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Reflecting on 2022 this Thanksgiving, there is a lot of change on the horizon for San Jose. As we continue to recover from the lingering effects — both medical and social — of COVID-19, it’ll be interesting to see where that change takes us in a year or two. With that in mind, here’s my annual list of the people and things I’m thankful for this year:

• San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who will leave City Hall at the end of the year after 16 years — eight as a downtown councilman and eight as mayor.

Whether or not you agree with how he handled the numerous crises during his tenure — COVID, homelessness, Black Lives Matter, the Coyote Creek flood — he worked hard to keep San Jose moving forward and succeeded more often than not.

• Scott Knies, who stepped down this year as CEO of the San Jose Downtown Association after 34 years with the organization. His background as a fencer no doubt helped keep him on his toes as he navigated city hall for downtown businesses. His successor, Alex Stettinski, has a big legacy to match.

• Shawna Lucey, the new general director of Opera San Jose, has already shown a talent for filling big shoes — and seats at the California Theatre — after taking over for Khouri Dastoor this season and treating audiences to captivating productions of “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Cinderella.” The same can be said for Robert Massey, who seamlessly succeeded Andrew Bales as general director of Symphony San Jose.

• Jason Minsky, Mr. Christmas himself, who hung up his Santa hat as executive director of Christmas in the Park after a decade spent keeping the event going and then taking it to new heights. He earned his way onto the “nice” list year after year.

• Three San Jose City council members — Raul Peralez, Magdalena Carrasco and Vice Mayor Chappie Jones — who are terming out this year after eight years in office. That goes as well for Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who took his job seriously but wasn’t above poking fun at himself.

• Four women who continued to tell the story of the Santa Clara Valley in books this year. Robin Chapman’s “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” and Anne Marie Todd’s “Valley of Heart’s Delight” took a historic look at the way we were; Cassie Kifer’s “Scavenger San Jose” and Beth Kile’s “Haunted San Jose” had a little more fun with this place we call home.

• Steve Perez, San Jose State’s interim president, who shepherded the university through a difficult year with unbridled enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to that spirit continuing when Cynthia Teniente-Matson takes over as president in January, becoming the first Latina to hold the post.

• Jessica Paz-Cedillos and Vanessa Shieh, the co-executive directors of the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, who have launched an ambitious expansion plan that’ll serve to revitalize Alum Rock Avenue.

• Our bountiful open space in Santa Clara County, whether its the majestic beauty of 150-year old Alum Rock Park or the simple serenity of our neighborhood parks. If being part of the Black Friday shopping hordes isn’t your thing, how about making a Green Friday hike your new post-Thanksgiving tradition?

• Neil Farris, who fed my comic book habit and provided great conversation for the past dozen years at Hijinx Comics in Willow Glen.

• Elisabeth Handler, another of my favorite people to talk to, who is retiring from the city of San Jose this year. She spent the past six years as the public information officer for the economic development and cultural affairs office, capping a long career in public relations.

• Chike Nwoffiah, the founder of the Silicon Valley African Film Festival and this year’s recipient of the Cornerstone of the Arts award from the city of San Jose. Few people have fought harder to change cultural narratives in this valley, and he’s been doing that for an entire continent.

• Sam Hirbod, who brought back a key downtown San Jose destination with the opening of the Signia by Hilton in May. San Jose Jazz Summer Fest and Christmas in the Park just didn’t feel the same when the former Fairmont Hotel was closed last year. And while we’re talking about rebirths, let’s hear it for Andrew Saman for adding nightlife back to South First Street with the restaurant/music club Mama Kin, which picked up where Cafe Stritch left off.

• The friends I’ve lost this year, especially Norm Mineta, Thang Do and Joe Noonan. Those three men had very different lives — a mayor and U.S. cabinet secretary, an architect who built SoFA Market, and a jack-of-all-trades for San Jose events and nonprofits — but they shared an ability to see the positive in the face of overwhelming adversity. My early resolution for 2023 is to be more like them.

• And, as always, to all our readers in print and online who give us a reason to keep telling stories about this changing place. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

News Source: mercurynews.com

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Column: Its time for the Cubs and White Sox to make some noise at the winter meetings especially for their fans

The winter meetings should be a hectic time for Jed Hoyer and Rick Hahn, the two men consigned with the task of making baseball in Chicago relevant again.

Hoyer, the Cubs president, and Hahn, the White Sox general manager, are fortunate enough to have the complete support of their respective owners and have been around long enough to know what they do this week in San Diego will make an immediate impression on their fans, for better or worse.

If they don’t make make any significant moves to bolster their rosters, they’ll be judged harshly. If they make a splash, they’ll be lauded for their effort.

But sometimes a splash can turn into a albatross, as the Sox discovered after signing catcher Yasmani Grandal and starter Dallas Keuchel to multiyear deals three winters ago and the Cubs learned when they signed Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million deal in 2015.

The Sox waived Keuchel in May in the third year of his contract but probably are struck with Grandal in 2023, the final year of his four-year, $73 million deal. The Cubs opted to release Heyward last month with $22 million remaining on his contract.

All three moves were hailed at the time. But while Heyward did help the Cubs earn a World Series ring in 2016 and Grandal and Keuchel both performed well enough during the Sox’s postseason run in 2020, the contracts ultimately were deemed excessive.

They certainly aren’t the first free agents to underperform, and this year’s free-agent class undoubtedly will have a few players who also don’t live up to expectations. That has been a part of sports since the advent of free agency.

But that shouldn’t prevent Hoyer or Hahn from rolling the dice on someone whose upside can make a difference between competing in 2023 or just drifting aimlessly through another season. To do nothing would be a signal to fans that the status quo is acceptable. We’re all eyewitnesses, and asking everyone to ignore what happened would be a grave mistake for both executives.

I really can’t remember a more important offseason for either team.

On both sides of town fans believe their steadfast loyalty has been taken for granted. The 2022 season left scars that won’t easily heal.

The Sox lost all the momentum they had built up from 2020 and ‘21, when the rebuild seemed headed in the right direction and the only question was when, not if, they would win a World Series. Injuries surely played a role, but mostly it was poor defense and baserunning and a glaring absence of power, combined with a perceived lack of hustle, that made the Sox mostly unwatchable.

The Cubs already turned off their fans in summer 2021 by trading established stars for a slew of prospects who wouldn’t be ready for several years, then refusing to admit they were in a rebuild. They compounded the misery by not even trying to compete in 2022, then by letting catcher Willson Contreras leave as a free agent with nothing but a compensatory draft pick in return.

Hahn and Hoyer are capable of making the kind of deft decisions that can fix things in 2023.

But will they?

Unless they go into the winter meetings with a do-or-die mentality, the Sox and Cubs will be right back where they finished in October — watching the playoffs on TV. That doesn’t mean they have to get a player signed and sealed by the end of the meetings Thursday, but they should be honing in on whomever they target with the idea of closing the deal in the coming weeks.

Every avenue should be explored, including trading players considered part of the core. Whether that’s a possibility is questionable.

“It’s easy at the end of a disappointing season to say you’ve got to burn it to the ground,” Hahn said at the end of the disappointing season. “That’s not where we’re at as an organization. There’s a good amount of talent there. There’s talent that’s performed at an elite level. We’ve got to figure out a way to get them back to that level and augment accordingly.”

Aside from hiring Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol as manager, the Sox’s biggest personnel addition was adding Geoff Head as senior director of sports performance, a new position created to keep players off the injured list with nagging injuries that led to questions about proper conditioning.

Hahn said Head would be involved “with everything from nutrition to sleep to sports science, working in the lab, working with our technicians, making sure we have the best information for what our players need and what we can do to keep them on the field.”

Added Grifol: “Geoff is all about keeping players on the field. He’s all about these guys posting every day.”

OK, fine. That certainly should help.

But the Sox already have to replace their middle-of-the-order slugger now that José Abreu fled to the Houston Astros. A left-handed-hitting corner outfielder, a second baseman and hopefully a new starting catcher would go a long way toward winning back angry fans. A one-year deal for Mike Clevinger is the kind of low-risk move that makes you wonder if the Sox will try to compete for any of the top free agents.

On the North Side, no one wants to hear Hoyer talk about payroll flexibility or “intelligent” spending. Fans want to see actual money being spent, trades being consummated and movement that suggests the Cubs are serious about next year, not another long-term plan. None of their top hitting prospects are ready, and making stop-gap, low-risk signings because they’re waiting on kids such as Brennen Davis and Pete Crow-Armstrong isn’t going to appease fans.

“We absolutely want to compete next year,” Hoyer said at the end of the season. “We want to add players that can help us in 2023, but we also want to do it with a real eye on the future.”

Sorry, but we’ve heard enough about the future in Chicago to last a lifetime or two.

For the Cubs and Sox, the future is now.

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