Monday, May 22, 2017

Could Chicago White Sox become beneficiaries of Cuban beisbol legacy?

It has been just over two years since the two living icons of Chicago baseball – Ernie Banks and Minnie Miñoso – passed on. Banks, as many have pointed out, didn’t live long enough to see his Chicago Cubs win a World Series.
The grandfather of Cuban baseball in Chicago

While Miñoso was around back in 2005. He even was a participant in that World Series parade wending its way from Armour Square through the Sout’ Side and into “da Loop.”

BUT IT’S ACTUALLY a shame the ballplayer, whose many nicknames included being called “the Cuban Comet,” isn’t still with us. Not that he didn’t live a long-enough life (about 90).

But it would be a sight to see if Miñoso could be present if the modern-day attempt by the Chicago White Sox to rebuild into a winning ball club were to succeed with all the Cuban talent the team has managed to obtain.

That talent appeared to have been bolstered this weekend (it won’t be official for a few more days) with the signing of Luis Robert, a 19-year-old who is among the Cuban national team’s stars and who has decided he wants to have a baseball career in the United States.

That led to a bidding war amongst several ball clubs, although is appears the fact that the White Sox have developed a reputation as being Cuban-friendly led him to want to play in Chicago.
Wore No. 9 in Cuba, but in Chi, that's Minoso

ALTHOUGH LET’S NOT make a mistake; he’s going to be paid well. The still-a-teenager living in Cuban poverty now will be paid some $25 million to play the next couple of seasons for Chicago White Sox minor league affiliates – possibly resulting in him working his way to Guaranteed Rate Field by about 2019 or 2020.

That is about the time the White Sox’ rebuilding effort is supposed to be complete. It is an effort that will include Yoan Moncada, who is the big Cuban star whom the White Sox obtained during the winter and could become a part of the Chicago baseball scene by this season’s end.
Robert and Moncada could join ...

It also may include the star slugger Jose Abreu, who when he broke into U.S. baseball did so with a jolt, winning Rookie of the Year and showing himself to be a consistent slugger in U.S. baseball ever since. And yes, it seems that Abreu was a part of the effort to sway Robert to want to come to Chicago (or at least to the South Side) on the grounds the White Sox "get" Cubans and what they go through to adapt to life in this country.
... w/ existing star Abreu for Cuban trio

With Abreu often saying he’s happy with the White Sox because of the large number of peloteros Cubanos they have employed throughout the years. Including Miñoso, who was around to see Abreu play, and many of the other Cubans such as former shortstop Alexi Ramirez, outfielder Dayan Viciedo and the two pitching stalwarts of that 2005 World Series-winning team, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez.

THE LATTER OF whom gave what I still consider one of the most amazing pitching performances I have ever seen, in the ’05 playoffs against the Boston Red Sox, when the pitcher known as “El Duque” came in relief that one game and pitched three shutout innings right at a point when Boston was threatening to retake the lead, and momentum, in that playoff round.
Yankee had his moment in White Sox 'sun'

I’m still trying to figure out who looked most ridiculous – Johnny Damon swinging at that “Strike Three!!!!!” in the dirt, or Manny Ramirez an inning later looking totally hopeless as he struck out.

This Cuban connection of sorts leading his old ball club to a championship is something I’m sure Miñoso would have liked to have seen. Although to be honest, those of us beisbol fans who enjoy the growing Latin American presence will also get our kicks if this phenomenon becomes a reality.
A tie between Venezuelan and Cuban Sox heritage

Which, I’m sure, means there’s some xenophobic type out there who’s teeth are gnashing and his “I (heart) Trump” pin jiggles on his chest as he rants about the need to tighten the immigration laws AND undo the efforts former President Barack Obama made to improve U.S./Cuba relations.
A recent Cuban Sox star

SO WE’LL HAVE to see how all this plays out, particularly if it turns out to be that a Cuban influence helps rejuvenate the White Sox into a championship ball club.

Who’s to say the Chicago Cubs don’t have another championship run in them as well, and we really could get that all-Chicago World Series our city has dreamed of, yet been denied since 1906.
Will Ernie, Minnie quarrel in heavens?

Those Cubs with a Puerto Rican presence in the form of infielder Javy Baez taking on the Cuban- and Venezuelan (Chico Carrasquel and Luis Aparicio to Ozzie Guillen to Magglio Ordonez to today’s Avisail Garcia)-influenced Sox.

That really would make a Chicago “city series” into a World-Wide spectacle the World Series likes to think it is – something for us to look forward to in coming years. Even if Miñoso won’t be around to see it; he and Banks will have to watch from that realm above.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Does President Donald Trump give “patriotism” a bad name these days?

I got my jolt for the day from the results of a new poll by the Morning Consult group with regards to what we think of President Donald Trump.
The blunt-spoken confusion of Archie Bunker, or ...

No real surprise here; most of us don’t think much of the Trumpster – only a 41 percent approval rating in this poll. By comparison, the Gallup Organization’s daily tracking poll Friday had Trump at 38 percent approval.

THE BAD NEWS for Trump goes further, as people were asked whether various terms applied to Trump’s presidential performance. Those included “arrogant” (77 percent), “reckless” and “not willing to admit mistakes” (both 60 percent), “strong leader” (43 percent), “knowledgeable” (41 percent), “has the judgement needed to be president” (34 percent), “trustworthy” and “steady” (both 32 percent).

But then, there was the term “patriotic.”

To which 53 percent of those people surveyed by this particular poll said “yes” (34 percent said “no” and the other 13 percent presumably are clueless and can’t make up their minds).

That just strikes me as a bit of a contradiction. Someone whose performance is so negatively thought of can also be thought of as “patriotic?”

NOW BEFORE ANYBODY starts sending me their rants, I realize that the ideological right has done a number with the concept of patriotism – spinning the idea of love of one’s country as being the same as supporting their social issue ideals.

Even though one could argue that many of the people with different ideals are trying to make this a better, more fair country – and in some ways one more closely tied to the ideals written into both the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

That is a statement I don’t doubt will offend many of those conservative ideologues; that their rants on social issues aren’t what this country is supposed to be all about.
... the 'Vulcan logic' of Mr. Spock?

That may well be what is being reflected by the idea of people thinking that Trump’s political trash talk makes him a “patriot.”

IF ANYTHING, PEOPLE have a questionable comprehension at times of the Constitution. Such as that esteemed political philosopher of 1970s television, Archie Bunker (played by actor Carroll O’Connor) who once in a discussion about gun control responded to wife Edith (actress Jean Stapleton) who thought the Second Amendment referred to not making graven images by saying, “That ain’t the Constitution, Edith. What you says is the Gettysburg Address.”

Before you denounce the point as being that of a fictional character from four decades ago, famed television producer Norman Lear who created “All in the Family” has said that Trump shows “utter contempt” for the Constitution.

All of which makes me question how we’re defining the concept of “patriotism” these days. Is it really nothing more than blind faith to someone no matter how absurd the utterances from their mouth in public become?

Consider that the same Morning Consult poll showed 58 percent of people think Trump’s decision to share classified intelligence information with Russian government officials was “inappropriate” and that 50 percent think Trump was wrong to try to sway former FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

ARE THESE REALLY the actions of a patriot? Or do we really not fully comprehend the concept of supporting one’s’ nation?
TRUMP: 6 percent say he's patriotic & don't like him

Which to my mind has always meant holding the nation’s needs above that of any one individual – while Trump always comes off as thinking that HIS needs outweigh the masses.

Writing that last line reminded me of yet another cinematic moment; “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” As in dialogue from the 1982 Star Trek film “The Wrath of Khan.”

Perhaps Trump, and many in our society would be better off if we’d pay heed to the words of Mr. Spock, rather than Archie Bunker!


Friday, May 19, 2017

Gubernatorial cash flow for '18 election cycle creates gap bordering on obscene

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful J.B. Pritzker comes from a wealthy family (Hyatt Hotels, among other sources of income). He’s so wealthy that he can afford to put in at least $7 million of his own money into operating a campaign for higher office.
GRIFFIN: Trump bucks, w/o the ego?

Yet in light of the modern-day realities of electoral politics, that last sentence is sure to cause some people to snicker.

SEVEN MILLION??!? What a joke. What a pauper. Why doesn’t he just give up now?

Because let’s not forget that Pritzker, assuming he’s able to get the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in the 2018 election cycle, would be running against incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner.

He being the guy who might as well have self-funded his 2014 election bid with his own personal wealth from having worked as a venture capitalist. And he being the guy who has said he can spend some $50 million of his own money on his ’18 re-election.

That figure became even more bloated this week when it became publicly known that Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, plans to put up some $20 million of his own money to support Rauner’s re-election desires.

THEORETICALLY, THAT MAKES the obscenely wealthy-in-his-own-right Pritzker the guy who’s going to get outspent by at least a 10-1 ratio.

Although it should be noted that much of the $50 million that Rauner plans to spend is money he will ration out to various campaigns of people wishing to serve in the Illinois General Assembly – provided they’re willing to pledge their loyalty to HIM!
Pritzker has $1 in his campaign fund ...

For that, from Rauner’s perspective, has been his biggest problem, and the reason why it can be argued he hasn’t accomplished a thing during his time thus far as governor. He has to work with a state Legislature of the opposition party – and the fact that Rauner came into office with such hostile intentions means they see nothing wrong with telling him to “stuff it” every time he spews his anti-organized labor rhetoric and tries to pass it off as “reforms.”

Rauner wants a stronger presence in the General Assembly of people inclined to back him – or even just to be hostile to the interests of the urban portion of this state that does comprise about two-thirds of Illinois’ population.
... for every $10 available to Rauner

GRIFFIN, WHO IS considered one of the most-wealthy people in the United States, and at the head of the pack in Illinois, certainly is someone sympathetic to the Rauner agenda.

Which most likely is the Griffin agenda that Rauner is doing the dirty work of trying to implement in Illinois state government.

The only real question is why doesn’t Griffin just run for office himself so he can try to push for these things? We’re seeing in Washington these days what happens when business-oriented people get in over their heads and try to “play” politics.

Then again, perhaps it isn’t fair to compare anybody to Donald Trump. His ego is so over-bloated that it likely would have taken him down no matter what!

PRITZKER, OF COURSE, is counting on the notion that so many people are repulsed by inactivity of Springfield these days and are willing to place the blame on Rauner. Thereby negating any financial advantage he might otherwise have – he and other Democrats would like to think that no one can “buy” political office.

GOV. PAWAR?: Not likely!
Except, of course, that perhaps Rauner is evidence that office can be “bought.” All I know is that it will be an ugly brawl for Illinois governor next year. The kind of people willing to put in money aren’t going to hesitate to use it to bash their opposition about willy-nilly.

And if it turns out that one of the other Dem gubernatorial dreamers winds up getting the nomination, they’re going to be so overwhelmingly spent. Although it could wind up that a “Gov. Ameya Pawar” could be a symbolic statement of substance over money.

Fat chance of that happening!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Start of a GOP tide sway against DJT?

I haven’t given any thought to impeachment of the president or any other scenario that would remove Donald J. Trump from his elected post prior to January of 2021 because I realize it’s not practical.

KINZINGER: First of GOP tidal wave?
Not that I’m at all satisfied with the performance of our nation’s president; although I’d argue he’s behaving about as incompetently as should have been expected. Anybody who thought he’d be better was thinking cluelessly.

BUT IT’S THAT I realize options such as “impeachment” are political maneuvers, which means we’d need to have a sense of unity amongst our government officials (particularly those in Congress) that Trump has to go – that we can’t afford to endure one more moment of him in office.

But I also realize that Congress’ current leadership is Republican, and that the election of Trump gave them what they have long desired (and honestly believe is the way government should always operate) – a condition where they can ignore the political opposition and do things their way.

In our modern era, it is the way of politics. We elect officials of the Republican persuasion who seriously see compromise as evil – which causes the Democratic Party opposition to get itself all worked up into righteous indignation in thinking they’re standing up for “the people” rather than themselves.

Meanwhile, we the people have to endure all the nonsense.

BUT THE POINT is that the Republican leadership will keep Trump in his post so long as he serves their needs, and will do whatever it thinks is required to prop him up and support him against the attacks of those of us in the majority who wonder how irrational a president do we have these days.

I’m sure Republican leadership thinks that all the Trump nonsense to date is merely stuff that irritates their Democratic opposition, which is something they probably take delight in seeing.

Which is why it is significant to see that Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., is now coming out and suggesting investigations of this Age of Trump. It’s a tiny little crack in the façade, and I’m sure Republican leadership will try to patch it over quickly before anyone takes notice.
PENCE: Thought of him as Prez scares people

But Kinzinger, who lives in Channahon, Ill. (just south of Joliet), is going public in saying he wants some sort of special prosecutor or independent commission to investigate Trump’s behavior. Later in the day Wednesday, the Attorney General's office named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to handle an investigation.

HE’S NOT COMING out and accusing Trump of anything, but he’s bothered enough by the endless rounds of stories concerning the presidential behavior that he wants to get at the truth.

If anything, it will be interesting to see if Kinzinger faces any kind of backlash from his own political party. As in, “Keep yer mouth shut!” and don’t give any encouragement to the opposition.

That probably will be the first reaction of many ideologue partisans who cast their ballots for Trump (the 46 percent) and most of whom remain committed to the man because they like the idea his presence infuriates their opponents – no matter how rational their opponents may be in the majority of our society.

But when we get the rounds of reports hinting Trump may have been careless enough to let classified national information slip to the Russian government, along with the latest New York Times report indicating he tried to pressure now-former FBI Director James Comey to quit investigating his national security adviser, this could be what causes a trickle to burst forth into a flood – turning that crack into a serious gouge in the wall.

OF COURSE, THERE’S one thing we should keep in mind. Removing Trump alone doesn’t change things. For his replacement would be the vice president.
TRUMP: Comical? Or terrifying?

And I know many a Hoosier resident who shudder in disgust at the idea of their state’s former governor, Mike Pence, becoming the occupant of the Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W. in D.C.

That could be what turns the comic relief government of the Age of Trump into a truly politically partisan era that seeks to ram its ideological leanings down the throats of the masses of our society.

Although there is one ultimate political truth; if we want to complain but can’t be bothered to vote in future elections, then perhaps we deserve whatever misery gets handed down upon us in the next couple of years.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

And then, there was one?

I remember as a kid my father used to send me to a local store every Sunday to pick up a newspaper. The Chicago Tribune, always the Tribune.
Unofficial newspaper war grave marker?

I can recall him complaining about other newspapers, and once I remember hearing him muttering "I hate that paper" when a television commercial touting the Chicago Sun-Times came on the air.

YET I ALSO can recall whenever we’d visit my maternal grandparents, I’d get to see copies of the Sun-Times. My grandfather subscribed; my mother throughout her life would pick up and read a copy (until the end when her eyesight became weakened to where she couldn’t read much) whenever she’d get a chance.

When she finally passed on a few years ago, it only seemed appropriate that my brother, Christopher and I, paid to put her death notice in the Sun-Times (which ticked off the editors of the newspaper I was writing for at the time – they would have preferred I paid them to publish the notice).

Now I’m sure none of this is particularly unique. Many of us can tell tales about why we chose whichever news sources we prefer for information about the screwy world in which we live.

But those sources are withering away, one by one, to the point where we may soon be down to the survivor. It seems the Chicago Tribune really will be able to declare itself “the winner!!!” of the Great Chicago Newspaper War. The Last News Rag Standing, so to speak.

NOW I KNOW the Chicago Tribune is claiming that the bid its corporate types is putting in to buy the Chicago Sun-Times is not going to result in the immediate cessation of publishing of the Sun-Times. I read that same Chicago Tribune editorial in which they said they envision publishing two separate newspapers.

They “savor the importance of preserving what metropolitan Chicago now enjoys; thriving competition between two large news organizations that know they serve readers best by trying to outdo each other.” Or so sayeth the Tribune.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the editorial writer who came up with that line, and the others in the editorial that says there will remain two publications with “independent” editorial voices. It is the wish of many a news consumer, except perhaps for some snotty kid-types who think everything rotates around the Internet and that “news” is the boring content – compared to porn and YouTube videos of kids getting into fights and cutesy kitty cats for the more sensitive amongst us.
Sun-Times tries to explain move to its readership

But I’m skeptical. I can’t help but envision the corporate types who, soon enough, will decide that there are economical efficiencies to combining editorial resources into one “super paper” of sorts – perhaps one whose content can then bolster the on-line products they think will sell better to a younger generation.

IT COULD BE one year, or five or so down the line before Chicago becomes a one-newspaper town – perhaps with a few pages set aside for local news called the “Sun-Times section” of the newspaper to pay homage to the tabloid that for most of its life took pride in being the publication of choice for city-based readers.

It wouldn’t even be a new story for Chicago. Let’s not forget that both the Tribune and Sun-Times once had sister newspapers – in the form of Chicago Today and the Chicago Daily News.

Particularly at the Sun-Times/Daily News combination there was the sense of two newspapers that tried to keep unique identities on everything – until the business-types figured they could be more profitable as one larger Sun-Times rather than two separate publications.

It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out – since corporate types have hinted they’d like to have this deal complete by June 1, and are merely waiting for federal regulators to indicate that a Chicago newspaper combo wouldn’t violate anti-trust laws.

IS ANYBODY CRAZY enough to put in a competing bid. Would the federal government in this Age of Trump decide to meddle just to show us all who “the boss” truly is!

And what would a Tribune-owned Sun-Times look like? As things stand, the Sun-Times has for several years been printed at the Tribune-owned plant, and I argue the paper hasn’t really “looked right” (the pages seem “too small”) ever since the Sun-Times gave up control of their physical product.
Will future generations wonder why city newsboxes needed more than one slot?
It leaves a lot of questions and uncertainty, that some people I’m sure won’t concern themselves with. It does make me think of a plaque erected along Michigan Avenue south of Madison Street that pays homage to the various newspapers and wire services (including my one-time employer United Press International) that have existed in Chicago.

Is that destined to be the grave marker for the Chicago newspaper casualties that have rung up throughout the years; completely ignored by the many passersby who walk along Michigan Avenue daily without giving it a moment’s notice.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

EXTRA: Do you believe?

Illinois state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie and other legislators chosen by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, offered up their proposal Tuesday for what they say would be reforms of state government that would allow for a budget to be approved.

Without, of course, any of the anti-union ideas that Gov. Bruce Rauner puts forth as “reform.”

THE IDEA OF this tactic is that Democrats now can claim the image of trying to reach out to Rauner (with talk of insurance reform and eliminating corporate loopholes) without actually having to do much of anything. I’m sure when Rauner rejects them, they’ll claim they tried their darnedest, but to no avail.

Still no budget when the General Assembly reaches its scheduled adjournment date for summer break come May 31. Or even June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year and when it will become officially two full years of budget-less Illinois government.

For the record, Currie (a ranking House member from the Hyde Park neighborhood whom Madigan usually uses to do things he wants done without having his name directly tied to it) issued following statement:

“House Democrats believe the budget crisis demands immediate action, and it is our hope to show Governor Rauner that we stand ready to work with him. We plan to seek common ground with the governor on his proposals, and present him with items we believe should be part of the bargaining in order to encourage economic growth while lifting up the middle class.”

THE REAL QUESTION, of course, is this.

Do you believe it’s a sincere offer? That’s why we’re likely moving into Year Three of a budget-less Illinois, no matter how much Currie says publicly she finds that concept to be abhorrent.


15 days remain, yet no closer to having a state budget for Illinois government

I find it laughable when political observers think they’re being bold in predicting the likelihood that our state’s government officials will be able to put aside their differences and come up with a budget proposal for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year.
RAUNER: Re-election more important than budget?

The only truthful answer is that nobody knows, but everybody knows. Our state officials are likely to adjourn without taking any action towards a budget. The new fiscal year will begin July 1 without a spending plan in place.

WHICH MATTERS BECAUSE the state Constitution requires that government have a budget approved in order for government to operate. There are some programs that continue because the federal courts have deemed them too important to shut down (think Illinois Department of Corrections, for one).

But others have restrictions on how money can be spent, which means some bills just aren’t getting paid.

And because the partisan politicking that has occurred since the day in January 2015 that Bruce Rauner took the oath of office as governor, it has created a sense of chaos within our state that wouldn’t immediately be fixed even if our buffoonish legislators were to come to an agreement with the maroon of a governor we seem to have.

It would take time for things to resolve themselves back to the way they should be, and the longer our state lingers in budgetary chaos the longer the resolution time will stretch out to.
CURRIE: Leading Dem 'common ground' cmte

THAT IS WHY it is somewhat discouraging to see that our state officials don’t seem to be the least bit shaken up by the status we’re in. Perhaps they’ve become so adjusted to the chaos they’ve wrought that it doesn’t phase them any longer.

And they’re probably also counting on the fact that many amongst us in this state don’t really pay attention to the details of how our government operates. They’d probably like it if we’d focus more on outrage over Miss D.C.’s comments about being an “equalist” rather than a “feminist.”

Perhaps we should be more outraged over why Miss Illinois, Whitney Marie Wandland of Chicago, didn’t win. Our legislators would like it if we’d quit caring about this issue. Because they certainly seem to have moved on.
MADIGAN: Really calling the shots!

Rauner on Monday partook in a ceremony at the Willis Tower to welcome a Japanese economic development organization to Illinois, and also kicked off the opening of a Polish history exhibit at the Thompson Center state government building in Chicago.

AS FOR THE Legislature, a House committee on Wednesday will review the state’s education funding formula and pension reform bills may come up before another House committee on Tuesday.

We may also get some activity this week on a bill pending to make the board of education for the Chicago Public Schools an elected, rather than mayoral appointed, entity.

All of which are nice bits of business. But if state government doesn’t have full authority to operate and conduct its business, all of these details really are reminiscent of that old cliché about studying the china patterns and silverware on board the Titanic. The fact that the Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan-appointed budgetary negotiating team is meeting Tuesday to show off its “common ground” proposals seems more like an effort to pretend it’s trying “real hard” to find a resolution, without doing much of anything.
WANDLAND: Maybe this LuvaBull is more intriguing

The problem by this point is that our officials have become too comfortable with operating in chaos. Rauner, who has interfered with any serious efforts to put together a government budget, is so preoccupied with his anti-organized labor rhetoric that he’s tied into the issue under the guise of “reform” that he probably sees any concession at this point as failure.

WHEREAS DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL operatives who have stood firm against the governor for nearly two full years now wouldn’t see it as a victory if they could reach a budget agreement. I don’t doubt many wouldn’t mind the state enduring four full years of not having a budget in place.

Make Rauner the guy who was so incompetent that he couldn’t even put together a state budget. “Some reformer!,” they’re betting voters will think to themselves as they cast ballots in that November 2018 gubernatorial election.

There are those who are more interested in having an issue to trash the governor with rather than trying to resolve the problem.

All of which adds to the underlying problem of why many people are skeptical (to say the least) of their government – it has become one way too comfortable with people stepping into their voting booths and casting their ballots based on the concept of “Who do I hate the most?!?”


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one commentary where I would thoroughly enjoy it if unforeseen events occurred between now and May 31 prove me wrong. I feel fairly confident I won’t be.