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Just how bad was Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and why did the Yankees choose to bring him back? – New York Daily News

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In today’s Major League Baseball, what’s the price for a player coming off a wildly disappointing season, one that saw them bat .261/.314/.327 (.642 OPS) with an 85 wRC+ while adjusting to the rigors of a major media market for the first time?

Based on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s one-year deal to return to the Yankees, the answer is six million dollars. The infielder showed no pop — only five qualified players had a lower slugging percentage last season — and failed to cash in on his sterling reputation as a gloveman, committing a few postseason blunders that earned him a spot on the bench.

Still, the Yankees chose to tender him a one-year deal worth six million dollars to be a part of the 2023 squad, likely hoping he settles into a utility spot rather than reprising his role as the starting shortstop. Ranking in the bottom ten of league-wide slugging percentage, OPS, wRC+, isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) and hard-hit percentage was definitely not what the Yankees envisioned when they traded for Kiner-Falefa, even knowing that defense is his carrying tool and offense has always been a struggle.

The 2022 season was a different type of struggle, though. The already light-hitting Hawaiian posted the lowest slugging percentage of his career, thanks in large part to 102 of his 126 hits being singles. In the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium, where players are often rounding the bases in a home run trot even after slightly mishitting the ball, Kiner-Falefa’s two home runs matched the total he had on the road. It’s easy to speculate that playing in the Bronx, and playing as poorly as he did for most of the season, had a profoundly negative mental effect on the former Ranger, not unlike what happened to Joey Gallo.

When things looked particularly ugly for Kiner-Falefa on the field, the vicious side of Yankee fandom came for him. In August, one fan sent a direct message on Twitter to Kiner-Falefa’s father saying that his son had been murdered. During the American League Division Series, fans harassed him as he was driving out of the stadium. The embattled shortstop spoke all year, as many players do when they put on the pinstripes, about how he grew up rooting for the Yankees and how playing for the storied organization was a dream come true. It’s not out of pocket at all to say that dream bordered on nightmare territory for most of the second half.

When his tumultuous season came to a head in Game 3 of the ALDS, the one where he had three miscues that led to a Yankee loss, Kiner-Falefa summarized his feelings and, unintentionally, those of the impatient fans who watched him start 131 regular season games at the diamond’s most important spot.

“Frustration, anger, shock,” he vented. “Me personally, I’m just disappointed in myself. I had opportunities to come up with some key plays and help the team win.”

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There are still some positives for the 27-year-old to feel good about. Unfortunately, most of them would have carried much more weight during a bygone era of baseball when slugging wasn’t so highly prioritized. Kiner-Falefa was one of just six players in the entire league to have 100 singles, 20 doubles and 20 stolen bases. Of those six players, he struck out the least. The problem is that shortstops are expected to be much more than singles hitters now. Without any real threat of extra bases, paired with a tiny 6.6% walk rate, Kiner-Falefa’s numbers ring a bit hollow.

In the field, Kiner-Falefa’s season illustrates the somewhat confusing nature of advanced defensive stats. According to FanGraphs’, he was one of seven shortstops responsible for at least ten Defensive Runs Saved. But by Statcast’s Outs Above Average, he came in at negative-4, placing him in the bottom 13th percentile of the league. He also made 15 errors and had several other plays that could have either been counted as an error, or would have been if he was not bailed out by an Anthony Rizzo pick at first base. The Yankees are fond of reminding reporters that they have their own internal metrics for these things, and they have made passing mentions of things that Kiner-Falefa grades well in, like making quick transfers from glove to hand.

But by both watching him regularly and looking at his Statcast data, it is clear that Kiner-Falefa has a noodle arm, and his tendency to double clutch before unloading only exacerbates the issue.

The Yankees still remained loyal to him basically all the way to the bitter end. The brief postseason benching — he did not start Games 4 or 5 of the ALDS but was back in the lineup for Game 1 of the ALCS after Aaron Hicks’ injury pushed Oswaldo Cabrera to left field — was bizarrely timed. If the Yankees were going to relegate him on the depth chart, it should have happened at the tail end of the regular season to give the youngsters as many reps as possible without the pressure of the postseason weighing them down. Instead, the Yankees stuck to their guns, just like they did when refusing to pursue Carlos Correa, Corey Seager or Marcus Semien last offseason despite having an obvious need that, if filled, could have put them over the top.

Some of this reeks of pigheaded stubbornness by the Yankee front office. Punting on Kiner-Falefa after just one year, especially given the well-known shortstop menu they could have ordered from last winter, would have been both an admission of failure and a healthy scoop of embarrassment. So instead of non-tendering Kiner-Falefa and letting the rugrats duke it out for the shortstop job (the latter being something that should have happened in August) the Yankees appear ready to let him compete with Cabrera and Oswald Peraza for the position.

With Kiner-Falefa firmly under contract for 2023, the Yankees will, barring a trade, show up for spring training with three major statistical eyesores in him, Hicks and Josh Donaldson. Jose Trevino declined dramatically at the plate as well, and there’s no guarantee that Aaron Judge and Andrew Benintendi will ever suit up for the team again.

The Yankees as currently constructed are looking eerily similar to the team they’ve been for most of the Aaron Boone era: one with undeniable star power at the top but liabilities at the bottom that are perhaps equally detrimental as the stars are helpful.

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WHO estimates 90% of world have some resistance to Covid | Coronavirus

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The World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the world population now has some resistance to Covid-19, but warned that a troubling new variant could still emerge.

Gaps in vigilance were leaving the door open for a new virus variant to appear and overtake the globally dominant Omicron, the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

“WHO estimates that at least 90% of the world’s population now has some level of immunity to Sars-CoV-2, due to prior infection or vaccination,” said Tedros, referring to the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

“We are much closer to being able to say that the emergency phase of the pandemic is over – but we’re not there yet,” he told reporters.

“Gaps in surveillance, testing, sequencing and vaccination are continuing to create the perfect conditions for a new variant of concern to emerge that could cause significant mortality.”

Last weekend marked one year since the organisation announced Omicron as a new variant of concern in the Covid-19 pandemic, Tedros noted.

It has since swept round the world, proving significantly more transmissible than its predecessor, Delta.

Last week, the latest real-world study of updated Covid boosters showed that new vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are likely to provide better protection compared with the original shots.

The study of more than 360,000 people indicated that the boosters offer increased protection against new variants in people who have previously received up to four doses of the older vaccine.

Since their introduction to the US in September, the vaccine boosters, which contain both original and Omicron BA.4/5 coronavirus strain, provided greater benefit to younger adults aged 18-49 years that those in the older age group.

Tedros said there were now more than 500 highly transmissible Omicron sub-lineages circulating – all able to get around built-up immunity more easily, even if they tended to be less severe than previous variants.

Around the world, 6.6 million Covid deaths have been reported to the WHO, from nearly 640 million registered cases. But the UN health agency says this will be a massive undercount and unreflective of the true toll.

Tedros said more than 8,500 people were recorded as having lost their lives to Covid last week, “which is not acceptable three years into the pandemic, when we have so many tools to prevent infections and save lives”.

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Kevin Durant, Nets beat Raptors to tally fourth win in a row

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Make it four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Nets are one of the hottest teams in basketball and moved two games above .500 with a 114-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout 17,732 fans at Barclays Center on Friday night.

They led by as many as 36 points before letting the Raptors creep back into the game late in the fourth quarter.

After digging a 2-6 hole to start the season, the Nets (13-11) have pulled a complete 180. They are inching closer toward contender status, though they still have tremendous ground to cover separating themselves from the cream of the NBA crop.

And it both looks and feels different when the Nets aren’t leaning too heavily on Kevin Durant — or Kyrie Irving, as they did for unending stretches last season.

Durant’s minutes have become a point of contention in Brooklyn, as they were last year. He entered Friday’s matchup as the league’s leader in minutes, points and field goals. At age 34 and in year 15, the Nets star is averaging 37 minutes per game for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve had to play Kevin more minutes than we’ve wanted to,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said ahead of tipoff. “That’s just kind of where we are. He understands that.”

It hits different, though, when Durant has help, and it reflects on the scoreboard.

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Sharpshooter Joe Harris got hot early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. After breaking out of his shooting slump to hit four out of six threes in Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Harris, who is starting in place of the injured Ben Simmons (calf strain), hit another five threes for 17 points against the Raptors on Friday.

Royce O’Neale hit a trio of timely threes, and Kyrie Irving shouldered a large chunk of the scoring load, scoring 27 points on 17 shot attempts. Veteran forward TJ Warren, in his Nets debut after missing two-plus seasons with consecutive stress fractures in his left foot, scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting off the bench.

And Nic Claxton added 15 points and nine rebounds, sealing the game with a putback dunk, then offensive rebound and finish that extended the Nets’ lead back to 16.

He forced Raptors coach Nick Nurse to call his second to last timeout with four minutes left in the fourth.

It was Durant’s lightest workload of the season. He still played 38 minutes but they were low impact. He only took 10 shots and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Nets built a lead as large as 36 and watched the Raptors whittle the deficit down to as little as seven in the final minute of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a pretty finish but nothing has come easy for the Nets this season.

They have a chance to make it five in a row on Sunday, though they’ll have to go through last year’s Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics to get there.

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Fourth child dies in UK after contracting Strep A infection | UK news

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A fourth child has died in the UK after contracting Strep A, as health officials issued warnings to parents and school staff about signs and symptoms of infection.

These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections. In rare incidences, it can become a severe illness, and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should seek urgent medical help.

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that a child who attended St John’s primary school in Ealing, west London, had died from the bacterial infection, while it also emerged that the parents of a four-year-old boy from Buckinghamshire have said he has died from Strep A.

Shabana Kousar, the mother of Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, who attended the Oakridge school and nursery in High Wycombe, told the Bucks Free Press: “The loss is great and nothing will replace that. He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved exploring and enjoyed the forest school, his best day was a Monday and [he] said how Monday was the best day of the week.

“He also had a very close bond with his dad. He was his best friend and went everywhere with him. He just wanted to be with him.”

A pupil from Victoria primary school in Penarth, four miles south of Cardiff, has also died from the infection. A six-year-old died last week after an outbreak of the same infection at a school in Surrey.

Health officials are understood to have reported a slight rise recently in cases of Strep A, which can cause scarlet fever, although deaths and serious complications from the infection are rare.

Dr Yimmy Chow, a health protection consultant at UKHSA, said of the Ealing case: “We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a child at St John’s primary school, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the school community. Working with Ealing council public health team, we have provided precautionary advice to the school community to help prevent further cases and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

“Group A streptococcal infections usually result in mild illness, and information has been shared with parents and staff about the signs and symptoms. These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections and can be treated with a full course of antibiotics from the GP.

“In rare incidences, it can be a severe illness and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately.”

Group A streptococcal bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases. Scarlet fever is caused by Strep A and mostly affects young children but is easily treated with antibiotics.

According to the NHS, the first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms including a high temperature, sore throat and swollen neck glands. A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later that starts on the chest and stomach and then spreads. A white coating appears on the tongue, which peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in small bumps (often called “strawberry tongue”).

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