What Cardinals need to do in off-season...

by Dan Curry


The following outline, I trust, will not be followed by the Cardinals front office in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, this is my conception of how the team should be reshaped. This assumes the Cardinals will not go after Giancarlo Stanton. I know some in the St. Louis and national media believe the Cardinals will be serious suitors for the slugger. However, I doubt the FO will want to swallow $200 million to $295 million in one gulp.

Objective 1

Reshape roster so Cards are positioned to compete for NL Central and win 90+ games.

Objective 2

Maintain vast majority of young pitching prospects — the Cards only current strategic advantage.

Objective 3

Retool everyday core lineup to get younger, more left-handed hitting, more athletic and more defensively proficient.

TOP POSITION PLAYER TRADE, FREE AGENT TARGETS: Christian Yelich, Kyle Seager, Eric Hosmer, Didi Gregorius, Marcell Ozuna, J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, Brandon Belt.

PLAYERS WHO SHOULD BE OR WILL LIKELY BE TRADED: Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, either Tommy Pham or Tyler O’Neill, Aledmys Diaz, Carson Kelly, Jedd Gyorko, Junior Fernandez, Austin Gomber, Sam Tuivailala.

Moves:

  • Trade Fowler. I know he has a no-trade but I guarantee he’ll agree to go someplace. Will need to eat some salary but need the money to sign free agents and he blocks better defensive players and doesn’t really hit well enough for corner OF.

  • Trade Carpenter. He is starting to decline and will be 32 next year. Get something for him while he’s still good. Great pickup for certain AL teams.

  • Sign Eric Hosmer. He’ll be 28 next year so would be getting 4 years younger at 1B. He’s having career year at about .870 OPS and should be a good hitter for three or four years. Winning player.

  • Trade for Christian Yelich. Cards should pull out the stops to make this happen. He’s a LF hitting OF who can play a good CF or LF. He’ll be 26 next year and is already a low .800 OPS guy who could settle in at .900 during his upcoming peak years.

  • Trade for Kyle Seager, or alternatively, sign Mike Moustakas. Both dangerous bats and decent fielding, LH third baseman.

  • Another alternative: Trade for Didi Gregorius, the Yankees LH SS and move Paul DeJong to 3b. Yanks have top prospect Gleyber Torres waiting in the wings to play SS and might be willing to deal Didi.

  • Resign Nicasio as closer and add at least one other quality reliever via trade or free agent.

Everyday lineup possibilities

Possible 1 Possible 2 Possible 3
Bader/Sierra CF Bader/Sierra CF Bader/Sierra CF
Yelich RF Wong 2B Wong 2B
Pham RF Yelich LF Yelich LF
Hosmer 1B DeJong SS DeJong 3B
DeJong SS Hosmer 1B Hosmer 1B
Seager/Moustakas 3B O’Neill RF O’Neill RF
Wong 2B Seager/Moustakas 3B Gregorius SS
Molina C Molina C Molina C
Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher

Starting pitchers

  • Martinez
  • Weaver
  • Wacha
  • Reyes
  • Wainwright/Flaherty/Gant/Hudson
  • Scrapheap veteran for backup/long relief

Relief pitchers

  • Free agent/trade
  • Nicasio signing
  • Cecil
  • Brebbia
  • Alcantara
  • Hudson
  • Sheriff
  • Gant

Why won’t Tribune release secret Blagojevich tapes?

by Dan Curry


Why is the Chicago Tribune holding back release of its trove of sealed 2008 FBI wiretapped conversations between then-Governor Rod Blagojevich and top Democratic figures in Illinois?

Does the material potentially embarrass figures like Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and others?

Those conversations — both audiotapes and transcripts — remain sealed under a federal court order.

But the Tribune long ago obtained a copy of some or all of the sealed material and has been releasing it as it sees fit. It dropped a bomb on Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker this week, revealing he was wheeling and dealing with Blagojevich in 2008 for various appointments. The story — and audiotape — will undoubtedly hurt Pritzker in the months ahead but what about the other tapes and transcripts, which the Tribune acknowledged it possesses.

Federal law enforcement officials captured the candid talks on secret wiretaps as they investigated Blagojevich and his administration for public corruption in fall 2008. The Tribune obtained the recordings, as well as transcripts of calls to others.

Ironically, Blagojevich and his lawyers have been trying for years to make public the transcripts and recordings, said to be in excess of 500 hours of conversations. Most recently, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 declined to unseal the material upon request of Obama DOJ prosecutors. Other non-Tribune media has been rebuffed in its efforts to obtain the sealed wiretap material.

One of the authors of this week’s Tribune story, Jeff Coen, was a co-author of the excellent 2012 book, Golden: How Rod Blagojevich talked himself out of the Governor’s office and into prison, that references wiretap material it obtained outside the court record. While on their book tour, the authors admitted they had access to the sealed court material but declined to reveal their source.

A small fraction of the wiretap material was admitted into evidence in the 2010 and 2011 trials and was released publicly. Blagojevich was convicted of trying to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and of other public corruption counts. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which he is serving in Colorado.

The Tribune earlier released another explosive bit of sealed wiretap material that captured Blagojevich saying he believed convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko sent Barack Obama’s 2004 Illinois Senate campaign a $25,000 donation for “street money” that never was disclosed by Obama’s campaign. Obama and Rezko denied the allegation and the Tribune authors’ book says the feds chased down the lead and it came up empty.

It is well documented that Obama’s transition team in 2008 was in direct and indirect contact with Blagojevich during the wiretap period, angling for a Valerie Jarrett Senate appointment at one point, and, later, for other considerations. These conversations were enough to cause the FBI to interview Obama, Emanuel and Jarrett before Obama became president. Judicial Watch is suing to obtain the FBI 302 reports on those interviews.

Why is the Tribune acting as sole judge and jury as to what is in the public interest regarding these conversations? It ought to release all the material and let the public decide. It is both the right thing to do journalistically and economically because the material will generate tons of traffic.

With the public rightly wary of liberal media bias, it is in the Tribune’s best interest to release the material and dispel the notion it might be protecting some powerful Democrats from embarrassment or worse.


Greatest fact check in journalism history now a movie

by Dan Curry


We talk a lot about truth these days. A battalion of self-appointed experts ascend to their mesh chairs every morning to point out what is true and what isn’t. Most of these efforts are derailed by sloppiness, ideology and a lack of humility. They ultimately lack authority and further muddy the definition of that elusive truth.

There once was a “fact check” that truly mattered and ended with timeless authority. One that took two years to complete. Done by one of the most outstanding journalists in the country — a hard charging investigator with a Yale law degree.

By 1981, Chicago Tribune Legal Affairs Editor Lee Strobel came to a horrifying conclusion. At least horrifying in the sense he wanted his verdict to come out exactly the opposite. The then-atheist originally thought it would take only a weekend to prove that the central story of Christianity — that Jesus rose from the dead — was a fraud. He undertook the project because he wanted to convince his wife Leslie that her new conversion to Christianity was folly, believing that would restore their lives back to normal. His long weekend turned into a two-year whirlwind of intense research. He ultimately came to the following four core conclusions, based on concrete historical evidence:

  • Jesus was a real person — FACT.

  • Jesus was crucified and died on the cross — FACT.

  • Jesus’ tomb was found empty three days later — FACT.

  • Jesus rose from the dead and was seen afterwards by more than 500 people — FACT.

When the evidence became overwhelming to him, Strobel realized it would take more faith to remain an atheist. He confessed his sins and accepted God’s grace, becoming a newly minted Christian. Strobel didn’t stop there. He drifted away from journalism into the ministry, becoming a teacher, author of more than 20 books and one of the world’s most important evangelists. His most influential book, “The Case for Christ,” tells the story above in compelling detail. The book has been converted into a major motion picture debuting Friday across the United States.

I mention this story for several reasons. Strobel is a person I aspired to work for many years ago. I was an ambitious investigative reporter at the same newspaper as Lee for a brief time and hoped to one day do great things together as a team. That dream faded when Lee left journalism and I did as well several years later.

But Strobel’s work inspired me and was a factor in my own conversion from fallen Christian to committed follower of Jesus more than two years ago. Nearly every Christian I talk to mentions “The Case for Christ” as a book that either helped establish or maintain their faith. I got a chance to thank Lee in person this weekend when he appeared at the same Chicago area mega-church that forms the central locale for his real-life story and movie. We barely knew each other back then, but we are brothers now and forever.

The most important reason I write this is as an invitation to Christians and non-Christians to see the movie. I particularly hope that my journalist and ex-journalist friends will check it out. From the trailers you can see it is a well-produced, intriguing story that is both a taut tale of investigation and journalism and a personal tale of a family in turmoil. Lee told me that ex-journalists will particularly like the authentic re-creation of newsrooms, circa 1980, with clunky typewriters, cigarette smoking and snarly old-school editors. Strobel said that focus groups reveal that non-Christians like the movie as much as Christians.

No one as talented as Lee Strobel has undertaken a more vigorous “fact check.” We all say we want to follow the facts wherever they might lead. That’s what he did — for two years. It would be difficult to find a more credible truth seeker. Our culture is yearning for what can be found at a movie theater near you this weekend.


Fight back against climate hucksters

by Dan Curry


Conservatives and others who have looked beyond the hype and bandwagon cheering for “climate change” understand it is a political movement masquerading as an imperative driven by neutral science.

But while realists may be winning the battle on facts, they are not paying enough attention to what the climate zealots are doing in the political arena.

Just last month a group of liberal state Attorneys General supported by climate millionaire Al Gore decided they would stand up for “clean power” and threatened to sue companies who dissented with “settled science” that is far from settled. If the science was settled, all the zealots’ climate models would be coming true instead of failing and global satellite temperatures wouldn’t be flatlining for the last 18 years.

But that doesn’t matter to the partisan AGs. They want to sue “dissenters” to the left-wing political movement in a move rightly compared by one commentator to the Spanish Inquisition.

Conservatives need to wake up and fight back. While they are happy that the public seems to believe “climate change” is not an important issue, liberals at all levels of government are stuffing budgets with billions of dollars of agenda-driven programs paid for by unsuspecting taxpayers.

For example, a federal government report from 2014 said the federal government spent $21.4 billion in climate-related programs in 2013. The money is not concentrated in a single agency; it includes $1.8 billion in NASA, $455 million in the Department of Defense and $356 million in the Department of Treasury.

In other words, our federal government has essentially said based on “science” it has a blank check to create bogus programs for taxpayers to fund.

At the state level, the same thing is happening. In Illinois, Stimulus money for “weatherization” of homes was found to be an almost complete waste of money by the Department of Energy. Instead of reading that report, the state of Illinois created another weatherization program once the Stimulus money evaporated. Many cities are creating similar boondoggles on a smaller scale.

I’m not a lawyer, but there needs to be a legal challenge to this spending. At its root, it is relying on a manufactured scientific consensus that purposely ignores conflicting information. It needs to be challenged. Since the mainstream media refuses to dig into this, a lawsuit that forces discovery might pierce the silence. Some type of class-action or whistleblower type suit aimed at a climate-related program at the federal, state or local level should be explored.

You would think conservative members of Congress would fight back against dubious spending, but with few exceptions they are afraid. They know the MSM is completely in the tank with the climate zealots and don’t want to be labeled a “climate change skeptic” or worse. So they just tolerate the waste.

Indifference to the issue won’t make it go away. Liberal activists have been planning for decades to use climate as a means of controlling energy production. They are moving full speed ahead, regardless of the facts. Conservatives need to wake up and expose the fraud or we will continue to pay for it.