Jessica Mendoza hired as Mets adviser but keeps ESPN job
By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
Wednesday, March 6
NEW YORK (AP) — Jessica Mendoza was hired as a baseball operations adviser for the New York Mets on Tuesday while remaining a broadcaster for ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” part of an increasing number of television commentators who also work for teams.
She will be involved in player evaluation, roster construction, technological advancement and health and performance, the Mets said.
Mendoza, a member of the U.S. Olympic softball team in 2004 and 2008, did not address any potential conflict of interest — working for a team while simultaneously commentating on all clubs.
In the team statement, Mendoza thanked ESPN and Disney for their “understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward.”
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz wrote in an email to The Associated Press there are “numerous examples across networks of these type of arrangements where commentators work closely with teams, and we will be fully transparent about Jessica’s relationship with the Mets.”
He added: “We have complete faith in her ability as a leading MLB voice for ESPN.”
Krulewitz said Mendoza was not available for comment to the AP but likely will be available later this week.
MLB Network announcer Bob Costas, a winner of the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, said Mendoza’s role in game broadcasts is not the same as it would be on a news show such as ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” or HBO’s “Real Sports.”
“I think at least some people in the media will watch more closely for traces of conflict of interest and she can dispel that,” he said. “The proof is in the performance.”
Team announcers long have worked for national networks, such as Vin Scully, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. But they did not report to general managers.
Before nationally televised games, managers routinely give private briefings to the network broadcasters, and some might be more reticent to disclose information to an employee of an opponent.
“I think perhaps a more interesting thing would be: Is the person who works for a team equally critical when called over of managerial moves, player performance, did they or did they not make this trade, they did or did not make this free agent signing?” Costas said. “Are the equally even-handed in their praise and criticism? That’s probably more important than any proprietary information.”
Former Tigers star Kirk Gibson, a commentator for Fox Sports Detroit since 2015, was hired by the Tigers this off-season as a special assistant to the general manager and will remain in his broadcast role.
“I have no problem with that stuff,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They’re not going to hold a gun to me and get information that they probably shouldn’t have. They’re just going to come and do their job, and that’s easy enough.”
Former pitcher Al Leiter was hired Monday earlier as a Mets baseball operations adviser and will continue in his role as a studio analyst for the MLB Network, according to the network. Leiter told the New York Yankees’ YES network earlier in the offseason he was leaving his role there.
“Over the past 10 years, a number of MLB Network on-air personalities have held advisory and guest instructor roles with various MLB clubs, including Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) and Jim Thome (White Sox), as well as Ryan Dempster (Cubs),” MLB Network spokeswoman Lorraine Fisher said in an email. “We are transparent with our audience about these roles, and we have seen and will continue to expect all on-air staff to deliver objective analysis on all 30 clubs.”
Alex Rodriguez, a member of the Sunday night ESPN booth along with Mendoza and play-by-play commentator Matt Vasgersian, has been a Yankees adviser since his retirement. His work for the team appears to be primarily several days of on-field coaching annually with young players.
Rodriguez took over in the booth for Aaron Boone, who left after the 2017 to become Yankees manager.
“I’m sure it won’t be that big of an issue. I don’t reveal too many secrets, anyway,” Boone said. “It’s something I can get on her about.”
ESPN also says Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia will contribute to the network this season as a studio analyst and make appearances on several of its shows. Sabathia has said this will be his final season as a player.
David Ortiz and Frank Thomas are Fox studio analysts; Ortiz is a special assistant for the Boston Red Sox and Thomas a special consultant for business operations for the Chicago White Sox.
Retired catcher David Ross has been a Chicago Cubs special assistant to baseball operations and an ESPN analyst and in-game broadcaster since before the 2017 season.
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister and AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Clash of ‘Jeopardy!’ titans ends with $1 million runaway win
By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The first-ever “Jeopardy!” team championship came down to a clash of the titans, Ken Jennings vs. Brad Rutter.
With $1 million at stake, a big Daily Double bet by Rutter positioned his team for a runaway victory as the quiz show’s “All-Star Games” ended Tuesday.
Rutter and teammates Larissa Kelly and David Madden split the top prize, with Jennings, Matt Jackson and Monica Thieu sharing $300,000. Colby Burnett, Pam Mueller and Alan Lin took third place and $100,000 on the show hosted by Alex Trebek.
Rutter entered the contest as the top winner on any game show with a haul of $4.3 million in regular and tournament “Jeopardy!” play. Jennings was a 74-game winner and top moneymaker in the quiz show’s non-tournament competition with $2.5 million.
“To see it come down to the two heavyweights was the perfect culmination of it,” Madden said in an interview. “It certainly did not disappoint in terms of the quality of play, and we just got lucky that Brad pulled the Daily Doubles when needed and had a great round.”
“Ken played great, too, as did Team Colby,” he said, graciously.
For his part, team captain Rutter was happy to share the credit with Madden and Kelly.
“The money is great, but these champs aren’t here for the money. They’re here for the glory,” he said. “I wanted to bring it home for my team, because they worked so hard and prepared so well and played so well.”
A daring $10,000 bet by Rutter ended up making the contest a lock, Kelly said. A history buff, Rutter said he felt confident enough about the category, Colonial America, to go big. (He knew which war Britain’s 1764 Sugar Act was intended to retroactively pay for. If the answer doesn’t spring to mind, here’s a refresher .)
“Brad and I have probably played against each other more than any two other people in ‘Jeopardy!’ history, but it’s never enough for me,” Jennings said in a statement. “On the one hand, I’m thinking, ‘Just once, can somebody take this guy out in the semis?’ But on the other hand, you want to see how you stack up against the best talent available.”
Kelly called Rutter’s performance “incredible to watch.” It also made easy work for her in the final round of “Jeopardy!” as she faced a question about Constitutional amendments.
“I was assuming I would have to get it right, and it turned out it didn’t matter at all. I was totally in a no-pressure situation,” she said, happily.
The winning teammates boast longtime friendships. Madden and Kelly were quiz-bowl teammates at Princeton, and Rutter and Madden met at a tournament in 2006. Playing as a trio was an “amazing aspect of the whole experience,” Madden said.
So how will each spend their share of the prize, about $330,000?
Madden said he and his wife will plow some of it into International Academic Competitions, the company they founded that organizes quiz tournaments for schoolchildren worldwide. The investment may eventually allow them to reduce their time on the road building the business and move to a new home, he said.
Kelly and her husband, both with the National Academic Quiz Tournaments company, have travel in mind, as well as updating the house purchased with her earlier “Jeopardy!” winnings and doing what Kelly called the “prudent” thing by saving for retirement.
As for Rutter, an Australian vacation is likely. And he’ll continue to pursue work as an actor in TV commercials and pitch ideas to produce, including a game show and sitcoms.
“So a little bit more for the nest egg, and I can support myself without having to wait tables like everyone else in Hollywood,” he said.
Lynn Elber can be reached at lelberap.org and Twitter at lynnelber
AP NewsBreak: US plans to lift protections for gray wolves
By MATTHEW BROWN and JOHN FLESHER
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move certain to re-ignite the legal battle over a predator that’s rebounding in some regions and running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers, an official told The Associated Press.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was expected to announce the proposal during a Wednesday speech before a wildlife conference in Denver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said in an interview with the AP.
The decision to lift protections is based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. He said further details would be made public during a formal announcement planned in coming days.
Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century.
They received endangered species protections in 1975, when there were about 1,000 left, only in northern Minnesota. Now more than 5,000 of the animals live in the contiguous U.S.
Most are in the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies regions. Protections for the Northern Rockies population were lifted in 2011 and hundreds are now killed annually by hunters.
State officials say wolves have continued to thrive despite pressure from hunting. The animals are prolific breeders and can adapt to a variety of habitats.
Wildlife advocates want federal protections kept in place until wolves repopulate more of their historic range that once stretched across most of North America.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has argued for years that the gray wolf has recovered in the lower 48 states, despite occupying only a small fraction of the territory it once roamed.
The government first proposed revoking the wolf’s protected status across the Lower 48 states in 2013, but backed off after federal courts struck down its plan for “delisting” the species in the western Great Lakes region states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Flesher reported from Traverse City, Michigan.
US takes tentative steps toward opening up government data
March 6, 2019
Anjanette Raymond, Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics; Director, Program on Data Management and Information Governance, Ostrom Workshop, Indiana University
Beth Cate, Clinical Associate Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University
Scott Shackelford, Associate Professor of Business Law and Ethics; Director, Ostrom Workshop Program on Cybersecurity and Internet Governance; Cybersecurity Program Chair, IU-Bloomington, Indiana University
Disclosure statement: Beth Cate received funding from The Privacy Projects in connection with the production of a chapter on the Supreme Court’s information privacy jurisprudence, for inclusion in Bulk Surveillance: Systematic Government Access to Private Sector Data, James X. Dempsey and Fred H. Cate eds. (Oxford Univ. Press 2018).
Anjanette Raymond and Scott Shackelford do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Indiana University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
At the beginning of this year, President Trump signed into law the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act, requiring that nonsensitive government data be made available in machine-readable, open formats by default.
As researchers who study data governance and cyber law, we are excited by the possibilities of the new act. But much effort is needed to fill in missing details – especially since these data can be used in unpredictable or unintended ways.
The federal government would benefit from considering lessons learned from open government activities in other countries and at state and local levels.
Cracking the door toward open data
Open government is the governing doctrine which holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight. The doctrine has drawn increased attention in recent years, as a growing list of nations agree to participate in a global voluntary commitment towards democratic reforms, via the Open Government Partnership initiative.
America was one of the Open Government Partnership’s eight founding countries in 2011, and the Open Government Partnership was an outgrowth of domestic open government initiatives launched in the first months of the Obama presidency.
In December 2009, Obama issued a directive requiring federal agencies to proactively publish government information online in open formats and to take other steps toward building a culture of openness around data.
This initiative launched the Data.gov website that publishes government databases, as well as WeThePeople.gov, for petitioning the government; Challenge.gov, for competing to help the government solve problems; and USASpending.gov, disclosing and tracking the federal budget.
Open government data have already produced direct impacts on Americans’ daily lives. For example, detailed city profiles offer information such as demographics, crime rates, weather patterns and home values. These data, in turn, allow developers to build more robust applications for individuals, such as a health inspection score app or AccuWeather, which provides minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts.
Because the Obama administration’s efforts toward openness were driven by executive orders and not legislation, they faced possible rollback by later administrations. The Trump administration’s early removal of climate science-related data on agency websites, for example, raised concerns among researchers and others about its commitment to transparency and accountability.
The Trump administration has, however, recognized the value of government data for driving innovation and economic growth, holding federal grantees accountable and improving the effectiveness of public services.
Enter the OPEN Government Data Act
The OPEN Government Data Act, signed into law on Jan. 14, enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress and built directly on the Obama era agenda for openness.
Taking effect in January 2020, the act requires government agencies to make their data freely and publicly available in open formats and machine-readable, unless other considerations – such as intellectual property, privacy or national security concerns – indicate otherwise.
Agencies must also develop strategic plans for managing their data; develop a comprehensive and metadata-enriched inventory of their data, minus some national security-related data; and appoint a chief data officer to manage agency data and maximize its value to the government and the public.
In February, the White House issued America’s fourth National Action Plan. This plan echoes the OPEN Government Data Act and emphasizes the need to make federally funded science publicly available in the interest of economic growth, innovation and public health.
A change in culture
As Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington said in an interview to Federal Times, “Passing the OPEN Government Data Act was a big step, but it wasn’t the last step.”
While the law requires that all agencies designate a nonpolitical chief data officer, only a few agencies currently have filled this role. Even the existence of a data officer does not guarantee success; the key will be whether the data officers can build a robust agency culture of data sharing and openness.
“There’s, I think, naturally, a tendency within government or any other large institution to favor risk aversion and opacity,” Christian Troncoso, policy director at Business Software Alliance, commented to Fedscoop.com. “People take a sort of siloed view of what they’re working on and don’t necessarily appreciate the fact that the data they may be generating in the course of a project could also be helpful to their colleagues within the agency, certainly, but then to their colleagues across government as well.”
Several features of the act are designed to promote data sharing and best practices in data management. For example, the Office of Management and Budget must create guidance for agencies and a council of agency chief data officers, and collaborate with others to build an online repository of open data tools and standards.
But, in practice, the act may still leave significant room for agency discretion in judging data to be restricted or too costly or not worth making open. This could lead to serious gaps in open data. While open government data is a lofty goal, without coordinated implementation, it may suffer from unrealized potential.
Keeping data secure
The OPEN Government Data Act requires agencies to walk a fine line between making data as open as possible, but as closed as necessary due to, for example, cybersecurity concerns over sensitive information.
Federal law already limits some disclosures. For example, under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act, statistical agencies face strict rules for protecting personally identifiable information. Employees at agencies such as the Census Bureau face fines and potential jail time for improper disclosure of data.
Existing laws have contributed to a culture of withholding data when sensitive data are present within the data set. But the OPEN Act could lead to new tensions between openness and privacy, because expanding the universe of open data increases the risk that data that appear anonymized will become personally identifiable.
For example, in 2014, a London researcher was able to trace an individual’s movements from Transport for London’s open data. With just a little more information, the researcher claims he could have easily identified the individual.
In 2014, another group of researchers successfully deanonymized New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission data. The researchers were able to track specific taxi medallion numbers and, in some cases, specific passenger trips.
While these instances were part of a small number of reported concerns, we are concerned how other data releases may lead to unintended consequences, such as open data being used to track the movements of individuals. Appropriately, the OPEN Government Data Act calls on OMB and agencies to consider the risks of reidentification from data pooling as they carry out their open data activities.
But, it seems to us that truly deidentifying data is an increasingly elusive goal. The act also requires agencies to collect and analyze information on how their data are being used. While this makes sense in the broader context of maximizing the usefulness of government data, it raises its own privacy issues. Implementation choices will be key – and the role of data officers will be critical.
Tornado forecasting improves, but still deaths keep coming
By SETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer
Wednesday, March 6
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sometimes in forecasting tornadoes, you can get everything technically right, and yet it all goes horribly wrong.
Three days before the killer Alabama tornado struck, government severe-storm meteorologists cautioned that conditions could be ripe for twisters in the Southeast on Sunday. Then, an hour before the tragedy, they warned that a strong tornado could occur in two particular Alabama counties within 30 to 60 minutes.
And that’s what happened.
Yet 23 people died.
To a meteorologist, the forecast was the equivalent of a hole-in-one in golf or a slam dunk, but with so many people killed, “was it a success or a failure or both?” asked Colorado State University meteorology professor Russ Schumacher.
Forecasters “painted a pretty clear picture that something bad was going to happen,” Schumacher said, and “there’s certainly success in that. On the other hand, we don’t like to see entire communities to be turned upside-down like this. So there’s more to be done.”
Predicting with any precision where a tornado is going to go is still beyond the limits of meteorology, which is why warnings went out for a large two-county area when a tornado might be only half a mile wide. And getting people to listen and take precautions is another matter altogether.
Forecasting tornadoes combines the hard physics of meteorology, the softer human factors of social science and more than a dash of chaos.
At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, forecasters look for certain ingredients that can make a tornado. These include warm moist air coming from the south and stormy weather chugging from the west that can bring instability. That’s when you can get supercells, which is where tornadoes come from.
But maybe only 10 to 20 percent of supercells spawn tornadoes, said prediction center forecast operations chief Bill Bunting. There are other factors at work, including erratic wind behavior known as wind shear, the amount of cold air present, even the size of the rain droplets, meteorologists said. And then there are the unknown factors at play.
Given all that, the best meteorologists can do is say seven to eight days out — four to five is more usual — when conditions will be ripe for tornadoes, Bunting said. And even that doesn’t mean they will happen. And certainly not over all of the large area that meteorologists give in their several-day-out alerts.
From 1994 to 2017, the weather service’s “false alarm” rate for tornado alerts was 74 percent, while last year it dropped to 69 percent, according to weather service spokeswoman Maureen O’Leary.
The problem is that a tornado is a rare, small, fleeting event, harder to predict than giant phenomena like hurricanes or big winter storms. A one-mile variation in a tornado’s path can mean the difference between plowing up a field and wreaking havoc in a populated area, Bunting said.
Bunting’s office might warn people to watch out across a five- or six-county area or even a two- or three-state region, but “only a very, very small area of that risk area will actually experience dangerous conditions,” he said.
And people who don’t get hit may not bother to listen the next time, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Howard Bluestein.
That’s the social problem, which may be even bigger than the meteorology one, Bluestein said. And that’s where Kim Klockow-McClain comes in. She is a researcher for NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory , also in Oklahoma, who specializes in trying to find out why some people listen and react to warnings and others don’t.
“Social sciences, I think, are really going to the heart of the issue,” Klockow-McClain said. “You’ve got to receive the message. You’ve got to understand it and know what to be able to do about it.”
For example, people in mobile homes, which are especially vulnerable to tornadoes, are less likely to receive or seek out storm alerts, she said. Even though they are told to get out, studies show mobile home dwellers still “shelter in place,” Klockow-McClain said. “They think it’s the best thing they can do or the only they can do.”
The weather service started to change from just focusing on better forecasts to better communication of warnings in 2011 because the agency noticed that the forecasts had improved but that the outcomes were still similar to what they were in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, she said.
Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: borenbears .
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.