Saturday, February 19It wasn’t easy getting hold of Agent Viru after his knock of 175 in the tournament opener against Bangladesh. Just short of midnight, though, I received his replies to my texts. And, they sure were worth the wait. On how he got Sachin Tendulkar run out, Viru replied, “Coach asked me to watch the ball. How can I watch the ball and the other batsman at the same time?” On what it was like to bat for 47 overs, he texted, “Life-changing experience. Now, I know why Dravid and Gambhir have such long faces. The boredom of batting between overs 20 to 35 could make even Shah Rukh Khan look like a cow.”Sunday, February 20Agent Viru’s stated intention to bat 50 overs has sent bowlers in every team queuing for life insurance. One day before their first game, Mitchell Johnson told Brett Lee, “Jeez, I didn’t think he was serious about it, mate. Any chance we may not crash out before facing him?”Viru was not amused, though. “I am scared of Johnson. He is a smart man. We Indian players only open restaurants. But he started Johnson’s baby powder. I used it on my son’s bum when he had rashes. See? Both his bowling and business involve him spraying it around. How smart is that?” said Viru.Monday, February 21 I caught up with Agent Viru at the coffee shop of ITC Gardenia, Bangalore, where he was reading the Sri Lanka vs Canada match report. Without taking his eyes off the newspaper he confessed that for the longest time he had no idea that countries like Canada also played cricket. “It turns out that even Canadians don’t know that,” a deadpan Viru added.advertisementTuesday, February 22One day after the Australia vs Zimbabwe match, the Gujarat Cricket Association lodged a complaint against Australian captain Ricky Ponting for smashing an lcd tv in the dressing room after being run out. They are angry because they believe only their President, Narendra Modi, has the right to break unnecessary items like screens, cameras and the law. When asked about it, Ponting initially claimed that he was in such good form that he was seeing the ball as large as an lcd screen and mistook the one in the dressing room for a ball. Later, smarter brains got together and drafted the official version. Apparently, the tv wasn’t working and Ponting simply tapped the top of the screen to get it started. “It’s not his fault that he’s built like Khalli and the tv like Ajit Agarkar,” the press release said. Viru, on hearing of the controversy, looked concerned. “I hope Sreesanth doesn’t get fined for that smashed tv,” he told me.Thursday, February 24 “What’s common between India in 2007 and Australia in 2011?” Agent Viru texted me early in the morning. “Greg Chappell,” promptly came the reply too. The joke is now doing the rounds in every team. Word has it that the Australian chief selector’s special liking for middle-aged, left-handed batsmen will do to Australia what it did to India four years ago. Worse, Ponting believes so too and is said to have communicated some choicest Australian pleasantries to Chappell after hearing about Michael Hussey’s recovery from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the World Cup squad.Highlight of the weekPakistan captain Shahid Afridi was spotted thinking. No one remembers when he was last seen doing that.The writer was formerly known as the Fake IPL Player. He will observe the 2011 World Cup through Agent Viru’s eyes.
England have named an unchanged squad for the series-deciding third Test against West Indies at Lord’s next week.Tuesday’s five-wicket defeat by the visitors in a compelling second test at Headingley meant a series that looked like being a one-sided affair will now go to the wire.Despite that setback, the selectors have kept faith with the same 13 players for what will be the last Test match before England face Australia in the Ashes. (Also read: England, Australia humbled as underdogs roar in Test cricket) Reuters PhotoIt could mean another chance for Essex batsman Tom Westley to stake his claim for a place after a disappointing run of scores against West Indies and South Africa. (Also read: Joe Root on the defensive after shock defeat to West Indies)Right-hander Westley has only scored one half century in seven Test innings and is running out of time to convince that he can be the answer to England’s top-order batting woes.The third Test begins next Thursday.England squad: Joe Root, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Dawid Malan, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Chris Woakes.
EDMONTON – Every year, tonnes of plastic waste are burned on farms around Alberta and across Canada. More is buried or dumped in municipal landfills.Farm groups are working on better ways to dispose of the giant plastic bags and kilometres of plastic twine that have become essential tools for modern farming.“We’d rather see them recycled than go up in flames,” said Bryan Walton of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association. “Can’t we do something about this?”There may be something soon. Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says the province is looking at its options.Old-school twine that used to hold hay bales together has been largely replaced by plastic cords.And farmers are increasingly turning to grain bags as a way to store their harvest. The giant bags that look like huge white caterpillars from the highway are useful when harvesting rented land or when steel grain bins are inconveniently distant on large operations.Just one empty bag can weigh up to 300 kilograms.And there are a lot of them.In Alberta, a 2012 government study found most farmers were using some form of agricultural plastic, especially on larger operations. About 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste was being generated every year, largely made up of baling twine and grain bags.The same survey found burning in an open fire or burying the plastic were common ways to dispose of it. Much was dumped in the nearest landfill. Only 17 per cent of farmers said they had sent plastic for recycling.“We feel there’s a lack of options for agricultural plastics recycling in the province,” said Tammy Schwass of the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association. “It’s a great concern.”Burning plastics release potent environmental toxins such as dioxins. Buried plastic doesn’t biodegrade.Farmers know that. The Alberta survey reported a clear majority wanted to be able to recycle, but said there just wasn’t anywhere to do so.The issue is found across Canada.Barry Friesen of Cleanfarms Inc., a non-profit organization funded by the plastics industry, estimates about 40,000 tonnes of mostly plastic waste is created on farms across the country. Cleanfarms collects less than 10 per cent of that.“Unfortunately, the disposal is often burning and burying,” said Friesen, who said his group is the only one in Canada that specifically collects agricultural plastic.Rules for recycling vary widely across the country. Programs exist in every province for safe collection and recycling of pesticide and fertilizer containers.Manitoba collects both grain bags and twine. Saskatchewan has just enacted legislation to collect grain bags after several pilot projects. Since 2011, 14 collection sites around the province have collected 4,200 tonnes.Other than that, it’s up to individual producers to decide how they want to get rid of those piles of plastic.Alberta does have recyclers that specialize in such waste.But Friesen said agricultural recycling is unlikely to get the economies of scale it needs to be viable without some form of legislated requirement. The federal government is only responsible for hazardous waste, so rules for plastic must come from the provinces.Government control of any program would be unnecessary, Friesen said. Lawmakers would just have to require industry to provide recycling opportunities.“If you make a product or distribute it into an area, you have to be part of a program to manage it at the end of its life.”It could be similar to recycling programs that charge a buyer a fee for bottles or tires.The program could be run by a third party such as Cleanfarms, which would set the fee required to fund it. Cleanfarms already administers Saskatchewan’s program.Walton said his members — who use large plastic tarps to cover the silage they feed cattle — are willing to consider a charge to get rid of the stuff.“No one ever wants to pay more for anything. But if there’s a knowledge that this will be recovered and recycled, I think there is some willingness to go along.”He’d prefer to see the fee set by someone other than the group collecting it.“If you’re the contractor, I’m not sure you can also be on the inside of planning the program. I think there’s a potential conflict.“We need to take a very serious look at cost and maybe have a third-party assessment of that.”Producers need to have a voice in how any recycling program is run, he added.A working group that includes government, recyclers, farm groups and municipalities is already looking at the idea for Alberta, said Phillips.“They’re going to be bringing me advice reasonably soon on how we can better align many of our recycling programs (and agriculture) plastics for sure,” she said. “We hear a lot from municipalities on this issue.”Saskatchewan consulted with Alberta before setting up its program. Phillips said her province will do the same.Recycling is more likely to work if the two provinces can work together to create a single large market, she said.“When you identify a large enough market for these recyclables, that’s really what becomes the pull for what to do with the materials.“So much of this is tied up with creating the market for the materials, so co-operation makes sense.”— Follow at @row1960 on Twitter
The Golden State Warriors are an insanely dominant team. To answer the question in this article’s headline: Yes, the Grizzlies have a chance — about a 6 percent chance according to our Real Plus-Minus-based projections. The Warriors projected Real Plus-Minus (RPM) of +15.8 points against the Grizzlies is easily the best of any team; Golden State has about a 10-point advantage per 100 possessions.So the Warriors are likely to win, yes, but the series has several interesting contrasts for the basketball geek.Take speed. If the Warriors do succeed against Memphis, they’ll probably do so playing their breathtakingly fast style. Golden State had by far the fastest pace in the league this season, at 98.3 possessions per game. The Grizzlies play at a lumbering gait: at 92.0 possessions per game, Memphis ranked in the bottom five of the league. The Warriors are also in the top four in total blocks and steals, which ignite fastbreaks. The Grizzlies are content playing solid half-court defense, forcing turnovers and limiting your total shots. It’s fast vs. slow.Shot selection is another difference. The Warriors, especially Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, excel behind the 3-point arc. The team led the NBA in both 3-point percentage (at nearly 40 percent!), and in the total number of threes attempted. The Grizzlies? They attempt the second fewest 3-pointers of any team in the NBA, with below-average success. Memphis’ strength is near the basket, where you’ll find their two big men, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. It’s outside vs. inside.Curry, who might just win the MVP award, leads the way for a stacked Warriors team; his projected +8.8 RPM is the second highest of any player (behind Cleveland’s LeBron James). At the other end, the Warriors will rely on defensive superstar Draymond Green, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. Draymond will have a unique challenge against the two Memphis big men. If he can handle one of them one-on-one, the Warriors could cruise.For the Grizzlies, their (already slim) chances took a hit when point guard Mike Conley suffered a facial fracture. He’s projected to play only 15 minutes per game by these RPM calculations. But if he plays through the injury, and if the Grizzlies can slow the pace and prevent the 3-point-happy Warriors from blowing the roof off, Memphis could make this series interesting.
Will the Dodgers break the all-time wins record?Current record is 116 wins WINSAT LEAST THIS MANY WINSEXACTLY THIS MANY WINS 11073.48.1 Elo still doesn’t quite think the Dodgers are the greatest team of all-time. Their 1608 Elo rating (through Sunday’s 8-0 rout of the New York Mets) only ranks sixth-best for a team through 111 games since 1901, trailing the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals, 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 1938, 1939 and 1998 New York Yankees. But if L.A. does end up smashing the wins record, they’ll be on the short list of greatest teams ever — particularly if they can finally get over the hump in the playoffs.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 10886.05.7 1195.12.2 11347.19.6 10980.36.9 11256.39.3 10596.2%2.2% 11165.49.0 10694.03.0 Move over, 2015-16 Golden State Warriors: There’s a new team chasing a sport’s all-time single-season wins record. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been on a tear — 43 wins in 50 games since June 9, the best 50-game stretch in MLB history — and they now stand at 79-32, which puts the team in a position to win more games than the 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1906 Chicago Cubs, who each won 116 games, the most ever by a baseball team in a season.According to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo model, which simulates the remainder of the season using power ratings and each team’s probability of winning every game, the Dodgers are on pace to win 112 games. But that’s just their average outcome — in some simulations they win more, and in some they win less. In a shade over 20 percent of our simulations, they win at least 116 games, which would tie the all-time mark. And 13.5 percent of the time, they finish the season with at least 117 victories, setting a new single-season record for greatness. 11437.49.4 10791.05.0 11620.16.5 11713.55.1 11528.07.9 1188.53.4 CHANCE DODGERS FINISH WITH… 1202.91.4
There’s still more than a month left on the schedule, but we’re on pace to see the 10-day DL used 775 times this season. That would be an increase in short-term DL stints of 40 percent compared with last year. And it’s not just that injury rates are suddenly up across the board in 2017: Long-term disabled list usage has stayed at almost the same level for the past five years.It’s clear, then, that the new 10-day disabled list has changed the way teams tinker with their rosters. But the new list didn’t so much create a new problem as exacerbate an old one. League-wide use of the short-term DL has jumped in each of the past four years (including this season) — and the Dodgers have paved the way. Since Andrew Friedman left the Tampa Bay Rays to become president of baseball operations for the Dodgers after the 2014 season, the team has led the league in short-term DL stints every year (only once during those three seasons did the Dodgers have the most long-term DL stays — a clearer sign of legitimate injury problems).The increasing use of short-term DL stints across baseball has prompted questions from the league about whether all these ailments are legitimate. Last month, Rob Manfred, MLB’s commissioner, expressed fears that the list was being manipulated — and with good reason. In an interview last year, Dodgers starter Ross Stripling suggested that one of his trips to the disabled list in the past was less about recovering from an injury and more about hitting an innings limit.Much of the increase in short-term DL trips from recent years seem to be for nonspecific reasons, ranging from weariness to different kinds of strains. In 2016, five short-term injuries included “fatigue” in their description; over the three previous seasons, there were only three such trips, combined.Similar increases have occurred in short-term DL trips for other vague injuries. Increases in injuries described with the words “fatigue,” “tightness” or “strain” have together accounted for almost 50 percent of the total jump in short-term disabled list trips since 2014.Unless baseball became a lot more tiring and stressful in the past three years, it seems as though teams may be exaggerating small issues in an effort to free up roster spots.But while the Dodgers seem to have pioneered this tactic, whether they are deriving any substantial advantage from it is unclear. That’s because the exact benefits of having a fresh relief pitcher are difficult to calculate.By at least one measure, though, the Dodgers are succeeding. In a normal five-man rotation, pitchers rest for four days and throw on the fifth. But by stashing a starter on the DL, a team can give him a much longer recovery period. Extended rest (five or more days) seems to reduce the probability of a serious injury by 20 percent, so a smart team might try to frequently rest fragile starters to minimize the risk that they will become severely hurt. And that’s exactly what the Dodgers have done. So far this season, they are on pace to have the second-most starts thrown by pitchers with five or more days of rest than any team since at least 2009. And last season’s Dodgers already had the third-highest mark since 2009, so the new 10-day disabled list didn’t necessarily inspire this tactic. But it might have made the strategy more effective by allowing their pitchers to miss fewer starts.Even knowing that rest prevents injuries, whether Los Angeles prevented more serious ailments by using the short-term DL so frequently is difficult to say. Friedman built the Dodgers’ rotation on a surprisingly thrifty budget, relying largely on injury-prone pitchers who could be bought on the cheap. And the Dodgers seem to have gotten their money’s worth: They racked up more disabled list trips than any other team in the league in 2016, even if you focus only on the 60-day list (for which there is no tactical value to overuse). So even if you believe that the Dodgers are gaming the disabled list with fake injuries, they also seem to be suffering the most genuine ones of any team.But despite all that missed time, the Dodgers’ rotation has also been very successful, earning the second-most wins above replacement in baseball since 2014.2Using FanGraphs’ edition of WAR. As if harkening back to his career with the low-budget Rays, Friedman managed to put together one of the league’s best starting units using cheap talent and a clever strategic advantage. And with Los Angeles currently riding that rotation to an all-time great season, MLB’s 29 other teams might do well to copy the Dodgers’ roster-manipulation tactics.Check out our latest MLB predictions. In a season when the Los Angeles Dodgers are dominating everything in sight, they also lead the majors in a less praiseworthy category: trips to the disabled list. Two weeks ago, prized trade-deadline acquisition Yu Darvish was sent to the 10-day DL; last week, dark-horse Cy Young candidate Alex Wood was. Those are just some of the latest moves in what has become essentially a weekly ritual for the Dodgers, marking their 37th use of the short-term DL so far this season (25 of which have been for pitchers), more than any other team in baseball.Critics charge the Dodgers with exaggerating these kinds of injuries to game the DL, allowing the team to rest some of its starting pitchers without giving up a roster spot. And the Dodgers are certainly leading the way in this practice, which became much easier to pull off after a rule change this season shortened the length of a short-term DL stint from 15 days to 10. But the Dodgers aren’t the only outfit to make heavy use of the new disabled list — teams across the league are stashing more players on the short-term disabled list this season. Nor is this a completely new development: Even before the rule change, short-term DL use had been on the rise for years.In an age of one-inning relievers, roster size is a major limitation for modern front offices. Any unusable players — for example, a starting pitcher who threw yesterday — can cost a team, as their spot could be taken by yet another flamethrowing bullpen arm. So teams have come up with all sorts of ways to overcome roster-size limitations, ranging from sending an endless churn of relievers back and forth between triple-A and the majors to creating potential dual-role position player-pitcher hybrids.But the 10-day disabled list might have opened up new possibilities for roster manipulation. A starting pitcher who is placed on the list may only have to miss a single start while freeing up his roster spot for a fresh arm out of the bullpen. The tactical advantage of that additional reliever, combined with the extra rest it gives the starter, appears to have been too good of an opportunity to pass up.Smart teams like the Dodgers have exploited this latest edge. Here’s a chart showing MLB teams’ use of the short-term disabled list by season since 20091The earliest year for which Baseball Prospectus has detailed disabled list data. (for comparison’s sake, I included uses for the short-term DL’s longer, 60-day brother).
The Army’s successful housing privatization initiative can be used as a model to guide future reforms of DOD’s real estate portfolio, two former high-ranking Army officials say in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal.“The program’s success shows how partnerships between business and the military can often achieve better outcomes than the military can achieve on its own. This is especially so when applied to the vast infrastructure that consumes more than $200 billion of today’s defense budget,” say Sandy Apgar, who served as assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment from 1998-2001, and Jack Keane, who served as the Army’s vice chief of staff from 1999-2003.Apgar and Keane suggest that other assets, such as offices, warehousing and maintenance, could be monetized and their performance improved.“If the Defense Department were authorized to follow the best practices of American business and shed 10 percent to 20 percent of its infrastructure-related costs, it could save $20 billion to $40 billion a year,” they state.They cite five principles of defense reform that the next administration should follow in launching new initiatives:integrate public needs with private means and methods;plan from the inside out — military-business partnerships start with the soldier and the family, not the budget or the building;act strategically, trading short-term gains for long-term benefits;cross institutional, functional and geographic boundaries — bypassing DOD’s vertical silos and risk-averse culture can eliminate overhead and produce outcome-based systems; andfocus more on best-value outcomes than least-cost activities.“Partnerships have shown that the Pentagon’s conventional contracting methods can be more costly in the long run while risking mediocre results,” Apgar and Keane say. Dan Cohen AUTHOR