in the ongoing session of the parliament. Inc42 talked to some of the stakeholders in India’s crypto industry to understand whether the speculations should be taken seriously. You can read the full story here.

Among the movers and shakers this week, ByteDance’s director of public policy, Nitin Saluja, has joined Amazon India as senior public policy manager. Also, Facebook has appointed former COO of Ola Mobility as the director of its Global Business Group. 

From the funding and acquisitions corner, overall, $448.44 Mn was invested across 23 Indian startups this week, and three acquisitions took place.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of News Roundup.

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Firm tracks extended workforce, wins Shark Tank-style contest during Collaboration in the Gig Economy conference




September 18, 2020

Utmost Software Inc. was the judges’ pick among four workforce ecosystem technology startups presenting in a competition styled after the television show Shark Tank on Thursday. The event was part of the Collaboration in the Gig Economy virtual conference bringing together staffing firms, buyers and HR tech.

All four finalists were chosen from a number of firms to present before a panel of four judges, who picked their top startup.

Utmost provides software that enables enterprise firms to track their extended workforces, which include contingent workers, consultants, contractors and freelancers, among others. Unlike VMS providers, which are typically supplier-paid, the company has a set pricing model that is paid by enterprise firms themselves.

Utmost is also native to Workday and focuses exclusively on Workday customers. In addition, Workday is an investor in the company and Utmost co-founder and COO Dan Beck himself comes from Workday.

That relationship was one thing that caught judges’ attention.

“I like the business, it’s got a built-in customer base,” said Jai Shekhawat, one of the Shark judges. Shekhawat is also founder and former CEO of SAP Fieldglass. However, he did question why Utmost chose its pricing model when enterprise firms are more accustomed to the VMS supplier-paid model.

“I think he has a bright future ahead of him; not easy, but I wish him all the best,” Shekhawat said.

Timing, thoughtfulness and focus were also cited by the other three judges:

  • “Although there was something timely in everything we saw today, Utmost, in particular, I think is really timely to what enterprise customers, HR executives, hiring managers are trying to solve right now,” said Rebecca Henderson, CEO and executive board member at Randstad nv.
  • “All of the startups were really interesting,” said Pete Flint, managing partner of NFX, a venture capital firm. “Utmost stood out, just their thoughtfulness, their experience, their distribution; I think that really stood out. This is a terrific opportunity; it’s a burning need for many enterprises.”
  • “The criteria of innovation, market opportunity and the quality of the presentations made it really tough because some may be more innovative than others and some might have a bigger market opportunity,” said Gary Swart, partner at Polaris Partners, an investment firm. “I think Dan’s focus was a differentiator. The fact that there is not only an innovative solution but a focused go-to-market, not trying to boil the ocean and tackle too much.”

The other finalists presenting to the Shark Tank panel were:

  • Emma El-Karout, founder and CEO of One Circle, a digital community of on-demand HR freelancers.
  • Matthew Mottola, co-founder and CEO of Venture L. The company is described as a Shopify for running freelance businesses that enables freelancers to scale their operations.
  • Alexander Torrenegra, CEO of Torre, a professional network that is friendly for both knowledge workers and blue-collar workers that uses programmatic automatic matching for jobs.

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