Friday, March 22, 2019

EXTRA: How baseball has changed

I dug out my copy of “Ball Four,” the diary that one-time major league pitcher Jim Bouton wrote of his 1969 season, and his recollections of the first contract he signed to play ball for the New York Yankees was noteworthy.

Major league minimum, and thankful for it
For the record, he got $6,000 (the then-major league minimum salary) to pitch in 1962. His contract was offered to him on Opening Day, just before the National Anthem was played for that game. He was told to “sign it!” because all rookie ballplayers were given $6,000.

BUT THAT WAS a half-century ago. Times truly have changed with baseball’s economics – and not just because the major league minimum now is $555,000 for a rookie ballplayer.

The Chicago White Sox have got their share of national attention for the contract they gave to outfielder Eloy Jimenez – one of the kid ballplayers whom the White Sox are banking on to become stars who revitalize the ballclub into champions.

Jimenez this week signed his first contract to play major league ball – he’ll likely be with the team when they have their April 4 Opening Day against the Seattle Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Yet Jimenez didn’t even have to think in terms of the major league “minimum” in terms of pay. He got a six-year deal, with two more seasons if the White Sox want them, with pay being $43 million (or more like $70 million-plus, if the White Sox add on those extra seasons).

Richest White Sox even before 1st game
IT ACTUALLY QUALIFIES for the most expensive, longest-term deal ever paid out by the White Sox to a single ballplayer. And he has yet to play in his first major league ballgame.

Yet this isn’t about spending money. It’s about saving it.

Because the White Sox are convinced that Jimenez will be such a big star that he’ll be capable of demanding even higher payouts in upcoming years. So by tossing out “big bucks” now, they’re hoping they can commit him to less than the “bigger bucks” they’d have to pay in the future.

Of course, Jimenez could wind up injuring himself, or finding some other glitch in his game that keeps him from becoming all he can be. In fact, the more cynical of White Sox fandom are convinced that’s exactly what will happen.

Strategy worked for Indians
BUT THE WHITE Sox are banking that this contract will be similar to many of the significant contracts the Cleveland Indians gave to their youthful talents of the 1990s – thereby enabling them to hold their team together for several years during that decade when they dominated the American League Central division with division titles won five straight seasons.

However, by the time 2001 came around, the contracts turned out to be less-than-market value. All those stars wound up ditching Cleveland for other ball clubs – including eventually Jim Thome doing a stint with the White Sox themselves.

So it will be intriguing to see just what becomes of the youthful talent of the White Sox. Are we bound to see baseball bargains the next few seasons that will make Sox fandom happy? Particularly since Jimenez was the one-time Chicago Cubs minor leaguer whom the Sox will be able to claim a steal!

Or is there going to be continued griping, with fans finding the most exciting aspect of going to the ballpark being the new popcorn laced with bacon to be served at concession stands this season?


Politics creates strange bedfellows

There are no permanent enemies in electoral politics. Or maybe the reality is there are no permanent friends – just people you’re allied with for the time being.
PRECKWINKLE: Got two endorsements

Take the mayoral campaign of Toni Preckwinkle – whom some are determined to believe is desperately clinging to life and is on the verge of political oblivion.

YET EVEN PRECKWINKLE is still capable of finding people willing to say they support her political aspirations. And not just the labor unions whom Toni had been hoping all along would be the life’s blood of her campaign for the right to work on the City Hall side of the municipal building, rather than the County Board side.

Preckwinkle picked up a pair of people who, at one time, might have been a major political coup. But now?

We’re talking about the endorsements she got from one-time state legislator and county board President Todd Stroger and from the rap music star Chance.

As in the guy who was the pulse that was the only reason anybody took seriously the mayoral aspirations of Amara Enyia. The one who kicked in the campaign cash that enabled her to actually have a campaign.

THE GUY WHOM some thought might inspire young black Chicagoans to care about this election cycle enough that perhaps Amara could have a chance of winning something.
STROGER: Sympathizing w/ Toni? Nah!

But as it turned out, Chance’s support was only good enough to get Enyia a 7 percent share of the vote in the Feb. 26 election – not even close to qualifying for one of the spots in the current run-off election.

So now, Chance has become a part of the Preckwinkle bandwagon. Which doesn’t surprise many political observers. It was always noted that one of the chairmen of the Preckwinkle campaign is Ken Bennett – a.k.a., Chance’s father.

All it means is that Chance’s mayoral preference went down the tubes, and his father convinced him to remain involved ever-so-slightly. But not as much as he was for Enyia.

BECAUSE IT SHOULD be noted that Chance’s endorsement does not come along with any campaign cash. He’s not giving Toni any money to get through the remaining days of this election cycle.
CHANCE: Won't open his wallet

I don’t know if it’s true, but there were always those predicting that Chance would wind up being swayed over to Camp Preckwinkle. Although those pundits were usually speculating a scenario in which this would unify African-American voter support for Toni against someone like William Daley.

Nobody figured this would be a Lightfoot/Preckwinkle brawl!

But this move strikes many as being more predictable than the one in which Stroger put aside his own animosities toward Preckwinkle to say he supports her. Because there are those of us who remember the 2010 election cycle in which Toni turned Todd into the ultimate example of a political hack who was unfit for office when she beat him for the county board president post he inherited when his father, John, had to step down.

COULD IT BE that Todd Stroger somehow sympathizes with the way Toni Preckwinkle’s reputation is being so thoroughly trashed by those Lightfoot backers eager to engage in demonization? Not likely.
LIGHTFOOT: Not likely losing sleep

It’s more likely that Stroger is being truthful when he says he hopes that a “Mayor Preckwinkle” will give him the time of day and be willing to listen to his concerns for things he’d like to see achieved across the city’s South Side. While a “Mayor Lightfoot,” he suspects, would be likely to turn her old federal prosecutorial instincts on him to try to find a way to get him indicted for something.

I’m not saying for sure that will happen. A part of me doesn’t think Stroger was ever ambitious enough to do something corrupt.

But it would be intriguing to see if current circumstances are such that Toni and “the Toddler” are now political allies – or will be for as long as the two see some mutual benefit to tolerating each other’s existence.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Who’s to blame for Preckwinkle fizzling out at end – if that’s what it is!

This election cycle that was supposed to be of a historic nature is turning out to be absurdly anti-climactic. I’m ready for it to end – without really caring who will prevail.
PRECKWINKLE: Is it over for her?

There are those who sense that the momentum has swung to the mayoral campaign of Lori Lightfoot – even though on paper she’s clearly the inexperienced candidate. Or at least no one this time around is willing to reward Toni Preckwinkle for her superior (on paper) qualifications.

IT’S TO THE point where both Chicago major metro newspapers have reported that the Preckwinkle campaign has pulled back the funding they would have spent this week and next to flood the airwaves with a lot of advertising messages whose purpose would be to make us think Lightfoot is totally unfit for the office she seeks.

Is Preckwinkle broke? Does she privately realize she’s lost and doesn’t want to waste the money? After all, it would benefit her if she was the county board president/Cook County chairman who had something of a financial stash that she could then distribute to other political people.

Emphasizing her clout in future years when clout won’t be held against her.

Or it could be that we’re in line for some incredibly negative and nasty surprise gesture – something meant to show that Preckwinkle can play political hardball with the best of them.

SOME SORT OF last-minute surprise a week or so from now meant to create one incredibly nasty negative impression that could sway all the people who actually wait until Election Day April 2 before casting a ballot.

Of course, that idea is undermined by the fact that some people already have cast their ballots – the early voting center downtown opened during the weekend, and the neighborhood centers in each ward have been open since Monday.

Could it be that some have essentially given up – with the focus already shifting to placing blame. Just how could Preckwinkle – the one-time front-runner for the mayoral post – be the one who winds up trailing behind in the public eye.
LIGHTFOOT: Has she won already?

And no. We really can’t blame it all on the public sentiment being against incumbent political people. Because there’s always a little taste of that at work in any election cycle.

ACTUALLY, THERE ARE those who already are saying, “It’s Ed Burke’s fault.” As in voters are punishing Preckwinkle for the fact that she has been supportive all these years of Burke in his role as the most powerful alderman in the City Council.

Of course, Burke himself managed to get enough political support in the initial Feb. 26 election that he won re-election as alderman without having to face a run-off. And despite the fact that the ethnic demographics of his ward have changed so much throughout the years that Burke himself should have been a goner years ago.

Mostly because Burke knew how to turn out the vote in the precincts where his continued supporters live, and how to downplay turnout in the rest of the ward. He got his “people” to show up to vote in strength.

But in what most likely is the evidence that Preckwinkle isn’t a true hard-core old-school politico no matter how much the Lightfoot team tries to portray her as one, Toni likely won’t be able to do the same at the city-wide level.

THERE ARE POCKETS of people who will want to see Preckwinkle become mayor, and who will think it a travesty that it likely won’t happen. But Toni ain’t Eddie. If she really were the old political hack some want to say she is, she'd find ways to survive. While instead, the kind of people who wish they could vote Burke out of office (but can’t, they don’t live in his ward) will gladly use Preckwinkle as a surrogate.
BURKE: Did he cost Toni a mayoral victory?

Which will create the ultimate irony if, come May when newly-elected politicos are sworn in to office that Preckwinkle is vilified while Burke returns to office.

Admittedly, Burke has his legal travails to face. He may get a literal “day in court” at some point in the future.

But it will be annoying if, come this spring, Burke remains a part of the City Hall “scene” to face Lightfoot while Preckwinkle remains relegated to the County Building side of that massive concrete block downtown that has housed our local politicos for more than a century.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It won’t be easy to lock up Jason Van Dyke and ‘throw away’ key, it seems

It seems like not all that long ago that a Cook County jury returned the verdict that turned one-time Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke into a convicted killer, albeit one of the second degree.

VAN DYKE: A legal break? Or justice!?
Remember the elation that some people made a point of showing that day, marching through the streets of downtown Chicago to literally make it clear they were ecstatic at the thought that a white cop was off to prison.

IN THEIR WILDEST fantasies for something close to a life prison term. Something that would show what an outrage it was that he thought he could claim self-defense and “just doing his job” to justify the multiple gunshots he fired at a teenage boy – one who happened to be black.

Some went so far as to claim it was evidence that “justice” had been served against a “killer cop.”

While others, I’m sure, sat and stewed at the very thought that a police officer was being punished for doing his job – which on occasion requires use of physical force.

That was then. This is now!

FOR THE SUPREME Court of Illinois came down with a ruling Tuesday that I’m sure will infuriate the masses who were marching in the streets last year.

Basically, they backed up the way that Judge Vincent Gaughan handled the sentencing. Which basically was to give him a light prison term on the second-degree murder conviction, while ignoring all the aggravated battery charges that the jury piled on to their decision.

Those charges, all 16 – one for each pistol shot Van Dyke fired at his youthful assailant, were the ones that were supposed to add up to so much prison time that we’d literally have Van Dyke agonizing at the thought of decade upon decade in prison before finally dying.

Except, perhaps, for those ghoulish types whose idea of humor would be to have Van Dyke use a bed sheet to hang himself in his cell.

THAT DOESN’T SEEM in the cards.

For the Supreme Court rejected a request by the Illinois Attorney General’s office to reject the just-over-six-year prison term that Gaughan handed down.

They wanted the almighty Supreme Court to force Gaughan to resentence him in a way that would be more in keeping for those who want to see Van Dyke killed like a killer cop. Which now just ain’t a gonna happen!

The reality is that while I’m sure there are still legal motions that could be attempted on the off-hopes that a law clerk might be swayed enough to tell his judge to consider the merits of such an appeal, the point is they’re going to be long-shots.

WE MAY HAVE to accept the fact that the legal merits of the Van Dyke case are resolved. Now it’s just a matter of Van Dyke “doing” his time – which with time off for good behavior will come to about three years. He’s going to have something resembling a life left after he is released.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the separation will turn out to be too much for the Van Dyke family – which may well be permanently fractured. That is something we will have to wait and see for ourselves.

I’m also sure that Van Dyke, now being held in a prison facility in upstate New York himself will think he’s suffering amply – his case is so notorious there isn’t a prison facility in Illinois capable of holding him without constant repeats of that beating incident while in a cell in Danbury, Ct., got national notoriety.

While others, I’m sure, will forevermore claim his fate is still better than the one Laquan McDonald suffered – an eternal rest in death at a Forest Park cemetery. A suburb whose residents likely would have freaked out and called for the cops if the teenager had ever set foot there while alive.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Ideologue inconsistences on issues like smoking, abortion – what else is new?

It seems we have inconsistencies on a pair of social issues now pending before Illinois state government. Yet that’s really nothing new – ideologues often don’t have a consistent train of thought in determining when they want to meddle with someone else’s life.
PRITZKER: Fear of J.B. scares ideologues. Good!

I refer to a bill now pending before Gov. J.B, Pritzker – the one approved last week by the General Assembly that says people ought to be 21 years old in order to legally buy tobacco products and other items for vaping. As in inhaling fumes from tobacco-less products.

THEN, THERE’S A pair of bills that will be pending before the state Legislature this spring – ones that would eliminate many of the restrictive measures that anti-abortion legislators have tried to impose throughout the years.

They’re going to screech “bloody murder!!!!” (literally, I kid you not) in claiming they’re somehow looking out for a life that has yet to be born, thereby justifying the taking into account of a mother’s sentiments about her own body into irrelevance.

But when it comes to efforts to reduce the legal availability of smoking-related products to young people, the ideologues amongst us are going to claim their opposition is meant to protect the rights of personal choice of young people.

It’s almost like they’re claiming the right of a 16-year-old girl to develop a smoking habit – claiming that it’s her own body she’s hurting. It’s her choice.

YET THEY’RE PREPARED to screech and scream the “murderer” and “baby killer” labels at a young girl who thinks she’s not ready for a baby, and is under the (as the ideologues would view it) the misguided belief that it’s her own body being impacted by the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

It was nearly a half-century ago that the Supreme Court of the United States issued the larger ruling that struck down measures criminalizing abortion. The strategy throughout the years is to accept the general concept, but have legislatures impose so many restrictions so as to make it next to impossible for some women to actually have access to abortion.

The two bills now pending (one in the Illinois House of Representatives and the other in the state Senate) would eliminate many of the restrictions they’ve tried to enact – even up to the final days of a pregnancy.

Their desire to meddle with the desires of a mother seem to be to the extreme they’d want to require the paramedics to be on the scene of an abortion to try to revive the fetus.

THEY TALK ABOUT denying unborn children “independent rights,” but it really comes across as meddling with the mother’s desires – even though hers is the existing life that ought to be the priority.

But then on a real public health issue such as smoking, we’re going to hear the nonsense rhetoric of how absurd it is to tell someone they have to be 21 in order to smoke.

Maybe we’ll even hear the argument made that people can enlist in the army and die for their country at age 18 – why not let them smoke?

As it was, the General Assembly passed a measure just last year calling for this same age increase – only to have then-Gov. Bruce Rauner wield the “veto” pen to the measure.

THE FACT THAT smoking is a foul habit that impacts everybody around you somehow doesn’t matter to the ideologues who want to view it solely as a personal choice. Whereas the baby forced into life because of the denial of a personal choice is something we all wind up having to cover the cost of caring for.

I find it amusing that the ideologues seem to fear Pritzker is going to push the abortion measure erasing generations of restrictions into law, while also giving his approval to a smoking age boost.

They’re going to get all hysterical with their rhetoric because government basically is going to prevent them from meddling into the lives of others – the young girl who really shouldn’t have a pregnancy now and the people who have to breathe in the fumes of the nitwit smokers amongst them.

But then again, hysteria and nonsense is oft the way of politics in Illinois!


Monday, March 18, 2019

So sad if would-be voters have already tossed this election cycle out w/ trash

I had reason to be wandering through the Beverly neighborhood on Sunday and couldn’t help but notice the dearth of political signs set up on front yards.

Election sentiments of certain voters?
While just a month ago prior to the initial election, Beverly seemed flooded with signs touting the mayoral merits of Jerry Joyce – who got barely 40,000 votes and whose 7 percent support even ranked below that of Amara Enyia’s mayoral campaign.

ON SUNDAY, WITH the run-off election being just over two weeks away and so many people eagerly trying to convince us that history is taking place, I just don’t see the enthusiasm.

I managed to find one lone lawn sign touting the mayoral bid of hopeful Lori Lightfoot – erected by a homeowner along 103rd Street.

By comparison, I actually found more signs touting Joyce’s campaign – although admittedly one was stuffed in a trash can along with, I wonder, the hopes of whatever individual has already done their house cleaning of sorts.

This shouldn’t be shocking. What with all the candidates who managed to get on the ballot, the reality of the Feb. 26 vote is that two of every three who bothered to vote (and most registered voters didn’t even bother) cast their votes for someone other than Lightfoot of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

I HAVE NO doubt there are many people across the country who are viewing the act of voting again as pure drudgery – after all, they already cast a ballot for the person they think “should have” won.

Is it their fault that everybody else screwed up and didn’t pick their person?

All I know is that this is a depressing sentiment for would-be voters to have at a time when they’re being asked to pick a new mayor for the first time in eight years. The departure of Rahm Emanuel come mid-May is not going to create a great abundance of joy.
Sign looks so depressed and droopy now that it's for a defunct campaign
If anything, there is one sentiment I have heard oft-expressed. It’s that in a run-off election in which there’s really not a whole heck of a lot of ideological difference between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle are those who say they’re willing to cast a ballot for Lightfoot – the candidate who is a Lesbian married to another woman, with the couple raising a daughter.

BUT THE PEOPLE expressing such thoughts say they’re mostly doing so as a way of “pissing off” all the right-wing ideologues who will be grossly offended by Lightfoot’s holding a position of such authority.

Almost as thought they view a vote for her as a great big “f--- you” to all of those types who are enjoying this Age of Trump our society is now entangled in.

As for the rest of the politicians, six of the failed mayoral candidates have since endorsed Lightfoot’s bid – including that of Joyce. It probably would be a significant pickup for her if the people of places like Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Sauganash (the historic enclaves where Chicago cops and firefighters live to comply with residency requirements) were to swing over to her.

In fact, it may well turn out that Lightfoot has a certain level of momentum – with far too many people voting against Preckwinkle solely because she actually has experience on the job and with the kinds of issues that city government would face.

I KNOW IN my case, that level of experience is the reason I’d be inclined to cast a ballot for Toni – which I’m sure will offend all the nitwits who are determined to say they’re using this election cycle to punish her for that “pop” tax she fought for as Cook County Board president.
I suspect many such as this bungalow resident were more concerned Sunday with St. Patrick's Day. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
But I’ve also accepted some two weeks out that Lori has the momentum over Toni – although I also encountered someone Sunday who said that reading the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement of Lightfoot seemed like more of a backhanded bit of praise in that it acknowledged Preckwinkle’s merits for the mayor’s post.

The real key to comprehending this election may well be in remembering that old axiom – talk is cheap. Forget all the rhetoric about first African-American woman as Chicago mayor.

I suspect most people will either hold their noses while voting, or find reasons not to bother. The end result will be Chicago suffering from their ambivalence.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Robert Francis Beto O’Rourke not an ethnic Mexican, yet that is his nombre

Down around Texas last year, one of the key political races involved that of Beto O’Rourke, a member of Congress from El Paso, trying to take down the politically unpopular Ted Cruz.
O'ROURKE: Could we have President Beto?

It didn’t happen. Cruz managed to narrowly win the election, with enough people deciding they’d rather have a Republican – even one as goofy and irrational as Ted.

WHICH MEANS THAT Beto O’Rourke may well have decided if he’s to have a political future, he’s going to have to work his way UP the political ladder – as in his announcement this week that he’s going to be one of the many political hopefuls seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

It also means we’re likely to get the spreading of the ultimate in “phony” issues in coming months.

We’re going to be told that O’Rourke is a fraud, trying to pass himself off as being of Mexican origins even though he isn’t.

His family has its background in Ireland and Wales, and were amongst the many white people to flood their way into Texas in hopes of finding a better life.

AS TO THE nickname of “Beto,” it’s a common one in Spanish. It’s short for Roberto, or Robert in English. Basically, “Beto” could translate into something like “Bobby.”
CRUZ: Could his '18 victory lead to Beto rise?

As for why the O’Rourkes would turn to Spanish when it came to their kid, it was because he was named for his grandfather. And it means they were influenced enough by the heavy-Spanish population of the border region in which they lived – and which O’Rourke grew up.

So is Beto O’Rourke trying to pull off some sort of fraud in trying to pass himself off as a Mexican-American? Not likely. Personally, I don’t think anybody would believe it if he tried – particularly since amongst the other presidential hopefuls in the running is one-time San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro – who also served as Housing and Urban Development secretary during the Barack Obama presidency.
CASTRO: A 'real' Mexican candidate

But I have no doubt we’re going to hear a lot of trash talk trying to take him down.

PERSONALLY, I SUSPECT that what really bothers these people is that someone would think to look to Spanish culture as something positive. Most likely, these people are amongst the outspoken minority of the Age of Trump that really wants him to succeed in erecting that border wall.

As though they want to put up as many barricades as possible to anything existing from Mexican-American culture.

Even though if one is completely honest, the Spanish conquistadores laid claim to parts of what is now United States decades before the English did. I’m actually working my way through a book, El Norte by Carrie Gibson, that attempts to document this very phenomenon.

But such stories and anecdotes just don’t fit into their vision. I’m sure they see someone like Beto O’Rourke as challenging their very definition of what is a “real” American.

I’M SURE THEY’RE more comfortable with the one-time governor of Louisiana, Piyush Jindal, who when his family came to the United States from India tried to take on a “more American” identity and he renamed himself “Bobby.
JINDAL: Ideologues ideal of a proper foreigner pol

Maybe they think Beto O’Rourke should be more like Bobby Jindal – even though one could argue that all O’Rourke is doing is trying to have a political life under the very identity that his parents gave him.

And one in which the voters of El Paso elected him to posts on the City Council AND the 16th Texas congressional district.

Which is my way of saying I think anybody who tries to make an issue of this is really doing nothing more than showing us their own absurd hang-ups, The best thing we could do is disregard it, and judge the potential of a “President Beto” on his own merits.