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The [Tuesday] Papers

I can't figure out the Alfonso Soriano deal either, except to say my instinct is that it will end disastrously. Either he'll put up Sammy Sosa numbers and the Cubs will still finish in the second-half of the division, or he'll get off to a slow start like almost every other free agent the Cubs sign and things will get ugly pretty quickly.

Murray Chass, perhaps the dean of American baseball writers, says the deal means Tribune Company is selling the team. Even if not, he's far from impressed.

"[He] committed 11 errors, most among N.L. outfielders, for a .969 fielding percentage, which ranked him 32nd among 34 defensively ranked outfielders.There was talk yesterday that the Cubs may use Soriano, who will turn 31 in January, in center field as a replacement for Juan Pierre, also a free agent. But some baseball executives were incredulous at that prospect.

"They also questioned the size of the package the Cubs gave Soriano, saying it was far too much for a leadoff hitter. That kind of money, they suggested, should be saved for a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, a run producer like [Alex] Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.

"Soriano has driven in more than 90 runs in each of the past five seasons, but in his most productive seasons he knocked in 102 and 104, an impressive total for a leadoff hitter, but not necessarily for a $17 million hitter."

Bruce Miles, in the Daily Herald, reported on Monday, though, that the Cubs are likely to move Soriano to right field.

Dayn Perry, at, says the Soriano deal is "idiotic in the long term."

Carol Slezak at the Sun-Times is admirably skeptical, and the best line I've seen is the headline to her piece: "Soriano's Good, But Can He Pitch?"

She also thinks the deal means TribCo is prettying up the property for sale, though in other reports both interim president John McDonough and general manager Jim Hendry say they have had no such discussions with their corporate minders. Then again, all it takes is for Dennis FitzSimons to tell them to go for it - he doesn't have to explain his motivation.

On the other hand, I wonder if the Soriano deal - and the Cubs exploding payroll in general - is a poison pill that is somehow designed to keep the Cubs in TribCo hands.

Either way, this can't be good.

Boring Barack
I saw a little bit of Barack Obama's speech to the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, and it was a snooze. Obama's inability to speak passionately about Iraq, even in a policy proscription speech, just goes to show that Mr. Charisma isn't all that in the charisma department. Sometimes he's downright cold.

More importantly, he had virtually nothing new to say. Reporters and editors who had geared up for a major news story were left holding the bag.

The Tribune did a relatively decent job adjusting. "Substantively, Obama's talk to the council was not markedly different from the one he gave there a year ago," the paper's reporters noted. "He echoed many of the themes of that speech - as well as from his highly publicized new book, The Audacity of Hope. Politically, the plan he embraced positions him alongside many centrist Democrats in Congress who are calling for a slow and careful withdrawal of troops rather than a quick exit or buildup of military personnel.

"But while the speech was mostly the same, the environment in which he delivered it was radically different."

Meaning the speculation of a presidential run has only heightened, the public has turned evermore against the war, and Obama, with a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is now residing in the majority.

So the context has changed. But on the most gripping and profound issue of the day, Obama doesn't have much to say.

"[T]he speech did not cover a lot of new ground," the Tribune reports.

Or really any at all.

The Tribune played the story, not inappropriately, on page four of its first section. Obama is an Illinois senator, after all, and his speech was a curiosity.

On the other hand, as near as I could tell, neither The New York Times nor The Washington Post carried a story about Obama's speech today, though they both carried brief wire stories on their websites.

Why? Because a key part of the concept of a newspaper is the "news" part.

The Sun-Times, meanwhile, made a front page out of Obama's speech. Why? To sell newspapers with another false promise, this time advertising Obama's "plan."

The fact that the mayor's former patronage chief was sentenced to 46 months in prison for massive hiring fraud in a scandal that has prosecutors looking at three other former aides (Tim Degnan, Victor Reyes, and John Doerrer) as close to the mayor as you can possibly get without being Maggie didn't even merit a mention on the Sun-Times's front page.

Not only that, but it's the Trib that put the cancellation of the O.J. book and TV interview on front page - as any paper in America ought to have.

If He Did It
"In the courtroom packed tightly with supporters of the four defendants," the Tribune reported, "there were starkly different views of how serious a crime - if any crime at all - was committed when the men helped pro-Daley workers get city jobs."

Wonder if Neil Steinberg and his fellow commentators will lambaste all those dumb white people hootin' and a-hollerin' despite the evidence staring them in the face.

I do owe Steinberg an apology; yesterday I conflated two potential Borat items into one, and in the scrum I lumped Steinberg in with David Brooks and Christopher Hitchens as critics of Borat. In fact, Steinberg wrote that "The movie's as funny as everybody says. I was wiping my eyes on my sleeves, and at one point I worried I was howling so hard that something snapped in my jaw."

Standing Up and Down
Far more interesting than Obama's pedestrian murmurings is the latest report from The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks. The truth is that Iraqi troops will never be able to stand up - which isn't entirely their fault.

"The U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi forces has been rife with problems, from officers being sent in with poor preparation to a lack of basic necessities such as interpreters and office materials, according to internal Army documents," Ricks reports.

"The shortcomings have plagued a program that is central to the U.S. strategy in Iraq and is growing in importance. A Pentagon effort to rethink policies in Iraq is likely to suggest placing less emphasis on combat and more on training and advising, sources say.

"In dozens of official interviews compiled by the Army for its oral history archives, officers who had been involved in training and advising Iraqis bluntly criticized almost every aspect of the effort."

Scarlet C
"This offense is corruption," Judge David Coar told the mayor's former patronage chief. "It's corruption with a capital 'C.'"

And it was done in service to Daley. And it was massive. Maybe Daley should write a book called "If I Did It" about how he would have run a thoroughly corrupt administration, if he did.

If They Did It
If I Did It, by Sammy Sosa. A hypothetical look at how Sammy Sosa would have used steroids, if he did.

If I Did It, by R. Kelly. A hypothetical look at how R. Kelly would have had all kinds of nasty sex with underage girls, if he did.

If I Did It, by George W. Bush. A hypothetical look at how George W. Bush avoided serving in the Vietnam War, if he did.

If I Did It Again, by Britney Spears. A hypothetical look at . . . oh, you get the idea.

- with Rick Kaempfer and Tim Willette

Special Comment

A CNN poll released last night about Dem favorites for the 200 presidential nomination:

H. Clinton - 33 percent
Obama - 15 percent
Gore - 14 percent
Edwards - 14 percent

So, uh, who's really the rock star?

I mean, geez, Obama is in Gore-Edwards territory . . .

Olympic Education
What if Pat Ryan turned around and said - hey, we're gonna give this money to Chicago schools instead?

Democrats In Action
* "She's my personal secretary, subject to my - for lack of a better word - control."

- Cook County Commissioner Joseph Moreno on using his taxpayer-provided secretary for personal business.

* "I'm going to bring Gerald on to help me figure out who's who and what's what. I don't care what people say."

- Cook County President-Elect Todd Stroger, endorsed by Saint Barack and Lord Daley, on turning to a man under federal investigation who he has promised to fire for help understanding his job.

* "My gun is bigger than your gun, and I can shoot better. The bigger the family, the better the funeral."

- A staff member at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

We're about to see just how in over his head Todd Stroger is.

Consolation Prize
I know Tammy Duckworth courageously served as a combat helicopter pilot, but is there anything on her resume that merits her being handed a $94.2 million state agency with 1,135 employees?

Blowing Barack
The Sun-Times even found Obama's speech worthy of an editorial, albeit a typically confused one in which the paper criticizes Democrats for not having a plan to end the war in Iraq, though the president seems to have escaped that criticism, and then the editorial goes on to name all three Democratic plans on the table: Immediate withdrawal, phased withdrawal, and/or partitioning of Iraq.

The faux-intellectual opining ends with this stretch to justify its own existence: "Credit Obama with helping establish a framework for our politicians to move away from partisanship and think constructively about what to do about the war in Iraq."

Oh please. We might as well tell Jim Baker and his pals to pack it in now that Obama's on the case.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Bipartisanship welcome.


Posted on November 21, 2006

MUSIC - Holiday Hullabaloo.
POLITICS - Bank Profits Soaring.
SPORTS - Chicago vs. Michigan, 1903.

BOOKS - Dia De Los Muertos Stories.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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