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The Weekend Desk Report

Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer writes for the Sun-Times that the Houston Astros' decision to take Mark Appel over Kris Bryant with the top pick in the 2013 draft teaches a lesson in the merits of drafting position players over pitchers, who are presumably more at risk for injury.

The way Bryant landed in the Cubs' lap is indeed often cited as yet another example of Theo Epstein's genius.

But Wittenmyer also reports this often-ignored fact:

"[T]he Cubs said Appel, the polished Stanford pitcher, was the top player on their draft board in 2013 and were prepared to select him if the Astros took Bryant."

And yet, Wittenmyer writes a few paragraphs later:

"But even if history chooses to tell the story of the 2013 draft as a failed No. 1 pick, it seems more about an organization-building philosophy and baseball decision more than an evaluation gap."

But you just told me that Appel was the top player on the Cubs' draft board.

They were prepared to to select him if the Astros took Bryant.

If this was about an organization-building philosophy, Bryant would have been atop the Cubs' draft board, and/or they would have been prepared to select the next best position player had the Astros taken Bryant.

Wittenmyer is hardly the worst purveyor of the fairy tale media narratives that envelop Theo Epstein; in fact, he's actually one of the better ones in town on that score (he was the only reporter I can recall trying to get to the bottom of the Cubs' finances for a few years there.) And I'm not saying that Epstein isn't a relatively brilliant baseball executive - he is. But he's far, far short of infallibility - and comes with his own brand of bullshit. I like, respect and admire a lot of Theo's baseball philosophy, but the media's job is to pierce through the baloney, not invent it. (I get the feeling Theo himself is sometimes embarrassed by the lengths the media goes to when it comes to building him up and swatting away even the slimmest of criticisms.)

"Theo Epstein's Cub front office never got the chance to prove it would have reversed a decade of draft philosophy and risk-averse behavior in first-round decision-making, because [Houston] took that decision out of Esptein's hands," Wittenmyer writes.

So taking Bryant first would have been risky, or taking the pitcher they had at the top of their draft board whom they seemed prepared to take would have been risky? (And how does that compare to the previous regime's nabbing Mark Prior as the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft when the Twins, fearing Prior's price tag and reluctance to play for the team, selecting local hero Joe Mauer first instead? Would Theo have preferred Mauer?)

See, it's just possible that the Cubs got a lucky break with Bryant. And that's okay! Theo and Co. have gotten a lot of lucky breaks in their time here - Joe Maddon fell in their lap, for godsakes! Theo has made some brilliant moves, and he's made lot of really bad moves. That's going to happen to any executive. His end product is undeniable. But we should still be clear-eyed about how he got us here - and understand all the different ways things could have played out.

Snap Judgement
"On the Bears, Cutler getting settled with one center has been anything but a snap," David Haugh writes for the Tribune.

Some people (newspaper people, in particular) think that's clever writing; I think it's cheap, corny and distracting.

Newspapers, We've Got A Problem
1. And here I was about to call for a moratorium on "Houston, we've got a problem" puns for the weekend - and forever, really.

2. Please stop pretending these bets are news - or even remotely interesting.

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This is not your grandfather's Houston!

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Build it, and Houston will come!

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Houston is shocked, shocked!

Heroin, We Have A Problem
"The same qualities that make libraries ideal for studying and reading - unfettered public access, quiet corners and nooks, minimal interaction with other people - also make them appealing places to shoot up heroin, librarians are finding," AP reports.

I'm shocked - shocked! - that heroin is going on in here.

Ferro Warning
From an e-mail conversation I had this morning:

"I bet Ferro sells to Gannett and the deal includes a big fat contract to Ferro/Aggrego/Tronc to supply AI, Chatter and so on to Gannett - I'm not convinced he just sells and walks away."

Road Trip
"After years of using revenue from a road tax to pay for criminal justice costs, including the jail, Cook County will put the money back into transportation in next year's budget," La Risa Lynch reports for the Chicago Reporter.

Wait, is it even legal to use road money for jails?

"Illinois statute allows local governments to divert motor fuel funds to pay for other services and programs, including jails and criminal justice."

That . . . doesn't seem right.

"The county's decision is in line with a state constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot.

"The amendment aims to prevent the cash-strapped state from dipping into revenues generated from motor fuel taxes, license fees and vehicle registration to fill budget holes.

"Illinois drivers pay the 19 cents per gallon gas tax, known as the state motor fuel tax, every time they fill up their vehicles at the pump.

"As more attention has been paid to crumbling roads and infrastructure there's been a push to put the gas tax in a 'lockbox,' restricting it to just transportation projects."

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Also:

"The [Cook County] plan [is] the first new county transportation plan in 70 years."

Background from the Tribune in July:

"The reason for the ambitious plan is twofold. One, the nation's second-largest county will have more money for transportation projects in 2017 because of a change in the allocation of the motor fuel tax, and it wants a bigger voice at the table for regional planning.

"The second reason is that the county wanted to be able to qualify for additional federal dollars it would not be able to receive without a long-range plan."

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Back to the Reporter:

"The decision to quit diverting the motor fuel tax was a compromise reached between Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the commissioners. In exchange, the county board approved a 1 percentage-point county sales tax increase."

Will that additional sales tax revenue be used to fill the decrease in criminal justice funding?

It would seem so. From a different Tribune article than the previous one:

"Though Preckwinkle says she'll make further spending cuts, she argues the sales tax increase is needed to restore financial health to the county's underfunded pension plan, make payments on debt incurred under predecessor Todd Stroger and stop the diversion of some motor fuel tax revenue to the county's court system."

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Let's paste it all together and come up with a whole new story, with everything included and in the right order:

After years of using revenue from a road tax to pay for criminal justice costs, including the jail, Cook County will put the money back into transportation in next year's budget.

Illinois statute allows local governments to divert motor fuel funds to pay for other services and programs, including jails and criminal justice.

The county's decision is in line with a state constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot.

The amendment aims to prevent the cash-strapped state from dipping into revenues generated from motor fuel taxes, license fees and vehicle registration to fill budget holes.

Illinois drivers pay the 19 cents per gallon gas tax, known as the state motor fuel tax, every time they fill up their vehicles at the pump.

As more attention has been paid to crumbling roads and infrastructure there's been a push to put the gas tax in a 'lockbox,' restricting it to just transportation projects.

The county's decision is part of its first new transportation plan in 70 years.

The reason for the ambitious plan is twofold. One, the nation's second-largest county will have more money for transportation projects in 2017 because of a change in the allocation of the motor fuel tax, and it wants a bigger voice at the table for regional planning.

The second reason is that the county wanted to be able to qualify for additional federal dollars it would not be able to receive without a long-range plan.

The decision to quit diverting the motor fuel tax was a compromise reached between Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the commissioners. In exchange, the county board approved a 1 percentage-point county sales tax increase."

Though Preckwinkle says she'll make further spending cuts, she argues the sales tax increase is needed to restore financial health to the county's underfunded pension plan, make payments on debt incurred under predecessor Todd Stroger and stop the diversion of some motor fuel tax revenue to the county's court system.

Presto!

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Beachwood Photo Booth: America, Summer 2016, Pt. 3
Last in a series from a Meijer's in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

One Of Every 200 Children In The World Is Now A Refugee
And a stunning 100,000 child refugees are traveling without their parents or families.

The Week In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Radar Eyes, Jenny Lewis, DNCE, Andrew Bird, Tal Sounds, Beastmaker, Jazgot, Blackmarket Democracy, and Steve Hauschildt.

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From the Beachwood sports desk . . .

A Brief History Of The Paralympic Games: From Post-WWII Rehabilitation To Mega Sporting Event
The Games have evolved from an event for only athletes who used wheelchairs to now welcoming 10 different impairment types.

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #118: Bearly .500
And that's an unlikely best-case scenario.

Plus: Gone Gould; Wisconsin Sends Us An Angel; Leonard "Stink" Floyd; Ryan Pace Is Now On The Clock; Secret Bears Under Wrap?; A Lot Of Pundits Love The Packers; Coffman Can't Take The Patriots Anymore; There Are Many Ways To Be Smart, Even For Dipshits; and The NFL Is Concussed.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "Mudhoney was at the forefront of Seattle's exploding music scene in the '80s and '90s, paving the way for grunge with its distorted, chaotic sound. Though the group never received the worldwide attention of its peers Nirvana, Mudhoney has achieved a cult-like longevity. Mudhoney talks with Jim and Greg and performs in front of a hometown Seattle audience. Plus, the new album from Chicago band Wilco, and the psychedelicsample driving a key Beyoncé track."

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Weekend BeachBook

Ban Suits.

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Human From New York Nails It.

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Weekend TweetWood

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The Weekend Desk Tronc Line: Tronc-a-go-go.



Permalink

Posted on September 10, 2016


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock Including Riot Fest Highlights.
TV - No Rehabilitating Vietnam.
POLITICS - Trump's Farmer Heavily Subsidized.
SPORTS - The Cubs' Season In Verse.

BOOKS - Dots & Dashes.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Certified Angus Beef® Honors Chicago Stars.


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