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Gators’ Brady Singer hums along in 5-1 CWS win over Louisville

Brady Singer pitched seven strong innings and Austin Langworthy and Deacon Liput homered to lead Florida to a 5-1 win over Louisville in the College World Series on Tuesday night.

The Gators (49-18) have won their first two CWS games for the first time in four appearances since opening 3-0 and reaching the finals in 2011.

Louisville (53-11) managed one run on six hits and struck out nine times against Singer (8-5). Florida pitchers finished with 10 strikeouts, making it their fifth straight game with double-digit Ks.

The left-handed-swinging Langworthy sliced a ball just inside the left field foul pole in the third and Liput hit a three-run homer to right in the fourth. Both homers came against Louisville starter Kade McClure (8-4), who otherwise was impressive in striking out nine and walking one in six innings.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound McClure had kept the game close until there were two outs in the fourth. He walked Nelson Maldonado and Jonathan India singled before Liput drove a low 1-2 pitch into the bullpen for his second homer in four games and third of the season. He celebrated in the dugout by dumping a bucket of ice water over the head of a Gators staff member.

Singer hummed along through six innings, striking out eight, walking none and limiting the Cardinals to three singles. Louisville broke through for a run in the seventh when Brendan McKay doubled and scored on Colin Lyman‘s two-out single. A base hit and walk followed, but the Cardinals left the bases loaded when Logan Taylor grounded out.


Florida’s Maldonado, already playing on a bad ankle, hurt his right shoulder diving back to third base on a pickoff attempt in the fourth. The athletic trainer and coach Kevin O’Sullivan tended to Maldonado, who stayed in the game after moving his arms to loosen up.


A discrepancy on the ball-strike count arose in the third inning when Louisville’s Taylor took first base on a full count rather than a ball four. Home-plate umpire Troy Fullwood went to the video review area and put the headset on even though it was not a reviewable situation. Fullwood ordered Taylor to return to the batter’s box, and McClure struck him out on the next pitch.


Florida plays Friday in the Bracket 2 final against the winner of the Louisville-TCU elimination game on Thursday.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Florida Democrats express outrage, Republicans concern, over possible exit from Paris climate accord

Florida Democrats slammed the anticipated announcement by President Donald Trump that he would pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, while several Florida Republicans urged Trump to keep America in the agreement.

Members of Congress and other political leaders were reacting late Tuesday and Wednesday to reports that Trump intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which all member countries except Syria and Nicaragua signed, to set goals for reduced carbon emissions.

Trump left the matter open Wednesday, tweeting that he would decide soon what to do. Various media reports indicated that sources within the White House were both signaling that he intends to pull out (New York Times and FoxNews) and cautioning that he hasn’t decided for sure yet (Washington Post, Wall Street Journal.)

Democrats on Wednesday were anticipating, with anger, that Trump would pull out of the Paris agreement. Florida Republicans who responded said they sure hope he won’t.

The potential impact on Florida, already experiencing damaging effects of rising sea levels according to many scientists, was stressed by many in their reactions.

“Our environment and our future are under attack today,” declared Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, who went on to vow he would fight for environmental protection for Florida on a state and national level. “Florida is the epicenter for climate change — and these decisions will hit us harder than the rest of the United States.”

Others pointed to the potential geopolitical ramifications of the United States becoming the only industrialized country — and the biggest — to reject the accord.

“Trump is making America irrelevant again,” declared Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando. “Climate change is real and human-made. Our country should remain in the Paris Accord and lead efforts to reduce carbon emissions to save our planet. With Florida being the most vulnerable state to rising sea levels, we face an even greater threat to our way of life now.”

And it wasn’t just Democrats expressing such sentiments. After all, The 24-member House Climate Solutions Caucus is co-chaired by Democrat Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Republican Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, and includes Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

“U.S. should be using every opportunity + its influence 2 mitigate threat of #climatechange at home + abroad. #ParisAccord,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted.

“I strongly encourage the president to remain in the Paris climate accord,” Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wrote on Facebook. “Climate change is a serious issue, especially for a state like Florida that has two coastlines vulnerable to rising waters.”

In tweets, Curbelo said he agreed with Buchanan, and added, “Bipartisan #Climate Solutions Caucus must now redouble our efforts to build consensus for pro-growth clean energy policies #parisclimate.”

If any of Florida’s other Republican members of Congress disagree, they have not yet publicly responded.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined 39 other U.S. senators, mostly Democrats, last week in a letter urging Trump to stay in the agreement, and outlining environmental, economic and diplomatic reasons for doing so. On Wednesday he warned that Florida is on the line.

“Sea-level rise caused by the Earth heating up is a real threat to Florida. If the U.S. isn’t going to do its part to combat climate change, then the rest of the world won’t do theirs and millions of Floridians living along the coast will be at risk.”

Many other Democrats expressed outrage.

“What a fool,” state Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando wrote on Facebook. “Climate change is not a hoax and Miami-Dade will soon be underwater. Party of stupid, indeed!”

Among other statements:

In a written statement issued by her campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, declared, “We are out of time — from stronger storms to prolonged droughts and raging wildfires, Florida is feeling the direct effects of climate change today.

“While the rest of the world moves forward, the United States under Trump and Florida under Rick Scott are in reverse. Scott has shown little more than lip service to remedial efforts, and Trump reneging on the Paris Agreement will place our environment, economy and national security at even greater risk.”

By midafternoon, there had been no statement from the other two major candidates for governor, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or Democratic businessman Chris King of Winter Park. Putnam’s campaign also did not respond to an inquiry about a challenging statement toward him issued by the Florida Democratic Party.

“The federal government is on the brink of leaving an international agreement that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time for Adam Putnam to give an answer, worthy of a gubernatorial candidate,” the Florida Democratic Party challenged.

“Florida is ground zero for climate change and our state’s economy, health and well-being depend on our leaders in Tallahassee and Washington actively combating climate change. Does Adam Putnam support Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, which could lead to global temperatures reaching dangerously high levels and seriously threaten Florida’s environment and economy? Or will he continue to deflect questions on fighting climate change and protecting our economy?” FDP spokesperson Johanna Cervone said in the party’s statement.

Deutch issued a lengthy statement, declaring, “President Trump’s unfortunate decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement all but guarantees we cede our leadership on this issue so vital to our future to China, Russia, and Europe. Sadly, it’s just the latest move in a string of actions by this President that have damaged our international relationships and weakened our global standing.

“This decision has the potential to irreparably harm our earth, dramatically hinder our economic growth, and fundamentally change our way of life.

“South Florida is already struggling with the effects of climate change, like worsening weather patterns and rising sea levels. As sunny-day flooding becomes more common, the President responds by sticking his head in the sand in denial of the science and the reality in our own community. Will Mar-a-Lago Country Club need to be underwater for this president to make a responsible decision about climate change?

“If President Trump won’t listen to the scientists, then he should listen to the business leaders who strongly support the Paris Agreement. They understand that it will promote investments and create jobs. By removing the US from the Paris Agreement, this president is putting our country at a competitive disadvantage in the world.

“Most importantly, today’s decision puts our national security at risk. Even as our military leaders devise strategies to combat the effects of climate change, in our own country and globally, the president’s dangerous decision will make their job more difficult and our nation less secure.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg said in a written statement: “The Paris Climate Accord is a historic and shared commitment between nearly 200 countries to protect our environment and our future.

“It would be extremely disappointing and damaging for the U.S. to walk away from this commitment and surrender America’s leadership in climate stewardship. Withdrawal would cause lasting damage to our international relationships, global environment, and national economy. In my home state of Florida, the environment is our economy and we feel the effects of climate change on a daily basis. We must renew and strengthen these commitments, not turn our back on them. A decision to withdraw from the Accord would be shortsighted, irresponsible, and immoral.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of West Palm Beach wrote in a statement issued by his office: “President Trump’s intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement is an irresponsible renouncement of American leadership. The results of abandoning this international framework will be tragic, destructive, and costly, and will undermine the legitimacy of our country on the global stage.

“The United States cannot allow its foreign policy to be dictated by irrational nationalistic whims. The 195 signatory Paris Agreement was reached after painstaking negotiations. In signing, our country honored its commitment to leave future generations with a better world. Climate change is real, and we know what causes it. The Paris Agreement commits governments to working together to cap pollution levels and combat carbon emissions, which will reduce extreme climate events like drought, famine, and rising sea levels.

“Ignoring our international responsibilities jeopardizes the health and future of our country. President Trump needs to recognize that he is the President for all Americans, not just the privileged few. This destructive and shortsighted decision will have serious consequences, and the President should be held accountable for his irresponsible actions.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa declared the prospect a “huge economic blow to the state of Florida.”

“It will cost us jobs and leave Floridians on the hook for the higher costs of the changing climate. Trump is ceding America’s leadership in the world to other nations with disregard for the economic damage to our people,” she said in a written statement.

“Sixteen of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, including 2016 which was the third consecutive record-breaking year. Floridians in particular face higher costs tied to rising AC bills, property insurance, flood insurance, local taxes for infrastructure fixes, extreme weather events, beach renourishment and more. The rising costs of the changing climate are a real threat for Florida families and businesses. Miami and Tampa Bay are among the top 10 regions in the world most at risk from property loss from flooding and sea level rise.

“Trump’s decision strikes at the heart of the economic boost that Florida and other states enjoyed due to expanding job opportunities in clean energy, green building, solar, energy efficiency and cogeneration. Clean energy jobs are on the upswing, much more so than jobs in industries tied to fossil fuels. Florida’s construction and manufacturing industries have long been anchors of the state’s economy, employing more than a half-million workers. These industries have steadily recovered from the recession that gripped Florida in 2007. An analysis by ICF International estimates that investing in clean energy would create 1 million new jobs in America by 2030 and 2 million jobs by 2050. Florida was on track to see 109,000 new jobs tied to clean energy construction and manufacturing by 2030, and 206,000 jobs by 2050.

“Solar energy would have accounted for many of the new jobs and economic growth, but Trump’s damaging new attack will set us back. The solar industry created jobs 12 times faster in solar construction, installation, operations and maintenance than those created in the overall U.S. workforce. In 2016, one out of every 50 new jobs in America was in solar energy. Solar workers already outnumber coal miners 3 to 1, and that trend will continue. Solar and wind also received a boost a couple of years ago when Congress extended the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit for five years. The solar ITC will continue at 30 percent for facilities commencing construction before Jan. 1, 2020, adding 220,000 jobs by 2020. The PTC will remain at 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour credit until it gradually phases out by Jan. 1, 2020, adding 100,000 jobs to the economy. Local businesses, architects and manufacturers already have started to build our clean energy economy. We know how to do it through solar energy, which has seen prices drop by 80 percent since 2009, and with energy efficiency, which is the lowest-cost source of energy.

“America should not take a back seat to others on clean energy jobs and the challenges posed by the changing climate. While America previously led the way on the international climate accord with nearly 200 countries including China and India committing to reduce carbon pollution to help preserve the planet for our children and grandchildren, Trump now cedes that leadership role, costs us jobs and passes along higher costs to America’s families — a poor legacy indeed.”

Bad news for Andrew Gillum? Tallahassee named most dangerous city in Florida

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum received some possibly unsettling news this week.

The Democratic candidate for governor, who has led Tallahassee since November 2014, learned that his city is the most dangerous in Florida.

That dubious distinction came by way of a survey from the blog 24/7 Wall St, which reviewed data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report to identify the dangerous metropolitan area in each state.

Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI. It was also well above the state’s violent crime rate of 461.9 per 100,000 (Florida was the 11th highest in the nation). Tallahassee also had a poverty rate of 22.4 percent and an unemployment rate: 4.4 percent.

Gillum’s camp offered a counter-narrative.

“Here’s the real story of Tallahassee: it was ranked one of the best cities in Florida to start a business and it continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Geoff Burgan, the Gillum campaign’s communication’s director. “People expect that communities will have challenges – what they care about is how you address them, and the Mayor’s taken public safety very seriously. He’s worked to put more police on the street and increase community policing practices. He’s also addressed the social side of public safety – from expanding the Summer Jobs program to offer kids an opportunity, to using restorative and alternative justice programs to better address systemic issues.”

After two decades of steady decline, violent crime in the U.S. seems to be on the rise. There were an estimated 15,696 murders nationwide in 2015, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, part of a 3.9 percent overall increase in violent crime.

On the bright side, however, is that U.S. crime still remains at historic lows; violent crime is down over 50 percent since 1991.

Since crime is not uniform across the country, violent crime is far more common in some cities than others – something a gubernatorial candidate certainly does not want on the campaign trail, especially when that most dangerous city is his hometown.

To identify the most dangerous city in each state, Wall Street 24/7 examined: “The total number and rates of murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson — all classified as property crime — also came from the FBI’s report.”

The website also considered corresponding data from 2011 through 2015. Unemployment rates for March 2017 were taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Numbers on poverty rates, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma were from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) for 2015.

Boats in Florida inching up after slumping all decade

Almost a decade after the number of boaters in Florida took a nosedive, the number of registered vessels is inching its way back up.

Florida Today reported Saturday that there were more than 95,000 fewer registered vessels in 2016 than a decade earlier.

That’s a 9.3 percent dip.

The number of boats in Florida bottomed out in 2013 at almost 897,000 vessels.

It has gradually increased over the past three years and that figure now stands at more than 931,000 boats.

Michele Miller of the Marine Industry Association of Florida says the number of boats tracks economic conditions.

It declined during the Great Recession and has bounced back with improving economic conditions.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

4 Florida top-30 college baseball teams push toward post season

Heading into the final weekend of regular season play, four Florida teams are ranked among the top 30 in college baseball. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is one of the tools used to choose the 64-team NCAA Tournament field and barring any disasters, Florida, Florida State, South Florida and Central Florida should hear their names called on selection day in less than two weeks.

In an unusual occurrence, Florida State fans must realize they have seen their team play at Dick Howser Stadium for the last time this year. The Seminoles will most likely make the NCAA Tournament, but their losing ACC record (12-14) is only eighth best and their overall record of 33-20 will have them traveling for any post season play. They are ranked 26th in the RPI.

“We ain’t getting a regional. Sorry,” said FSU Coach Mike Martin after dropping two of three to Wake Forest last weekend.

That will be the first time since 2006 FSU will not host a regional. While they would be grateful for the tournament invite, all they would ask is for the committee not to send them to Gainesville again. The last two seasons have come to an end for the Seminoles in the Super Regional at the hands – and bats — of the Gators at McKethan Stadium.

The Gators know they will be hosting a regional, but this weekend they will be playing to hold onto their position among the top 8 teams nationally. Those 8 will be scheduled to host Super Regionals.

Florida, ranked 5th in the RPI, hosts 7th-ranked Kentucky. A sweep by Florida gives them the SEC regular season crown. The SEC Conference Tournament begins May 23 in Hoover, Ala.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of success against Kentucky,” Gator Coach Kevin O’Sullivan told floridagators.com. “I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”

South Florida and Central Florida are tied at 13-8 for the American Athletic Conference lead heading into a showdown series this weekend in Orlando. The Bulls and Knights are battling Houston (13-8) and Connecticut (12-9) for the top seed in the conference tournament beginning May 23 in Clearwater.

USF, ranked 21st, swept the 27th-ranked Knights in Tampa last month. Both are expected to be on the road for any NCAA Tournament games, but UCF will have some revenge and a regular-season title on their minds.

A few are even making the case for USF to host a regional if they win the conference title. Bulls’ boosters highlight the fact they are 5-0 this season against Florida, Florida State and UCF.

Winning conference tournaments can lead to others getting in. Miami is only ranked 54th and has a 25-26 record making their chances slim. Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville, Florida International are all ranked in the top 80.


Anxiety over GOP health plan for those with severe illnesses

Unease and uncertainty are settling over Americans with serious illnesses as Republicans move closer to dismantling Democratic former President Barack Obama‘s health care system.

A New Orleans attorney with multiple sclerosis fears he’ll be forced to close his practice if he loses coverage, while a Philadelphia woman with asthma is looking at stockpiling inhalers.

The Republican health care bill pushed through the House on Thursday leaves those with pre-existing conditions fearful of higher premiums and losing coverage altogether if the Affordable Care Act is replaced.

The bill sets aside billions of dollars more to help people afford coverage, but experts say that money is unlikely to guarantee an affordable alternative for people now covered under a popular provision of the existing law that prevents insurers from rejecting them or charging higher rates based on their health.

What happens to those with pre-existing conditions under the Republican plan remains unknown.

Several people unsettled by the prospects expressed these concerns.



Jake Martinez said he’s worried about getting health insurance in the future because he has epilepsy, considered a pre-existing condition by insurers.

For the last several years, he, his wife and their three children have settled into a comfortable place using health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But now the Murray, Utah, residents are worried about what may happen with this new health care bill.

“Today, it really kind of sunk in that not only are we not going to potentially have health care coverage but that it was done as a political win rather than a well-thought-out plan,” said Martinez, a 32-year-old former chef who’s studying social work. “That’s what stings about it.”



Shortly after being diagnosed with type I diabetes, Amanda Perkins learned about the perils of pre-existing conditions when she starting trying to buy health insurance.

Now she worries that protections under the Affordable Care Act that made sure certain essential health benefits, like insulin prescriptions, could be eliminated.

The new Republican plan would let some states allow insurers to charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, but only if those people had a lapse in insurance coverage. Supporters say those states would need to have programs in place to help people pay for expensive medical treatments, including high-risk pools.

But Perkins said Kentucky’s previous high-risk pool had a 12-month waiting period and was too expensive for her.

“I bought a house just a couple of months ago. Will it come down to me paying my mortgage payment or paying my health insurance so I don’t have a lapse in coverage?” said Perkins, an attorney for a small firm in Lexington, Kentucky.



Janella Williams has a rare neurological disorder that forces her to receive expensive IV drugs every seven weeks. Without it, she would not be able to walk.

Williams, who owns her own graphic design company in Lawrence, Kansas, pays $480 under an Obamacare plan. It keeps her out-of-pocket maximum at $3,500 a year and provides her coverage despite her pre-existing condition.

“I’m terrified of becoming disabled. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve thought of ending my life if it comes to that,” she said.

High-risk pools run by the state are not the answer, she says. The Republican plan would also bring back lifetime caps on coverage, which Williams says she would meet after only her first IV treatment. She and her husband both work full time, but wouldn’t be able to afford the roughly $600,000 a year her treatments cost once the cap is met.

“I have really lost my faith in humanity,” she said. “It’s terrible how little we care for the sick.”



John Thompson credits his survival in large part because he bought a family insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Thompson, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was laid off in 2013, lost his employer-backed insurance and diagnosed with cancer during the year he was unemployed.

If the House proposal allowing insurers to make coverage for pre-existing conditions unaffordable takes hold, he fears his cancer history will make him uninsurable if he would lose his current job as a retirement financial adviser.

“Like many of us here, whether you have asthma or a heart condition or diabetes or like me, cancer, any type of pre-existing condition, you go back to the way it was before, you give insurance companies carte blanche to do their underwriting and to exclude you,” Thompson said.



Shelby Jehlen, of New Port Richey, Florida, was diagnosed six years ago with leukemia and says she wouldn’t be able to afford insurance if she lost her roughly $400 a month subsidy.

Jehlen saves about $1,000 every three months to see her cancer doctor under her Obamacare plan, but still pays about $1,500 for the check-ups.

She was forced to quit work because of all the X-rays and other chemicals she was exposed to daily as a veterinary assistant and now cuts corners, sacrificing phones and school activities for her two teen daughters, to afford the monthly premiums. The stress has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.

“Absolutely, I’m scared. I’m worried I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with all my side effects with my leukemia if they take this away from me,” she said.



Adrienne Standley has been preparing for the possibility of losing her insurance since President Donald Trump took office.

Three days after the inauguration, she set up an appointment for a birth control implant so she would be covered for four years, no matter what happens.

The 29-year-old operations director at a start-up apparel business in Philadelphia also has asthma and attention deficit disorder.

“I’m looking at stockpiling, making sure I have an inhaler,” she said. “I’m pretty scared to lose coverage.”



John S. Williams says he’ll be forced to close his practice and find a job with a group insurance plan if he’s longer covered under the government’s health care plan

The New Orleans attorney has multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease for which medication alone costs $70,000 a year. He buys insurance for himself on the individual marketplace, and the Affordable Care Act has made that possible, he said.

“We always hear about job growth and business creation — being able to have affordable health care drives that,” Williams said. “Because of the ACA, I am able to employ people and help the economy grow.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Republicans quickly attack Gwen Graham as non-achieving, non-transparent

Republicans wasted little time, setting their sights quickly on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham Tuesday, accusing her of having no achievements in public service, and hiding some of her congressional records.

In separate releases, the Republican Party of Florida said she lacks accomplishments to run on; the Republican Governors Association said the former congresswoman did not release her congressional records before leaving office at the end of December.

The pair of responses may indicate a level of concern the Republicans could have for a Graham candidacy, as neither party organization quickly attacked the announced candidacies of the other two Democrats running for governor, Winter Park businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Graham’s campaign dismissed the charges as typical partisan responses:

“These predictable, partisan attacks are about as standardized and one-dimensional as the high-stakes tests Florida Republicans keep heaping on our schools and kids. Let’s focus on Florida — that’s certainly what Gwen Graham is doing.”

In the RPOF release, Florida Republican Chair Blaise Ingoglia called Graham a product of the Democratic Party’s “cookie cutter machine.”

“Gwen Graham is just another example of what’s wrong with the Democrat Party — a candidate who is running on her father’s name ID, rather than on her own accomplishments. Graham’s only record of achievement is that of non-achievement! said running for office does not qualify you for governing a state,” Ingoglia stated in a release.

“It requires a track record of getting things done,” he added. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Graham, and the people of Florida deserve better and will ultimately choose experience over rhetoric.”

The Republican Governors Association brought up a side effort launched late last fall, when it sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Graham’s congressional office seeking all records associated with her family’s businesses. At that time, her office responded publicly to the media, saying there were no such records, but did not respond to the RGA because congressional offices are exempt from the FOIA law.

The RGA brought it up again Tuesday, in a news release saying she had promised transparency, but failed to deliver.

“Graham’s efforts to hide her congressional records proves she can’t be trusted to lead the state as governor. Floridians deserved to know if Graham used her position in government to benefit any of her families’ companies or affiliated businesses — and she can only prove that by immediately releasing these congressional records and communications.”

Miami’s Brad Kaaya, UF’s Caleb Brantley among NFL Draft’s biggest losers

Most of the Miami, Florida State and Florida players were chosen at or near their projections in the NFL Draft with two glaring exceptions. Yes, Dalvin Cook was thought to be a first-rounder, but the other state players drafted in the second or third round went as expected.

The exceptions were Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley and Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya. Brantley was not taken until the first pick of the 6th round by the Cleveland Browns while Kaaya lasted until the 32nd pick of the 6th round and 215th overall.

In the end, Kaaya was probably the only real surprise. After Brantley was accused of punching a woman less than a week before the draft, the question was not whether he would drop, but how far.

The Browns finally pulled Brantley’s ripcord before he hit the ground. His act of rage cost him dearly.

Brantley had every bit of the talent necessary to be a second round draft choice. Some mock drafts had him as a first rounder.

He was a second-team all-SEC in 2016, which is fine when looking at all of the SEC defensive talent in this draft. He was rated the 8th best defensive lineman in the draft, but nearly two dozen were taken ahead of him. By comparison, Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker was ranked below Brantley, but was a solid second round choice.

If he can control himself and use his physical talent in a positive way, Brantley has a chance to earn back the millions he lost with his alleged indiscretion. Whatever he earns, he can, and should, fork over a substantial sum to this woman if found guilty (or settles).

Kaaya’s situation was painful to watch. He was not accused of doing anything off the field.

He wasn’t the best quarterback in the ACC, a conference full of pretty good ones. But coming into the draft, he was the 6th-highest rated quarterback.

Four of those (North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Pitt’s Nathan Peterman,) ranked and drafted ahead of him were from the ACC. Three others ranked below him were drafted ahead of him.

He is what NFL scouts look for; a pro-style pocket passer and is good with a play action offense. His 6-foot, 4-inch frame is a prototypical NFL quarterback.

The down side, not to be minimized, is accuracy, which can be improved upon with experience. His arm strength is labeled around average by scouts.

Still, in weighing the upside and downside, Kaaya was projected as a third or fourth round pick. That was clearly not the case.

A lot of young men are happy just to be drafted, including these two. They now know that they have more to prove just to stay in the league.

Kaaya needs to prove he can lead an NFL team, while Brantley has to make amends and show his new teammates he can control himself off the field so he can be there for them on the field.

They should not be surprised about that.

Rob Manfred says 2 groups still in Miami Marlins’ bidding

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says two groups are still bidding to buy the Miami Marlins from Jeffrey Loria.

Former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are involved in one of the groups. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the Jeter/Bush group won an auction for the team with a $1.3 billion bid. Manfred said some reports on the sale have been premature.

“There are multiple bidders for the Marlins,” Manfred said Thursday at the groundbreaking for the Jackie Robinson Museum. “There is no agreement in place. We’re working with more than one group, and when we have a definitive agreement we’ll make an announcement.”

Asked about the timeline, Manfred responded: “The timeline is relatively short; it would be measured in days, not months.” He also said, “there is not a signed document on any topic.”

“We still have two groups involved in the process,” he added. “Timing is one of the things that both the buyer and the seller are working through, so it’s just impossible to say at this point, and I don’t want to get into really what the issues are. The only reason I commented on this at all is there had been so much out there that really (is) not quite accurate.”

As Manfred was speaking, ESPN announced it was cutting back its “Baseball Tonight” studio program from all game nights to Sundays and special events. The MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” will be broadcast on ESPN2 on weekdays from 4-5 p.m. during the season and for 30 minutes during the offseason.

A day earlier, ESPN announced about 100 layoffs amid a loss of subscribers and rising rights fees for live telecasts of games.

“We feel that we’ll continue to get outstanding coverage of baseball on ESPN,” Manfred said.

Manfred also said talks were ongoing with Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan about the team’s Chief Wahoo logo, which many find offensive.

“Those conversations have been productive, and when we come to a definitive timeline, believe me, we’ll let you know,” Manfred said.

Protesters gathered outside Cleveland’s Progressive Field before some games to demonstrate against the club’s use of the red-faced, smiling logo, which has been part of the team’s history dating to the 1940s.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Report: State workers to get pay raises, but changes to health benefits could be coming

State workers could get a raise under a proposed budget deal being hashed out by state lawmakers, but it could come at a cost.

The $82.9 billion budget deal is expected to provide an across-the-board raise for state workers — their first in about nine years, according to Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, for whom the raise was a priority.

But according to POLITICO Florida, the Senate has agreed to changes to the state’s health insurance plan and pension plan in exchange for those pay increases.

The health insurance proposal would encompass the changes contained in a House bill (HB 7007) passed earlier this year. The bill allows employees to choose from four different levels of health-insurance beginning in 2020. According to POLITICO Florida, the deal also requires new state employees be placed into a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k).

The Senate, in exchange, would receive the $220 million of state worker pay raises outlined in the Senate’s initial budget proposal.

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