Comcast’s cable television, telephone, and internet arm, Xfinity, has entered the mobile phone leasing industry. You can now lease a smartphone from Xfinity Mobile.
The move likely comes as no surprise to Xfinity customers, who provide 16 million public wifi hotspots available to every other Xfinity customer in the United States. And it makes sense for Xfinity to take advantage of its network of public wifi hotspots made available by its customers for their customers.
While there were plenty of complaints from customers whose rented wireless routers were used by the company to broadcast public signals to other Xfinity customers, Xfinity allows customers to disable the public signal, despite how difficult the process might have been in the past. Customers who don’t disable the public signals are basically sharing internet bandwidth for which they pay with their fellow Xfinity customers -- a socialized hotspot network, if you will.
When you connect to a public Xfinity wifi hotspot for the first time, you’ll be asked to enter your Xfinity email and password to verify that you are a member of the Xfinity party. Your mobile device will then connect to every Xfinity wifi hotspot within range automatically (unless you deactivate auto-connect). This helps Xfinity customers use less data and save money, which was exactly what the Xfinity customer service representative echoed.
“Our plans are designed specifically to save you money,” he said. And I believe him because Xfinity Mobile offers a single gigabyte of data for just $12. It’s website states you could save anywhere from $40 per month when you switch from T-Mobile and $90 per month when switching from AT&T with their $12 per gigabyte of data plan.
According to 20SomethingFinance.com’s Jan. 2017 report, only Freedom Pop offers a cheaper mobile data plan (it’s free up to 500 texts, 200 minutes and 500 MB). Republic Wireless plans start at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text but no mobile data. Republic offers 1 GB of mobile data for $20 per month.
Xfinity Mobile is going to reap the benefits of people pinching pennies due to rising costs for rent, energy and transportation, prescription drugs and health insurance, and cable and internet services. Hell, the newly appointed Republican head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, doesn’t think people need high-speed internet service anymore because mobile data is good enough, making it more expensive for rural America to get online.
Xfinity is attempting to take advantage of a market that’s been underserved -- the poor. Even poor people need to get online, and while many have access to public wifi hotspots made available through their municipality, library or McDonald’s, not all of them have high-speed access to the internet at all times in their own homes. Xfinity Mobile can give them that without a $50-per-month internet bill or $100-per-month cable bill.
I didn’t have much of a choice when it came to internet service providers in my area. Xfinity was the only provider in my area that offered upload and download speeds that would allow me to do what I need to do everyday.
I had a terrible experience having Xfinity internet installed. While I bought my own modem and router, and had the self-installation kit sent to my house, no one bothered to check and see if my cable line was internet ready or capable of receiving a signal. It took weeks to get setup, but Xfinity made it right.
It’s going to be difficult for me to pass up on this deal now that I’m an Xfinity customer. While you can’t bring your own phone to Xfinity Mobile yet, I’m probably due for an upgrade, and since I don’t pay a mobile carrier currently, I’m in the perfect situation to be an early adopter.
I don’t even need to make calls or send texts. There are apps for that. But what I’d really like is to be able to use Google Maps with or without an Xfinity wifi hotspot. Hotspots are hard to come by when you’re driving in traffic at 70 miles per hour, and the last thing I want is for anyone to be fumbling with their phone while driving.
One gigabyte of data per month would be just enough to use my smartphone as a GPS and occasionally check email without wifi. That’s all I need, and I’m willing to pay $144 per year for something that cost me $540 per year with StraightTalk Wireless before I dumped them. I was paying $600 per year with Verizon Wireless before that, so mobile data is becoming more available to low-income Americans thanks to Xfinity Mobile.
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You’ll know when you’re seriously taking your nutrition seriously. Instead of simply logging what you eat and drink and monitoring your calories burned on the MyPlate app, you’ll be playing it like a game -- plugging in different snacks and meal combinations ahead of time -- chasing the perfect day of macronutrient consumption.
I’ve been using the MyPlate app by Livestrong for over three months now, and since I’m finally meeting my daily protein goal of 142 grams pretty regularly, I’m turning my focus to managing what percentage of my calories come from protein, fats and carbohydrates -- the macronutrients, or macros if you want to sound cool.
The MyPlate app uses recommendations for macronutrient consumption taken from The Zone Diet, which is 40 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein and 30 percent from fats. Achieving the perfect day of macronutrient consumption takes careful planning and is even harder than eating a gram of protein for each pound of your body weight.
The closest thing to a perfect day of macronutrient consumption I’ve managed was 39 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 33 percent from fats and 29 percent from protein. Those meals consisted of the following:
Slow cook some boneless beef cuts on low-to-medium heat with a can of kidney beans, a can of chili beans and a can of whole tomatoes. Add tomato paste. I add a bit of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce and a squeeze of mustard as well. Spice it up with chili powder, cayenne and black pepper. Cook for eight hours or until the beef is falling apart.
Pour a cup of chili over a sliced hamburger bun like an open-faced sandwich. Sprinkle shredded cheddar over the chili. You can add a fried egg to make the shredded beef and bean chili and egg breakfast sandwich and boost your protein consumption further.
Blend four ounces of 2% milk with one scoop of Super Advanced Whey Protein (either chocolate or vanilla), a third cup of strawberries, half a banana, and half a peach, or apple, or orange -- whatever you want. You can even blend vegetables.
Whey is the best way to reach your daily protein goals without breaking the bank or eating too much tuna or eggs. Plus, mixing whey with milk adds slower-acting casein protein and healthy fats. Adding juice adds more carbs, but a splash of orange juice with your milkshake is actually fantastic. If I’m already using an orange I hold the orange juice, though.
Macronutrient Breakdown: 35 percent carbs, 39 percent protein and 26 percent fats. This is an ideal breakfast given the caloric intake and macronutrient breakdown. There’s even room for more carbohydrates and fats, which you could get from adding a fried egg and a few more fruits to the smoothie.
While 18 pretzels result in 22 grams of carbohydrates consumed, Newman’s Own High-Protein Pretzels also carry 5 grams of protein per serving. Plus, all profits go to charity, and the pretzels are delicious despite their lack of salt and overall healthiness. I generally only eat half a serving after my big breakfast.
The easiest way to cut carbs is to make sandwiches with one slice of bread instead of two. Open a can of white tuna in water and drain it. Stir in a tablespoon or two of cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise, salad dressing or Miracle Whip. You’ll cut down on the fat, and it’s a nice little protein boost to an already high-protein lunch. Mix in some chopped onion and celery if you like, and add salt and pepper to taste. I sprinkle a bit of shredded cheddar cheese on the tuna, and use a teaspoon or so of Durkee’s Famous Sauce (because a tablespoon is 80 calories) and a tablespoon of spicy brown mustard on my bread.
Bring four cans of reduced sodium chicken broth to a boil and add chopped carrots, onion and celery. After the vegetables are cooked thoroughly, add two cans of chicken breast and two cups of rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste, or add a few teaspoons of Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce if you like it spicy.
I don’t usually have a glass of 2% milk with lunch, but I did on this day.
Macronutrient Breakdown: 59 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, 16 percent fats. While this lunch isn’t close to macronutrient consumption perfection, it keeps your protein consumption consistent and made up for the carbohydrates I didn’t eat for breakfast. Ideally, you would attempt to keep your macronutrient goals consistent for each meal, but that’s an even more difficult game to win and requires even more planning.
A serving of 39 Planter’s Honey Roasted Peanuts is 13 grams of fat, but fats are better than carbs when you’re turning your body into a fat-burning machine. Those 39 peanuts also carry seven grams of protein and seven grams of carbs with them, making them the ideal snack to make you feel full without packing on carbs.
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare chicken thighs by washing and removing the skin. Lightly grease a deep pan with extra virgin olive oil and finely chop some garlic. Place the chicken thighs in the pan and then flip them, just to get oil on both sides. Then sprinkle garlic over each side, along with any other spices you’d like to use. Bake to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Macronutrient Breakdown: 0 percent carbs, 33 percent protein and 67 percent fats. Again, this meal hardly meets the macronutrient goals of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fats. But it does make up for my carb-heavy, fat-light lunch. I’ll usually eat this with a side of green beans or other vegetable to get some carbs into the mix. You can even slice up the chicken and add it to an alfredo sauce to eat over whole grain pasta if you want to work in more carbs.
Whey protein is digested and absorbed by muscles quickly, whereas casein protein will continue to feed your muscles all night while you sleep, leaving you more refreshed in the morning. That’s why cottage cheese or a glass of milk are recommended before bed. The casein proteins in dairy products make for the best way to help your muscles recover and continue burning fat while you sleep.
Don’t use acidic fruits in your evening protein shake or you’ll subject yourself to potential heartburn that could keep you up all night. Stick to strawberries and bananas -- no oranges.
As you can see, The Zone Diet requires careful planning, and chasing the perfect day of macronutrient consumption starts with figuring out the right foods to consume. Once you narrow those down, you can mix and match in order to consume 40 percent of your calories from carbs, 30 percent from protein and 30 percent from fats at every meal.
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Minnesota Twins General Manager Thad Levine joined Baseball Prospectus prior to Saturday’s game at Target Field against the Texas Rangers for a special press conference exclusively for fans. While Levine said he discovered he’d be the keynote speaker rather unexpectedly, he had a good answer for every question asked -- except mine.
This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters and writers.
Levine won over the crowd in a heartbeat at the Sid Hartman Press Room, opening with a joke about deadline deals being negotiated via Tinder and how too much emphasis is placed on a profile pic. He even alerted the hundred or so fans that he would answer a different question than Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Aaron Gleeman asked, so it didn’t seem like he was dodging a question even when he was.
Gleeman also seemed enamored with Levine, calling the GM “a tad too good looking” after he left the conference room. But decades of Terry Ryan and the Bill Smith years from which the Twins are still recovering are reason enough to understand love at first sight.
I too was susceptible to Levine’s charm. While this was hardly a high-leverage situation, Levine’s charisma and confidence didn’t take long to fill the room. He’s comfortable in front of a crowd and could sell mudflaps to someone with no car. He would make a fine politician someday. At present, he’s a fine general manager.
Levine didn’t have to search for answers or words. Everything he needed was ingrained in his brain. Even as Gleeman grilled Levine about the lack of relief pitching pursued in the offseason, Levine reminded everyone of the arms the Twins lost to injury whom he and new president of baseball operations Derek Falvey expected to contribute this season. He wasn’t just talking about Glen Perkins, Trevor May and Ryan O’Rourke. Nick Burdi, J.T. Chargois and Tyler Jay were also mentioned. That’s a very good reason why Matt Belisle’s was the only Major League contract offered to a reliever in the offseason. You don’t want to clog up roster spots when up-and-comers are banging down the door to the big leagues.
But I wanted to know why action wasn’t taken in response to those injuries earlier in the season. I opened by saying there are fans who might think trades could have been made earlier to improve the team and asked how the market forces differ from June to July and how that affected the moves they ended up making.
I imagined Levine would go on at length about how they tried to make moves while the team was still in first place, but the cost in prospects to fill the team’s needs was prohibitively expensive. Instead I got the only answer I didn’t want to hear about how the second Wild Card keeps teams in the hunt longer and makes them unwilling to sell in June. It was the longest answer he gave to a question asked by a fan. Even Gleeman chimed in to defend him by saying just eight to 10 teams would have been selling at the time.
I would have loved to follow-up with, “Well, you acquired Jaime Garcia and the $4 million or so he was owed on July 24th, and you were able to flip that rental to the Yankees within a week because you were willing to pay most of his contract. What stopped you from doing the same with Pat Neshek while the Twins were still in first place on June 25th? Or any other rental reliever on one of the eight to 10 teams clearly selling at the time?”
I urged the Twins to acquire bullpen arms back on June 7, with Neshek right at the top of the list. At the time, Neshek was owed $4 million or so, and while Levine and Falvey were understandably focused on acquiring young, controllable pitching, they were also hoping to “vanquish the foes,” as Levine put it. He even acknowledged the Twins’ negative run differential and how it didn’t affect their decision to buy because, well, they were in first place for 50 days.
“As much as you want to dismiss the fact that there were some underlying metrics which would suggest that maybe we were overachieving, the facts were we overachieved for three months, and we weren’t going to take that lightly,” he said.
So where were the reinforcements for baseball’s worst bullpen at the time? If money’s not an issue, was Philadelphia asking too much in return for Neshek? Well, we know Colorado gave up 20-year old, A-ball shortstop Jose Gomez (think Jermaine Palacios), 22-year-old, high-A, right-handed reliever and strikeout machine J.D. Hammer (think Lewis Thorpe but right-handed and better at missing bats; the newly acquired Gabriel Moya is probably more comparable but wasn’t a Twin on June 25th) and 20-year-old, A-ball, right-handed starter Alejandro Requena (newly acquired lefty Tyler Watson is the only 20-year-old pitcher on the Twins’ A-ball roster, but if you go up a level, lefty Lachian Wells would be comparable, and he’s also the only 20-year-old pitcher on the Twins’ high-A roster).
You can see how Falvey and Levine have already improved the pitching depth throughout the Twins’ minor league affiliates. But what about the big league club that was contending despite a glaring weakness? Even if the price for Neshek is higher on June 25th than July 25th, there are still no top prospects in the conversation. Besides Palacios there’s no one you’d likely miss dearly, and the Twins have enough shortstop depth to help get over the sting if trading Palacios burns them. And if the Twins still fell out of contention, they could have flipped Neshek as they did Garcia before the deadline.
Instead, from June 26 through the July 31st trade deadline, the Twins went 11-19, with relievers taking the loss in six of those games. The glaring weakness of the Twins bullpen was exploited by the league’s best, and it didn’t have to be. Here are four more trades the Twins could have made in June that might have saved July.
Levine said his job is to work with all 29 teams in order to improve his team, so dealing within the division wouldn’t have stopped this one from happening. The White Sox were sellers before the season started, and they managed to turn a surprising season from Swarzak on a one-year deal into Ryan Cordell, a 25-year-old utility bat tearing up AAA (.855 OPS). The Twins’ AAA utility man Niko Goodrum would be the closest comparison, but the Sox would likely demand another piece or a different piece altogether given his .720 OPS in AAA this year. None of those pieces would be Zack Granite or Mitch Garver, however.
While it’s probably more than Falvey and Levine would like to offer to get a guy they could have signed in the offseason, Swarzak’s .525 win-loss percentage with an average team this season would be best in the Twins’ bullpen, even if Brandon Kintzler was still with the team.
The Cincinnati Reds were 31-43 on June 25th. They didn’t trade Storen despite his cheap, expiring contract ($3 million), and it might have to do with his FIP being almost one and a half runs worse than his ERA. Still, Storen’s win-loss percentage with an average team of .508 is better than the Twins’ Taylor Rogers (.503) and Tyler Duffey (.494). He would have at least pushed each of them into lower-leverage situations. Of the six losses by the bullpen over the 30 games entering the deadline, Rogers and Duffey were responsible for two each.
Since the Reds couldn’t find a taker on Storen, he likely could have been acquired for a low-level prospect with a relatively low ceiling.
The Mets were seven games under .500 and 11 games back in the National League East on June 25th. They were even further out of the NL Wild Card standings. Boston scored Reed by sending the Mets three, 22-year-old relievers.
High-A, right-handed reliever Gerson Bautista might not have the ceiling of Twins’ A-ball lefty Andrew Vasquez. High-A righty Stephen Nogosek could be comparable to the Twins’ 24-year-old, high-A lefty Michael Theofanopoulos. And righty Jamie Callahan was promoted to AAA this season, much like the Twins’ Ryan Eades.
As far as rental relievers go, Reed probably would have demanded the best return of those available at the end of June, but he would have had the most trade value amongst rental relievers come the end of July, too. The 15 runs above a replacement player he amassed with the Mets is just two runs less than Twins’ starter Jose Berrios and four runs better than Kintzler.
I still would have liked the new Twins front office to make a splash and land Hand. I wrote en masse about Hand and was willing to part with one of the Twins’ shortstop prospects -- but not Nick Gordon. I can understand why this deal didn’t happen, but it would have been most helpful. Again, Hand could demand a ton at the end of July, but probably not as much as he would in June. He’s a keeper anyways given his arbitration eligibility until 2020.
It might be more difficult and more expensive to trade in June rather than July, but Falvey and Levine could have done something crazy like trade a top prospect and two others for Brad Hand on June 25th because: 1) they’re rookies and have more leeway than they ever will with ownership and fans, 2) Twins fans are fed up with the status quo, and 3) those newly acquired assets could still be traded a month later. But Levine didn’t know taking on Garcia’s salary would be valuable to other teams.
“The deal we did there was a testament to Jim Pohlad and his support of our decision-making because he allowed for us to take Jaime Garcia’s salary, which, come to find out, we didn’t know this in the onset of the negotiation, the other teams who were competing for his services weren’t prepared to do that,” Levine explained. “So this is an area we weren’t aware of, once again, but we learned as we went through the trade negotiation that this was going to be a competitive advantage for us.”
That was the most disturbing thing I heard from Levine. It makes the collective genius thought necessary to turn A-ball pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa into AAA pitching prospect Dietrich Enns and AA pitching prospect Zack Littell sound like dumb luck. Both the Dodgers and Yankees made it a priority to cut into their luxury tax bill this season, so you can assume at least they have an interest in cutting salary. I think you have to assume the Nationals (seventh highest MLB payroll) and Cubs (ninth highest MLB payroll) would have an interest in saving money.
So if Pohlad was willing to pay Garcia $4 million to play elsewhere, why wouldn’t he be willing to pay Neshek $4 million to play for the Twins, assuming they can’t move him at the Trade Deadline? What about the roughly $4 million it would have cost to pay both Swarzak and Storen? Was there a $5 million cap on the amount he was willing to spend?
As you can see, Levine left us with more questions than answers thanks to his ability to woo a crowd of Twins fans, most of whom have never experienced anything but the curmudgeons Ryan and Smith. As a journalist, it was refreshing to witness an interviewee who was not only honest but entertaining. Not much was left to be desired except a trade in June that might have saved July.
I suspect Falvey and Levine entered this season hoping to be sellers at the deadline, and I would have asked that if I thought I’d get an honest answer. That’s not something a rookie GM will admit willingly.
Levine is a dealmaker who understands what it takes to build a contender. I have no doubts that he’s the right man for the job, but had Gleeman himself been hired as the Twins’ GM, I still would have left that conference room optimistic and a little weak in the knees.
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Everyone knows who won the Major League Baseball Non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Dodgers, Yankees and Cubs are obviously better. But what about the teams dealing those big pieces to the playoff puzzle. Who are the winners amongst the sellers at the MLB Trade Deadline?
This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports bloggers.
It seems like forever ago that the Chicago Cubs acquired Jose Quintana from their crosstown rivals. The White Sox got two dynamite prospects back in high-A outfielder Eloy Jimenez (.903 OPS this season, Baseball Prospectus’s 9th overall prospect) and A-ball, right-handed starter Dylan Cease (12.5 K/9 this season, top-100 prospect). Both have the potential to be regular contributors to a MLB club, if not headliners.
The Cubs also parted with two more prospects from their high-A roster: first baseman Matt Rose and utility man Bryant Flete. That’s a nice haul for the White Sox. Even though Quintana is potentially controllable through 2020, getting one everyday player and a potential replacement in the starting rotation of the future is well worth sacrificing an ace when you’re years from contending.
After Quintana was shipped to the Cubs, Chicago GM Rick Hahn moved expiring contracts Todd Frazier and David Robertson (2) along with arbitration-eligible Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees for Tyler Clippard and three prospects. Clippard’s contract expires at the end of the season, but he’s earning roughly $5.5 million less than Robertson, so the White Sox saved a few million dollars. They also got a nice return for the rentals they shed.
A-ball outfielder Blake Rutherford, 20, might be the headliner of this deal given he’s the highest rated prospect (36th overall two weeks prior to the trade according to Baseball America), but fellow outfielder Tito Polo is closer to the bigs (AA) and could debut before he’s 24 (he’s 22 now). Then there’s middle-of-the-rotation talent Ian Clarkin, 22, who should see AA next year if he can lower his walk rate (3 BB/9 this season). All three could be in the bigs before turning 25.
The White Sox were hardly done there. They turned a surprising season from Anthony Swarzak on an expiring contract (3) into Ryan Cordell, a 25-year-old utility bat who seems to have AAA pitching figured out (.855 OPS). If Cordell is nothing more than a career utility man in the bigs, that’s a big win for the White Sox.
That’s not all. The White Sox flipped arbitration eligible, lefty reliever Dan Jennings to Tampa Bay for 24-year-old first base prospect Casey Gillaspie, who’s having a tough time finding his way to the show after breezing through just about everything but Fall League (.653 OPS this season, .554 in Fall League).
Finally, the Royals worked with the White Sox to make a trade within the division for Melky Cabrera -- another expiring contract (4). In return, the White Sox scored 22-year-old, high-A righty A.J. Puckett (8.1 K/9 and 49 percent groundball rate) and A-ball lefty Andre Davis (9.1 K/9 and 44 percent groundball rate).
The White Sox lost Quintana, but also shed four expiring contracts and gained a top-10, top-50 and top-100 prospect, along with five others, making them the biggest winners amongst the sellers at the 2017 MLB Trade Deadline.
While the A’s couldn’t pry away any of the Yankees’ top three prospects despite Sonny Gray being under control until 2020, Oakland made out pretty well.The long-awaited Gray trade culminated in a return of MLB-ready right fielder Dustin Fowler, utility man Jorge Mateo (43rd overall prospect according to Baseball Prospectus) and righty James Kaprielian (58th overall prospect according to MLB and Baseball Prospectus).
Fowler forced his way onto the big league club at the age of 22. He had an .871 OPS at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 313 plate appearances before blowing out his knee in his MLB debut with the Yankees. He’s a five-tool player if he comes back healthy and is a legitimate MLB hitter regardless of his knee. Again, an everyday player who’s a year away for a controllable starter is a good return. And Oakland got two everyday players.
Mateo was the key to the deal for Oakland, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. He’s 22 and would have speed maxed out on MLB 2K17. He was also tearing up AA pitching with a .906 OPS in 140 plate appearances. He’s playing mostly shortstop but is seeing time in center field, too, giving Oakland some options. He has the potential to be the difference-maker Gray already is, but again, would have an impact every day rather than once every five days.
Kaprielian, 23, is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but before the injury he was touted by Baseball America as having “front-of-the-rotation makeup and stuff,” so the A’s might have their new Sonny Gray if all goes well for Kaprielian. He starts a throwing program soon.
In all, it wasn’t a bad Trade Deadline for the A’s. While Beane didn’t move Yonder Alonso’s expiring contract in his All-Star season, the A’s hit a modest jackpot with the Gray trade to break even.
The Twins’ poker hand entering the All-Star Break looked a lot worse after a bad start to a West Coast road trip, but the Twins discarded and drew new cards until their hand was a winner. Rookie president Derek Falvey and new general manager Thad Levine turned 20-year-old rookie ball pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa into Jaime Garcia, and flipped Jaime Garcia for two prospects two years closer to the big leagues than Ynoa, both of whom could end up better than Ynoa. Lefty Dietrich Enns will likely get a cup of coffee this season, and righty Zack Littell has a big-league curveball that’s making AA hitters look silly.
How did Falvey and Levine manage to do this? They were willing to pay Garcia’s roughly $4 million in remaining contract, making for a better return from both the Braves and the Yankees.
The Twins also moved their second best trade chip in All-star closer Brandon Kintzler -- an expiring contract -- for Washington Nationals’ 20-year-old, A-ball pitching prospect Tyler Watson. While Watson doesn’t throw very hard (around 90 mph), he locates very well and has potential to add velocity. The lefty has 98 strikeouts in 93 innings and has only walked 24 this season.
The Twins also received $500,000 for international bonus spending from the Nationals, which could be used to sign an international pitcher like, say, Shohei Ohtani, who is also Japan’s best hitter. It would certainly make Paul Molitor’s days against the National League easier. Instead of worrying about double switches, he can just use Ohtani as a pinch hitter for his pitcher. Molitor might not be back to make those decisions, though.
Regardless of how things turn out, the Twins hit the jackpot at the MLB Trade Deadline in 2017 because not only did they win, but they hardly risked anything. They still have their ace and innings eater Ervin Santana and second baseman Brian Dozier through next season, and they retained all their shortstops throughout the minors (Nick Gordon, Royce Lewis and Engelb Vielma). They can resign Kintzler in the offseason, and they won’t have to worry about Ynoa starting an MLB career for three years or so. The Twins improved their hand for next season.
Another deal that seems forever ago was the Tigers’ trade of free-agent-to-be J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks for Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Jose King. Lugo was Arizona’s fourth-best prospect and is putting together a nice year at AA playing mostly third base (.741 OPS). The 22-year-old can play shortstop, too, and will likely get a taste within the next two years.
Alcantara is a 20-year-old shortstop in high-A who will stick at short regardless of his bat, which has been good enough (.696 OPS). King is another shortstop in rookie ball who is just 18 years old and impressed in his first professional season (.815 OPS in 2016).
The Tigers also traded their coveted closer Justin Wilson, and they packaged him with the expiring contract (albeit less than $1 million remaining) of catcher Alex Avila to the Cubs. While Wilson could be controlled through next season, the Tigers netted corner infielder Jeimer Candelario, who has already seen time in the bigs, 18-year-old shortstop prospect Isaac Paredes, cash and a player to be named later.
While Candelario is big-league ready with the bat and serviceable at third base, Paredes has the range to stick at shortstop and displays great plate discipline (54 Ks in 395 A-ball PAs). The trades give the Tigers a pretty good chance of fielding a competent shortstop for years to come if they trade Jose Iglesias before he becomes a free agent after next season. Lugo could also make Nicholas Castellanos expendable in either of the next two seasons. He’s a free agent in 2020. If the Tigers are going to rebuild, Iglesias, 27, and Castellanos, 25, would demand outstanding returns, and by the looks of it, the Tigers are preparing for that potential payday.
The Phillies turned 36-year-old reliever Pat Neshek into 20-year-old, A-ball righty Alejandro Requena (K:BB ratio of 4.0), 22-year-old, high-A righty J.D. Hammer (13.5 K/9) and 20-year-old, A-ball shortstop Jose Gomez (.811 OPS). They also flipped a 33-year-old Howie Kendrick for 21-year-old, A-ball lefty McKenzie Mills (5.36 K:BB ratio). Oh, and there was that Jeremy Hellickson trade that netted 23-year-old strikeout machine Garrett Cleavinger (10 K/9 at AA this season) and MLB outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, who has experienced a sophomore slump in his second season at 29 (OPS+ down to 64 from 117). Those are some pretty nice pieces given the chips Philly had.
The Jays were able to shed two expiring contracts. The struggling Francisco Liriano netted everyday outfielder Nori Aoki, who’s arbitration eligible this offseason despite being 35, and budding outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez from Houston. Hernandez, 24, already has 112 MLB plate appearances from 2016 and boasts a .724 MLB OPS. He’ll likely roam the Rogers Centre outfield when roster expand.
The Blue Jays also moved veteran reliever Joe Smith to Cleveland for AA lefty Thomas Pannone and 18-year-old second baseman Samad Taylor. Pannone, 23, earned a promotion this season after striking out 12.7 high-A batters per nine innings. That strikeout rate has hung around one per inning in AA, so Pannone could see the bigs as early as next season.
Taylor has good range at second base and has proven he can hit low-A pitching (.300 BA, .795 OPS) despite being three years younger than most of his competition. A promotion to high-A this season is unlikely given how little of the year is left, but Taylor has looked like a quick study thus far.
The Padres decided against putting their best chip on the table in Brad Hand. Instead, they dumped an expiring contract in Trevor Cahill and two arbitration eligible relievers in Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter on the Royals. The Royals sent struggling, lefty relievers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood, and rookie-ball second baseman Esteury Ruiz, who has an OPS of 1.063 in 122 plate appearances despite being almost two years younger than his competition. So San Diego replaced the MLB relievers sent to Kansas City and gained an 18-year-old middle infielder who can apparently hit. Not too shabby.
The Rangers got their room comped because they were willing to lose a lot. The Rangers did what they should have and moved their biggest expiring contract in a season they weren’t contenders.Yu Darvish had to go, and the Rangers got a pretty nice return despite Darvish being a rental.
Willie Calhoun (MLB’s 82nd ranked prospect) will likely see time in the Rangers’ outfield this year and projects to be a regular contributor thanks to his bat (.922 OPS in AAA this season). A.J. Alexy is a 19-year-old, A-ball righty missing bats like crazy (10.5 K/9), and Brendon Davis, also 19, projects as a potential utility infielder or regular second baseman in the bigs.
While two of the pieces are probably further from the show than the Rangers would like, turning an expiring contract in a non-contending year into a potential everyday player who’s cheap and controllable is a deal you do every time.
Texas also moved expiring contract and catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Colorado for a player to be named later. Again, a return is better than nothing at all, especially given the season Lucroy’s had. His OPS+ (67) is almost half of what it was last season (129), and he’s been uncharacteristically bad behind the plate, too (-4 runs fielding).
Finally, arbitration eligible, righty reliever Jeremy Jeffress was moved to Milwaukee for 25-year-old righty Tayler Scott, who went from AA to AAA as a result of the swap. Scott was averaging a strikeout per inning in AA Biloxi, but his 5.1 walks per nine innings will have to decrease if he’s going to earn a call.
So the Rangers scored one potential everyday player who will play this year, a reliever who’s proven he can miss bats in the minors but also misses the strike zone a lot, a couple of guys with high ceilings at least three years away, and a player to be named. All they had to give up was their season, their best pitcher, their catcher and a reliever, for whom they paid dearly. Milwaukee’s Lewis Brinson is the 12th-ranked prospect according to Baseball Prospectus, and Luis Ortiz is 68th, so it looks like the Brewers won that trade. But Texas got something instead of nothing. That’s like getting your room comped, right? It’s still disappointing, but at least you’re disappointed in a comfortable place.
Almost all the Reds’ expiring contracts and potential trade chips were hurt with the exception of Drew Storen, and the Reds didn’t move him despite his team-friendly, $3 million contract. Zack Cozart -- 10-day disabled list. Scott Feldman -- 10-day disabled list. Bronson Arroyo -- 60-day disabled list. Just bad luck.
The only trade the Reds could muster was Tony Cingrani for the 31-year-old Scott Van Slyke and catching prospect Hendrik Clementina, who seems to have figured out how to hit (.994 OPS this season, never higher than .694 in three prior years).
The Giants have trade assets, but Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija haven’t been any good, Denard Span didn’t draw any interest, and the Giants wouldn’t trade their biggest asset, Buster Posey. They did move Eduardo Nunez’s expiring contract, but it will be a long time before the Giants know if the return is worth the Adalberto Mejia they gave up to get Nunez in the first place. Mejia has become one of Minnesota’s most consistent starters.
A-ball righty Shaun Anderson and rookie-ball righty Gregory Santos were all the Giants could pry from the Red Sox. Anderson was well on his way to a promotion and got it via the trade. But his first start with San Jose didn’t go well (3.1 IP, 5 RA, 3 ER). While he was the same age (22) as his competition with Greenville’s A-ball squad, he’s a year younger than most his California League competition with high-A San Jose.
Santos is just 17 years old, but has a 1.06 ERA over 34 innings in the Dominican Summer League thanks to an 82-percent groundball rate. That’s 22 percent higher than his groundball rate in his first season.
The Braves might not have had much leverage in the Jaime Garcia deal, but had they waited a few more days, the Yankees might have offered more than what they got from the Twins. Regardless, the Braves are losers for failing to move other expiring contracts.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki has arguably been the best he’s ever been with a bat and behind the plate, but the Braves couldn’t find a taker despite his cheap $1.5 million salary. Brandon Phillips is also a free agent at the end of the year and wasn’t moved. That might be the market’s fault rather than Atlanta’s, but Suzuki taking at-bats from Tyler Flowers while the Braves sit 11 games back of the Wild Card is just idiotic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Suzuki is moved in August, though.
For some reason the Orioles think they’re contenders. Baltimore might be just 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot, but the Orioles don’t have a pitcher who can win that Wild Card game let alone a regular playoff game. Dylan Bundy’s ERA+ of 102 is highest on the team, which is lower than four of the Yankees’ starters and three of the Rays’ starters. To truly put that in perspective, the Twins have three starters better Bundy. Baltimore has the second-worst, starting pitching ERA in baseball. But they’re contenders because they have Jeremy Hellickson now.
Orioles executive Dan Duquette said the team traded for Hellickson and his expiring contract because they sought reliable starting pitching. His definition of reliable must simply be someone who shows up for work on time, because there’s nothing reliable about Hellickson’s performance on the job.
After experiencing a bit of a revival last season (113 ERA+), Hellickson has regressed back to his old self (96 ERA+). He’s averaging two fewer strikeouts per nine innings than last season. So Baltimore still doesn’t have a pitcher who can win a playoff game.
Baltimore also acquired infielder Tim Beckham from the Rays, but at least he has a positive OPS+, barely (101), and is controllable until 2021. He’ll replace the injured J.J. Hardy at shortstop, and it only cost the O’s 19-year-old righty Tobias Myers, who was holding his own at low-A despite being three and a half years younger than his competition. I don’t think the O’s knew what game they were playing. As of this writing they have a run differential of -66, are two games under .500 and have a 6.4-percent chance to make the playoffs, which is a little better than your chances of winning at keno.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: View From The Couch
Loyalty to your bank doesn’t pay. In this era of online banking, there is no reason to keep all your money in one bank. Even if you live in a small town and use a credit union, online bank accounts at the very least give you leverage over your bank to negotiate higher interest rates, but I would suggest taking some of your money out of that credit union or bank and stash it accordingly:
Discover Checking is the best checking account on the planet. Most checking accounts don’t allow you to accrue interest on your money, or if they do, it’s a very small amount of interest. Discover doesn’t offer interest, either. It offers cashback rewards.
Every time you spend the money in your Discover Checking account you get free money. Every check you write is worth 10 cents in rewards, and you’ll get enough free checks to last you a decade. Every time you use your Discover debit card, you get 10 cents.
Consider you pay every monthly bill with your Discover Checking account: rent, water, energy, credit card and a student loan or car payment. That’s 50 cents. Now consider all of your debit purchases each month. You probably buy groceries and fuel at least once every two weeks. There’s another 20 cents, and if you go out for dinner or entertainment a couple times per month, you’re making at least $1 per month in cashback rewards in lieu of interest. I’ll take that over a miniscule interest rate on my tiny checking account balance.
Oh, and if you ever need cash, you can withdrawal on your Discover Checking account at over 415,000 ATMs and do so for no fee at 60,000 of those ATMs. There’s an even better checking account if you live a mobile lifestyle, though.
The Aspiration Summit Checking account offers an interest rate up to 100 times bigger than the big banks. I get .25 percent APY on my Summit Checking account balance currently, and one percent APY when my balance reaches $2,500. The best part is I never pay an ATM fee no matter where I am in the world. Instead of getting traveler’s checks before going on vacation, you can just open an Aspiration Summit Checking account and use your debit card anywhere.
So those are my recommendations for checking accounts, but where should you keep your savings?
Synchrony is one of three banks that offer 1.2-percent APY on savings accounts (Barclays, Goldman Sachs), but Synchrony comes with easy access to your money, which could be a good thing or bad thing. Regardless, Synchrony offers discounts on hotels and car rentals that Barclays and Goldman Sachs don’t offer.
Since I already have a Discover Checking account, I opened a Discover Savings account as well. It stacks up well against the competition when it comes to its interest rate (1.1 APY), but it makes this list because of its $100 bonus offer. If you make an initial deposit of $15,000 into your new Discover Savings account, you get $100.
For an even better return on your savings, you can open a Wealthfront personal investment or retirement account by answering a few simple questions. Before opening your account, Wealthfront asks you questions about your preferred savings goals. If you want to take more risks for the chance at a better return, you can do that. If you want to preserve as much of your investment as possible, you can do that, too. Wealthfront will invest your money based on your answers to those questions, and they’ll even sell investments that have dipped in value so you can deduct the amount from your taxable income if you enable tax-loss harvesting. That’s why Wealthfront makes the list of 5 best places to keep your money: ease of use. You can open the account and never check it again until it’s time to collect.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, Travelers411, What’s Cookin Today
In pursuit of six-pack abs for the first time at 31, I’m learning that what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat and when are all more important than how much cardio or ab exercises you do. I’ve finally gotten into a groove of feeding myself so my body turns into a fat-burning machine, which is harder but more important than exercising.
Cut out the right carbohydrates and you’ll be doing your body a huge favor. I never really wanted to believe this because I love carbs -- breads, bagels, pastas, cereals, microbrews and Animal Crackers are my favorite. But six-pack abs don’t show through a carbohydrate gut, and the problem with carbs isn’t that they’re bad for you necessarily, but they make you want more carbs. One serving of Animal Crackers is never enough for me.
I’m not giving up Animal Crackers, though, and you shouldn’t necessarily give up your favorite carbs either. You should just try to limit your serving sizes and try to eat healthier carbs. Whole grains, legumes (beans and lentils) and fruit are rich with carbohydrates but are nutrient-rich, too. Substitute more of those carbs for your Animal Crackers and you’ll eat fewer Animal Crackers.
You can eat more fat than you think, too. I’ve read of diets consisting of 58 percent fat resulting in six-pack abs, and while I wouldn’t recommend it, I also wouldn’t recommend cutting fats to zero. The trick is to trick your body into burning the fat already stored in your body, which requires cutting down on carbohydrates -- not fats. The more carbs you cut, the more body fat you’ll burn, even while you sleep.
Livestrong’s MyPlate app recommends my diet consist of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein. I’m lucky if my calories from carbohydrates are below 50 percent of my daily consumption, so it’s a process, but I’m making progress. Carbohydrates have been 47 percent of my calories consumed the past three days, with fats averaging 28 percent and protein averaging 25 percent.
My focus has been increasing my protein intake, which is a lot easier than cutting carbs and better allows my body to burn fat at rest. Protein, protein and more protein is the recipe for six-pack success. Just like any other muscle, your abs require protein to grow. Ideally, you’d consume a gram of protein for each pound you weigh, but that can be really difficult and expensive to do. I can’t afford fresh fish, so I eat canned tuna (mixed with cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip for sandwiches). I can’t afford red meat, either, so I resort to eating a lot of eggs. My budget is likely why my diet consists of so many carbohydrates, too. But I have three types of artillery to boost protein intake.
I keep three different powdered proteins on hand at all times. Two tubs of whey protein -- one chocolate and one vanilla flavored -- are used everyday. Both of the Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein powders taste pretty good but are at least 200 calories per serving despite offering 30 grams of protein per scoop, so you can’t use them to replace protein in your diet. That’s just silly. They’re called supplements because they supplement your diet, which is exactly what I do.
I’ll have one milk-based, whey protein shake with breakfast. It’s the most important time besides post-workout to shock your system with protein (and water...you should drink two glasses within an hour of waking). Breakfast should be your largest meal of the day by far, with lunch next largest and dinner the smallest in terms of calories. My breakfast of a fried egg and two slices of banana oatmeal toast was roughly 677 calories this morning thanks to my milk-based, whey protein shake. My lunch was less than half the calories of my breakfast.
I also consume a milk-based, whey protein shake post-workout or before bed if I don’t workout. Recovery days are important, too, but pre-workout is also an important time to consume protein. So I’ll also make a fruit smoothie using hemp protein powder to cut back on calories. I recommend Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein, which provides 11 grams of protein per 80-calorie serving. I mix it with whatever fruit I have around and add a little Tampico punch (which is really cheap and low in calories) just to thin out the smoothie because the hemp protein is more grainy than the whey.
Altogether, my protein powders run me $1.68 per day, or $47.04 per month, which is $564.48 per year. I know that sounds crazy, but considering what I’d otherwise spend on less healthy snacks, it’s an investment I’m willing to make until I can afford to eat more protein-rich meals. Whey protein is actually third on Strong Lift’s top-10 list of cheap proteins behind tuna and eggs, so it’s not all that expensive.
So thanks to my protein powders, I’ve managed to consume at least 142 grams of protein the last three days (going on four). While that’s 30 grams light of my target of consuming a gram of protein per pound of body weight, 142 grams of protein per day is the recommended goal set by Livestrong’s MyPlate app for someone my size, age and gender looking to lose one pound per week. This will be the first time I’ve done it for an entire week, and I’ve got to say I can feel my body appreciating and responding to my efforts. You too can turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Free Talk Live
Former Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan always had money to work with but rarely used that money as effectively as new president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine did prior to Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline.
While it has been said by me that Falvey and Levine waited too long to make a move to improve their team, they appear to have fleeced the Atlanta Braves when trading for Jaime Garcia. The Twins flipped rookie-ball pitching prospect Huascar Ynoa to Atlanta in exchange for Garcia and the entirety of his remaining contract -- a little more than $4 million.
Garcia made one start as a Twin and was traded to the Yankees on Sunday. Falvey and Levine were again willing to take on most of Garcia’s remaining contract with the hopes of landing better prospects. That willingness to spend paid off, as the Twins landed AA right-hander Zack Littell and AAA lefty Dietrich Enns.
Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press pointed out that Littell’s xFIP is first amongst Eastern League pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched. Parker Hageman says Littell’s curveball is a plus pitch, and the move toward devastating curveballs rather than overwhelming velocity has become commonplace for analytical baseball minds. Littell would have been a huge score for the Twins without Enns. He’s is averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and 6.5 strikeouts per walk with AA Trenton. ESPN analyst Dan Szymborski thought the Braves should be annoyed with the Twins for scoring such a nice prospect with their former player.
Enns is just a big bonus for a team that’s closer to competing than expected. Enns boasts a four-pitch mix and has been fantastic at every minor league level. His WHIP has never been higher than 1.214, and his K/9 has never been lower than 6.9. He was striking out almost one batter per inning with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and could get a cup of coffee with the Twins when rosters expand. Hell, he could take Kyle Gibson’s spot this year.
The 2018 Twins rotation returns just Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios -- so far. Santana could very well be traded by the time I finish writing this. It’s safe to say Hector Santiago and Kyle Gibson are done, and we don’t know if Phil Hughes will ever pitch again. This pair of moves by the Twins pair of rookies in the front office gives the Twins some pieces to create competition for rotation spots in Spring Training next year.
So a team in desperate need of young, controllable starting pitching traded for a rental, and then traded that rental for exactly what it needs. Both Littell and Enns could be big parts of the Twins rotation in a couple years, along with Jose Berrios and Adalberto Mejia, and perhaps, AA Chattanooga's Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves.
With the addition of Littell, the Southern League’s best Lookouts have a pitching staff worth seeing. That includes recent relief addition Gabriel Moya via the trade of AAA catcher John Ryan Murphy, who was once Aaron Hicks until Terry Ryan…
I digress. If Falvey and Levine keep this up, they will have turned around the Twins in short order. If Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton improve upon their already impressive performances this season, Minnesota will be in the playoff conversation for a long time given the pitching Falvey and Levine have and will continue to acquire.
Closer Brandon Kintzler is going to be traded before the deadline, probably for another pitching prospect. But the Twins could sign Kintzler and a whole lot more in free agency this offseason. Minnesota is a pitcher’s paradise as long as Buxton roams center field (18 runs above average fielding), Max Kepler gallops through right (5 RAA fielding), and, now, wherever Zack Granite is (20 BIS runs saved above average per year in center). Granite has forced his way into the lineup by playing a premiere position really well in the absence of the best player at that position. He’ll keep getting plenty of at-bats.
Who can the Twins target in 2018 free agency, and who would actually consider it? Jake Arrieta might consider putting his increased flyball percentage in front of a go-get-it outfield. It’s up five percent from last season, and his groundball rate is down seven percent. Hell, Jaime Garcia could return in free agency if he enjoyed his first and last day at work with the Twins. I don’t see any reason why Yu Darvish wouldn’t want to pitch in Minnesota, either. Given Levine’s Rangers roots and the aggressive approach Falvey and Levine have taken in their first year with the Twins, I expect it to continue. These aren’t your father’s Twins.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: View From The Couch
Crunches and sit-ups used to be the go-to exercise for those pursuing six-pack abs, but we know a lot more about the effects of those movements on the body. Crunches are one of the worst exercises for the lower back and can contribute to herniated disc injuries. And if you’ve already had surgery for a herniated disc like me, crunches can bring back that pain in the lower back. That’s why in my pursuit of six-pack abs I’ve ditched the crunch, but still manage to find exercises that blast the abdominal region without causing lower back pain. Here are six exercises that will make your six-pack pop without hurting your lower back.
Instead of doing weighted crunches, which put even more pressure on your lower back than your upper-body weight already does, I substitute a 1 minute ab workout on the ab wheel.
Weighted crunches are just like any other weightlifting exercise: they build muscle, but sometimes sacrifice flexibility and even cause injury. While it’s important to build the abdominal muscles in order for them to be seen, it’s far more important to lose body fat, and you can’t just target abdominal fat. That’s not how fat-burning works. In order to show off your six-pack abs, your body fat needs to be between six and 13 percent, so you can do all the crunches you want and never see your abs.
That’s why you can get away with doing a more controlled exercise that you will feel in your abs and not your back. By “controlled” I mean it requires entire body control and tends to work your core muscles. Add controlled exercises like the ab wheel into a workout regiment that’s already designed for burning a lot of fat, and you won’t miss the crunches at all.
Another exercise that requires total body control and works the abs is the boat pose. This is where you lean back from a seated position with your feet suspended in the air and your hands at your sides. Do this for a minute and you’ll feel your abs going to work to keep your feet suspended, but your lower back won’t bark at you because there’s no movement involved with the lower back. Your back should be straight the entire time.
Another controlled exercise that’s a play on crunches, the crunchy frog starts from the boat pose, but with your arms outstretched at your sides. Then you bring your legs into your chest and wrap your arms around them before returning to boat pose and repeating the action. This variation on the crunch doesn’t force you to lift your upper-body weight using your lower back as the fulcrum. Instead, you lift your lower-body weight using your butt as the fulcrum. It’s a fantastic exercise that you will feel working all six muscles in your six-pack abs, as well as the lower abdominal muscles.
Unlike traditional crunches, bicycle crunches don’t require your lower back to act as a fulcrum to lift your upper-body weight. Instead, alternately bringing your legs back towards your chin, and with your hands behind your head, turning into your leg and touching your opposite elbow to your knee takes pressure off the lower back. They can also end up being quite the cardio workout that will burn a ton of fat if you do them quickly, but a controlled motion is always best to avoid injury.
Again, avoiding the lifting of your upper-body weight while using your lower back as a fulcrum is the key to avoiding lower back pain. While leg lefts use your lower back as a fulcrum, you’re lifting your lower-body weight rather than your upper-body weight, which is easier on the lower back than traditional crunches.
Just lay flat on the floor and slowly lift your feet to a 90-degree angle. Then slowly lower them back to the ground. You’ll feel this working your entire abdominal region and the upper part of your thighs and your back won’t be barking because of leg lifts.
More and more people are using static exercises like the forearm plank in the place of crunches. Why? Because there’s no movement, which means no risk to joints or the back. It’s also really difficult.
Push-ups have been a staple exercise for such a long time because they safely build muscle in multiple muscle groups. You can feel push-ups working your chest, biceps, triceps, abs and even upper back -- and all you’re lifting is your own body weight. Well, forearm planks are similar, except instead of lifting your body weight, you’re suspending it.
Get in a push-up position but lift yourself up by your forearms and stay there for a minute. It will be one of the hardest exercises you do -- until you try the variations of the forearm plank.
You can work the sides of your abdominal region by supporting your body weight on just one forearm. Put your left forearm on the ground and turn sideways, looking to your right and keeping the side of your left foot planted on the ground. Keep your back straight while suspending yourself. Stay in this position for a minute, if you can. Then do the other side.
Again, building up your ab muscles is only half the battle (or a third of the battle, really). Your six-pack abs will never be seen if you don’t burn the fat around those muscles, so work in 20-minute sprint sessions or jump rope interval training to shed that fat.
Of course, none of this does any good if you’re not focusing on nutrition as well. You can do all the ab exercises you want, but you won’t get any closer to showing off your six-pack abs if you keep eating fatty foods or too many calories.
The pursuit of six-pack abs is like the game of golf with calories being the strokes. You can limit your strokes on the golf course in two ways: through your short game and your long game. You can focus on chipping and putting or driving off the tee, but one without the other is still going to inflate your score. Focus on both and you’ll start shaving strokes. Focus on both exercise and nutrition and you’ll start shaving calories, allowing your six-pack abs to show.
Consuming tons of protein will also help. Whey protein is especially best after workouts because it not only feeds your abdominal muscles but helps you burn fat when you’re not working out. Getting enough sleep is also important, as is eating within an hour of waking up. Also, breakfast should be your biggest meal of the day, with lunch next largest and dinner the smallest. Snacking is most important, as smaller meals and more snacking increases your metabolism to burn fat all day.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Free Talk Live
The Minnesota Twins contending this season despite sporting the American League’s fourth-worst run differential is astonishing. While the Twins are scoring 68 fewer runs than their opponents after a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers, Monday night, the Twins sit just two games out of the playoff picture and 3.5 games back in the AL Central. And the run differential is just the tip of the iceberg.
This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community of foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters and analysts providing coverage of select games.
The combined WAA (wins above average) between Twins batters and pitchers is -4.3 wins, meaning the team (excluding coaching factors) should be at least four games worse than average.
Given the games played as of this writing, the MLB average for wins would be 49.4, but the median is 48. The Twins have 49 wins, which means they have outperformed their WAA by almost four games using the average and five games using the median. All this while allowing 68 more runs than they’ve scored. It all screams regression, doesn’t it? In fact, I’d venture to bet there’s never been an MLB team that has overachieved more than the 2017 Twins thus far, and if there is one, it’s also a team from Twins history.
It’s fitting the Twins just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1987 World Series Championship team at Target Field this weekend, because the 2017 Twins are a lot like that team. The Twins organization established a reputation as underdog overachievers immediately upon finding the ultimate success in 1987 and have continued that tradition to a fault at times.
Most of the ‘90s were tough on the Twins and their fans. The pitch-to-contact approach started resulting in harder contact, and payrolls plummeted along with Metrodome attendance, as a slew of youngsters like 21-year-old shortstop Christian Guzman and 23-year-old center fielder Torii Hunter played almost everyday. I remember people joking about how the Twins wouldn’t beat most AAA teams, but everything came together just in time to quiet discussions of contracting the team.
A surprising second-place finish in the AL Central in 2001 that saw Matt Lawton grace the cover of Sports Illustrated blew new life into the Metrodome. And in 2002, the pesky piranhas were AL Central champions, fielding the youngest and fourth-cheapest roster in baseball. While the 2002 Twins entered the playoffs with the lowest run differential that year, they still scored 56 more runs than they allowed. But that squad had a combined WAA of +6.3 and finished 94-67, outperforming that WAA by a ridiculous seven wins over the average and 8 wins over the median MLB record in 2002.
Despite it all ending in the ALCS, that’s still my favorite Twins team. I feel like they did the most with the least, and the numbers seem to substantiate that feeling. It just feels better to win as an underdog overachiever, even if you don’t win it all.
The 1987 Twins did win it all, though, and did so despite entering the playoffs having posted a run differential of -20 during the regular season and outperforming their -.8 WAA. Those Twins went 85-77 in 1987, which would be outperforming their WAA by almost five wins based on the MLB average and median for wins that season.
The 1984 Royals are the only other team besides the ‘87 Twins to win the World Series despite a negative regular season run differential since 1960 (and likely ever). They had a -13 run differential and finished the regular season 84-78, outperforming their .1 WAA by almost three games on average and four games taking the median MLB record.
The team with the lowest run differential entering the playoffs was the 2005 San Diego Padres at -42, in a year when every team in the NL West had a negative run differential, and only the Padres had a winning record (82-80). They outperformed their -3.2 WAA by four games on average but just three games on the median MLB record.
Again, the 2017 Twins are outperforming their WAA by four games on average and five games given the median record -- with a run differential 62 percent lower than that of the 2005 Padres, 70 percent lower than the 1987 Twins and 182 percent less than the 2002 Twins!
The Twins making the playoffs isn’t just improbable. It would challenge everything we think we know about what makes a playoff baseball team, just as the Twins did in 1987. The 1987 Twins might have hit a lot of home runs, but they won games with defense. The only regulars with negative total zone defensive runs saved averages over the course of 135 games were Kirby Puckett and Tim Laudner (each at -8). And while three players had RARs (runs above a replacement player) above 40 (Puckett, Kent Hrbeck and Greg Gagne), most of the pitching staff had lower strikeout rates than the current Twins’ staff. Frank Viola averaged just seven strikeouts per nine innings and was the only starter with an ERA below three, so the ball was being put in play, and the Twins were picking it.
The Twins have improved their run differential from last season by 98 runs thus far, and it’s still the fourth-worst differential in baseball. That’s how bad the Twins were last season, and the roster has hardly changed, so there are some things working in the Twins favor.
If you think a weak AL Central is the reason for the Twins’ contention, then you also have to blame most of the American League given the Wild Card standings. While a drop in relative competitiveness allows more teams to hang in the race longer, it does little to explain the 98-run improvement.
Actually, the Twins’ schedule thus far has probably contributed more to their seemingly unsustainable success than a lack of competitive teams in their league. The Twins remain the second best road team in the AL behind Houston, but they’ve played nine fewer road games than home games going into Tuesday. And as of Monday, they had played 10 fewer road games than the Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers, who are all still in the hunt. Translation: the Twins’ schedule is about to get tougher, as they saw first-hand on Monday when the L.A. Goliath finally knocked out the pesky David of the Midwest in the eighth. But instead of simply marveling at the Twins’ improbable season, let me attempt to explain the extent of its improbability.
There are some easy answers with regards to runs contributed this year that weren’t there last year, like Miguel Sano improving his RAA (runs above average) 19 points after a 2016 season spent lost in right field so Paul Molitor could accommodate Trevor Plouffe. Sano has arguably become the Twins’ best player at 24 years old -- three years younger than Kent Hrbek was when he was second on the 1987 squad with 21 RAA. Sano is also second on his team in RAA, which is why I say he’s arguably the Twins’ best player..
Enter Byron Buxton, the player for whom statistics like range factor and runs added from baserunning were invented. If Buxton was playing anytime before these statistics came around, I feel he’d have a much harder time sticking in the bigs. Buxton’s .604 OPS is last among center fielders with 250 plate appearances, and he’s 14 runs worse than the average hitter so far this season. He’s no ‘87 Puckett at the plate, but his ability to play center field and run the bases make that all matter a whole lot less -- a ton less, in fact.
Buxton is four runs better than average on the bases, and 18 runs better than average in center field, which is eerily similar to Greg Gagne’s defensive contribution for the ‘87 Twins (19). Gagne finished the year leading his team with 23 RAA despite negative contributions at-bat and on the bases. Buxton is on pace to lead his team in RAA this season, too
So despite his 62 OPS+, Buxton is worth 11 runs more than a replacement player because he can catch balls no one else can and score from first base on a single. Puckett couldn’t do that, and if Buxton comes back from his groin injury on Tuesday and hits, he could chase down Puckett’s incredible 44 RAR in 1987. Buxton’s RAR sits at 22, tied with Sano for the team lead amongst batters despite playing seven fewer games.
One of the Twins best pitchers has been Jose Berrios, who was living a nightmare on the mound in 2016 and has improved his RAA from -25 to 6. While his win-loss percentage with an average team (.551) is more comparable to the Bert Blyleven’s (.558) from 1987 than 27-year-old Frank Viola’s (.664), he’s four years younger than Viola, and hasn’t had to perform like him thanks to Ervin Santana.
Despite his inconsistencies, Santana has been the Viola for the 2017 Twins. While his .612 win-loss percentage with an average team is not vintage Viola, it has been 21 runs better than average, which leads the team.
It all up and that’s 54 runs of improvement between three players all under 25, and another two from Santana so far. So the kids are growing up just fine, and Papi Santana has set a great example for Berrios, in his good starts and bad.
Speaking of bad, there are plenty of Twins who have been worse than last year, too. Kyle Gibson’s RAA is 10 runs worse than last season (-17), Jorge Polanco’s RAA is down seven runs, and Ryan Pressly has been nine runs worse than average after posting a +3 last season. Our 56 runs of improvement is now 17.
The 1987 Twins were not without their Gibsons, Polancos and Presslys, either. The Gibson was probably Mike Smithson (-15 RAA in 20 starts). The Polanco of the 1987 Twins was likely Gene Larkin, who was in his rookie season, so he has an excuse for his -11 RAA in 262 plate appearances. As for the Ryan Pressly of ‘87, George Frazier was seven runs worse than average in 81.1 innings.
But who’s the Bartolo Colon of the ‘87 Twins? Easy: 42-year-old Joe Niekro was 20 runs below average in 96.1 innings pitched.
One of the biggest reasons for the Twins turnaround is the first move new president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine made -- signing free agent catcher Jason Castro. I loved the move then, and still love it, despite having to watch Castro swing and miss so much.
Castro doesn’t hit well -- even for a catcher. His OPS is 17th out of 18 catchers who have at least 250 plate appearances when they wear the gear. If you lower the required plate appearances to 150, he’s well behind the Twins’ former catcher Kurt Suzuki, who is ninth amongst catchers with an .816 OPS.
Suzuki’s defensive contribution this season is also his best since 2012. The uptick could very well be that he has his legs under him (he’s caught just 345.1 innings), but even if Suzuki finishes the season having contributed 14 runs on defense, he still falls short of Castro’s contribution.
Like Buxton, Castro makes up for his woes at the plate on defense. Castro is worth 22 defensive runs above average over the course of 135 games. Suzuki checks in at 14 defensive runs above average this season, but is 12 runs below average per season for his career as a catcher. Again, even assuming Suzuki’s improved defense is not inflated due to sample size (it is), Castro, with the second-worst OPS at his position, is worth 14 RAR, and Suzuki, with the ninth-best OPS at his position, is worth just 11 RAR.
Furthermore, if we consider the performance of Twins’ catchers last year compared to this year, the net gain for the Twins is 28 fielding runs above average. That would account for almost a third of the Twins’ improvement, bringing our rough total to 45 runs of improvement.
There’s really no comparison for Castro from the 1987 Twins’ catching corps. The ‘87 backstops were a combined 39 runs worse than average. When it comes to win-loss percentage with an average team over 162 games, Tom Brunansky was fourth (.503) on the ‘87 Twins just as Castro is with the 2017 Twins (.502).
Eduardo Escobar is the ultimate utility man, not because he can play just about anywhere, including catcher apparently, but because he provides the energy and attitude the Twins need to make a push for the playoffs. His smile and charisma are infectious, and he’s an essential leader in the clubhouse. I thought Falvey and Levine might consider trading him given his value to a contender, but I’m glad the Twins have forced the front office to chase history so Escobar can stick around.
While Escobar’s runs above average numbers are mostly negative (except running the bases), all have improved substantially from last season. His RAR has improved by 12 compared to last year, which brings our total runs of improvement to 57.
Escobar is the Dan Gladden of this Twins team. Gladden managed to be 12 runs better than a replacement despite costing the 1987 Twins 15 runs swinging the bat.
Brandon Kintzler has been nine runs above average in the closer role this season. That’s four runs better than last season already, which makes 61 runs of improvement.
Reliver Juan Berenguer was nine runs above average over 112 innings for the 1987 Twins, but he wasn’t the closer, and I don’t think Kintzler should be, either. The bullpen is the area where the Twins could stand to improve the most (read: acquire Brad Hand).
While the 1987 Twins relievers posted a RAA of -49, current Twins relievers (excluding the catcher Gimenez, who has been just one run below average in five innings) are sporting an RAA of -87 already. Adding Hand’s 12 RAA would allow the 2017 Twins to act a lot more like the 1987 Twins.
Taylor Rogers has been fantastic until recently. His RAA was eight entering Monday’s game, and after allowing the go-ahead, three-run home run in the eighth inning on Monday, it is now six. That’s still second amongst Twins relievers, and he’s a big reason the Twins have managed to hang in games despite a drop in his strikeout rate from last year (9.4 to 6.5 K/9).
I kept waiting for the regression given his 4.05 FIP, 2.15 ERA and 71 percent balls-in-play percentage, and I think we’re starting to see that regression with his blown hold in Los Angeles, Monday night. Ideally, he would be pitching the seventh inning if the Twins could acquire bullpen help before the Trade Deadline. He’s contributed five more runs than last year so far, though, bringing us to 66 runs of improvement.
When it comes to pace of play, Adalberto Mejia is the sloth of Major League Baseball. In his start Sunday the Twins set the record for the longest regulation game in franchise history: 4 hours and 23 minutes, I believe. As you fall in and out of sleep while watching Mejia, you’ll dream of comparisons like Les Straker. But Mejia’s 4 RAA better this year than last (70) and is just 24.
Robbie Grossman got my MLB All-Star vote at designated hitter because he had the highest on-base percentage amongst his peers, and walks are as good as hits. While he’s a liability in the outfield, his approach at the plate is straight out of the moneyball era. And in an era of home run or nothing at all, having a guy who can work counts and get on base before the free swingers is a nice piece to have available.
Grossman has 50 walks in 317 plate appearances and leads the Twins in that category. His .373 OBP is also best on the team, and while Grossman’s OPS+ is just 103, it’s better than Joe Mauer’s 101. His RAR of three doesn’t quite touch Mauer’s, though, and is the same as 2016’s, so no runs of improvement available here. But without Grossman, Twins fans would be forced to watch the struggles of Kennys Vargas, whose RAR is down three from last year.
Grossman also cost the Twins 21 runs playing defense last year. Molitor has managed to limit that damage to just four runs this season by keeping Grossman in the dugout more often. It adds up to a six-run increase in RAA for Grossman since last season (76 runs of improvement).
Joe Mauer is going to win the AL Gold Glove for his performance at first base this season, and it will have little to do with the fact he hasn’t committed an error as of this writing. His defensive runs saved (8) and total zone runs saved per year (6) is better than the defending Gold Glove winner, Mitch Moreland (7 and 1, respectively). Mauer’s range factor and his OPS+, which does matter despite it being a fielding award, are also higher than Moreland’s, and his 1.3 WAR just trails All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso’s 1.5. Mauer’s basically been Roy Smalley, which isn’t bad.
Twins hitters are a collective one run above average in 2017 but 58 runs better than last season. Twins pitchers are 62 runs below average this season but also 58 runs better than last season. That’s 116 runs of improvement, and given the 98 runs of improvement at which they currently stand as a team, the Twins’ run differential is likely to get worse barring any trades that might occur.
Jaime Garcia should help delay the inevitable. His RAA of three is 20 runs better than Gibson’s, who was demoted despite having his best start of the season on Saturday against Detroit. Falvey and Levine are going to stick with Colon for at least another start, which is fine. Gibson has been far from consistent, and you have to give the veteran a chance to see a lineup that’s not the Dodgers or Yankees before you ask him to gracefully retire. He kept the Twins in that game in Los Angeles, Monday, even contributing a sacrifice bunt to the delight of his teammates. His butt also puts butts in the seats.
While adding Garcia is like adding another Les Straker, the Twins don’t even have enough Les Straker’s let alone Frank Viola’s to make a playoff push right now. If they add an arm to the bullpen, though, the Twins could make history, and I think they should go ahead and chase history. Sure, if they make the playoffs they’d go down as the absolute worst team ever to do so based on run differential. But that would likely make them one of the biggest underdogs of all time, and if they continue to outperform their WAA at the same rate, they’d be right up there with the 1987 and 2002 Twins as the biggest overachievers in baseball history.
Despite recommendations to resign his post, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions is preparing potentially the largest bust in the history of the online, drug trafficking market and has vowed to go after the “criminals and transnational criminal organizations” involved in the billion-dollar drug trade on the darknet.
The darknet is a version of the internet reserved for people who take special measures to protect their identity online. In fact, admittance requires users to be completely anonymous. Users most commonly gain access to the darknet by shielding their IP addresses with The Onion Router (TOR) and running virtual private networks (VPNs). Even the money is untraceable, as Bitcoin has allowed for anonymous, online transactions. You don’t have to be as tech-savvy as you think to access the darknet, either.
But how do TOR and VPNs conceal the online identity of darknet users? Usually when you type a link into your web browser, your computer accesses the server of that website directly. TOR creates an onion network that bounces your signal around a bunch before communicating with the website’s server. Think of how Shrek describes himself: ogres have layers, which makes them hard to read. The same is true of an anonymous online identity. This onion network conceals the users’ IP addresses so no one knows who or where they are. Naturally, businesses selling illegal goods and services flourished on the darknet -- until now.
The combined efforts of U.S., Canadian and Thai law enforcement resulted in the shutdown of AlphaBay, the largest darknet website known to be a marketplace for illegal drugs. But the shutdown didn’t stop its users from trafficking illegal drugs. The darknet isn’t so unlike the internet. There are plenty of other websites, so sellers and buyers jumped to another known darknet site called Hansa. Unfortunately for all of them, Hansa was now the bait in a Dutch sting operation.
Three weeks before the shutdown of AlphaBay, Hansa’s secure servers were acquired by the Dutch law enforcement -- in secret. So if you used Hansa after AlphaBay went down, Sessions is coming for you. “You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you,” he said.
But all those people were using TOR and VPNs, so how can law enforcement find them? The cops don’t know their identities or their locations, right? Short answer: not necessarily. It takes a lot more than fancy router firmware and a VPN to remain anonymous online. AlphaBay’s alleged founder, who apparently hanged himself in a Thai prison, was in that Thai prison because of an unprotected email sent in 2014, according to Security Gladiators editor-in-chief Ali Qamar.
I’ve seen Snowden, so I assume just about anyone who bought or sold illegal drugs using Hansa after the AlphaBay shutdown can be found, prosecuted and convicted. If every AlphaBay user committed a transaction using Hansa while being monitored by the Dutch, that’s potentially 240,000 criminals in the short-sighted eyes of Sessions. That’s more potential prisoners than every country in the world except six, and would be more than a 10-percent increase to the U.S. prison population. So is there room in American prisons to house these drug offenders and how much would it cost?
According to the Justice Bureau of Prisons, the average cost of incarceration of federal inmates was $31,977.65 in 2015. That’s $7.675 billion, divided by roughly 138.3 million American taxpayers in 2015, equals $55.50 per taxpayer per year.
But Donald Trump’s budget has to boost funding for federal prisons, right? Wrong. The U.S. Department of Justice requested $8.5 billion in total funding for fiscal year 2015, and Donald Trump’s budget proposal would cut funding for federal prison construction by a billion dollars in 2018. The cuts would result in a 17.9-percent decrease in funding for the federal prison system and detention trustee program over the next decade, which means fewer and fewer prisons built and fewer and fewer beds to go around.
The number of available prison beds in America changes daily with people bonding out or being released on parole or probation. We can, however, use 2015 Bureau of Prisons data to draw a conclusion. There were 196,455 American prisoners under federal jurisdiction in 2015, so it’s safe to say that more than doubling the federal prison population is impossible given the number of prisons operating at or over capacity.
In 2015, 18 states and the Bureau of Prisons met or exceeded the maximum capacity of their prisons. Eight more states met or exceeded the minimum number of beds allowed in their prisons. While the U.S. prison population has decreased 14 percent since 2013, the 1,500 to 2,000 more additional beds for which the Bureau of Prisons is requesting $80 million next year won’t be enough room for the nearly quarter-million criminals Sessions is pursuing on his drug-sniffing steed.
Sessions might not lead the posse very long. It seems just about everyone agrees Sessions should resign if it’s indeed true he withheld information from Congress regarding his involvement in Russia’s attempt to alter the 2016 Presidential Election. The prior two U.S. Attorneys General forced to resign were in similarly hot water, but neither were linked to an attempt to alter a Presidential Election. And Sessions isn’t on Trump’s good side, either.
So the biggest bust of drug offenders in history might not be enough to save Sessions’s job, but that doesn’t mean his potential replacement won’t continue his work. While law enforcement’s initial focus should be on sellers who can lead them to the drug lords, that won’t be where it stops, regardless of who serves as Trump’s attorney general.
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