What put Chicago sports in the blackhole of ineptitude? In years past, during the cold winter months, I, like many others, relied on the hope of the Bears. When that failed, I turned to the solid, consistency of the Blackhawks and the excitement of the Bulls to drag me through the doldrum, grey, cold days into the warm spring sun.
It's December 1st and yet here I am thinking of the sounds of, "beer here!" on the North Side or, "hot dogs!" on the South Side to provide solitude. Instead, providing more disappointment to the 3rd largest sports market, both respective baseball teams gave their fanbase heartache in '23.
Not one to dwell on the negatives of the past but let us take a gander at Chicago sports during the past year...
Chicago White Sox:
There's a lot of low hanging fruit here but let's take a bite.
After going 61-101 last season, the White Sox struggled in a multitude of statistical categories. First year manager, Pedro Grifol, came in with a hardheaded, bad ass attitude stating to "prepare every night to kick your ass." That may have been the highlight of the year.
Owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who I think needs to sell the damn team already, stated, "The 2023 season was my 43rd in baseball... It was the worst I've ever been through."
Even when there was good news on the South Side, like Liam Hendricks returning, it would be short lived as he would have to get Tommy John Surgery.
After having a season that saw Tim Anderson display his worst statistical year, it seemed like he thought boxing would be a better suited area to try..............KO'ed like the Sox season.
Alas, Reinsdorf gave his signature on the pink slips of Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams. So, will internal restructuring help on the field for the 2024 season? It couldn't be any worse....
I know, I know.
"But Coach Bruce! The Cubs had an incredible 2023 season. You're a clown!" Only one of those statements are true. The Cubs '23 season can be defined as a disappointment after an epic meltdown.
Watching the Diamondbacks in the World Series is a "what could have been" for North Siders as the D-Backs took 6 games in 11 days during a stretch in September. The Cubs bullpen struggled to keep them in games late in the season. While former manager David Ross relied heavily on the tried and true guys that got them into the playoff talk, injuries crept their way in, putting players like Adbert Alzolay and Michael Fullmer (who will miss 2024 with UCL surgery) on the shelf.
Depth. Depth. Depth... availability is the best ability.
Now Comeback Player of the Year, Cody Bellinger and agent Scott Boras are seeking a rather larger contract after Bellinger gambled on himself (and won) during a one year, prove it deal. Boras was quoted saying, "I think Chicago got the comforts of a full Belli. They're going to loosen their belts to keep Bellinger."
With the collapse of the 2023 Chicago Cubs, David Ross went from a Manager of the Year Candidate to losing his spot at the top of the dugout in Wrigley Field to Craig Counsell.
Will the September slide on the North Siders bleed into an off-season or is there still a glimmer of hope leading into 2024?
Seems like we have been down this road before with Reinsdorf teams.
After a surprise win in Toronto with the help of DeMar DeRozan's daughter, the Bulls were 1 win away from qualifying for the NBA Playoffs last year.
Going down to a "Himmy" Butler led Heat team seemed to be a quick way to turn around a mediocre year. The Chicago Bulls were on their way with 3 minutes left up 90 to 87. Himmy Butler and the Miami Heat went on a 15-1 run to knock ALL hope out of Chicago to win 102-91.
Fast forward to the offseason...
In the interest of continuity, Arturas Karnisovas, with the rest of the Chicago Bulls front office, decided to ignore two years of statistical information showing their version of a big 3 is not working as planned and resigned Nikola Vucevic to compliment Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan.
Now this does not fall on Nikola Vucevic because on a different team, the reliance on a 33 year old borderline stretch 5 would not be as high. The problems is, Vucevic is posting his worst 3-point percentage since 2015-16 according to Basketball Reference (22% in 15-16 compared to just25% this season) and has his worst defensive rating in his career (115).
Unfortunately, overvaluing players that could use a change of scenery is a regular occurrence at the United Center.
Speaking of overvaluing and change of scenery, only 19 games into the 2023 season, Zach LaVine has been involved with multiple trade talks and has completely shut down it would seem. The player that deserves a COMPLETE change of scenery is DeRozan. He is on the last year of his contract and should be apart of a team with a title run in them.
If they Bulls continue down this 20 win trajectory we will be seeing more players from the Windy City Bulls on the roster.
LET THE RESET BEGIN.... AGAIN!
One of the best jerseys in all of sports... Now have the 18 year old phenom Connor Bedard. My bandwagon hopping is in full effect.
"It's the coach."
"No, it's the play calling."
"Is Justin Fields the guy?"
"We have the new Tom Brady!... Secret Bagent man!"
"They need a new QB."
"Getsy needs to go."
What a pool of confusion! What seemingly started off as an off-season of promise and hope, as I described earlier, has turned into a LARGE question mark. The acquisition of DJ Moore through trading the first overall pick to the Panthers, and drafting a talented OT from Tennessee in Darnell Wright prompted many national pundits to feed into the hype train. "Justin Fields could be in the MVP conversation," proclaimed ESPN's Dan Orlovsky. Whelp, Bears fans, we all were duped again.
Opening the season against the hated Green Bay Packers, now, without the Bears owner Aaron Rodgers will allow ownership to exchange hands, right? Nope. That was just a start to what has now turned into a larger issue in Halas Hall.
Two coaches apart of Eberflus' staff were let go by the human resources department with shaky details being given. This, among other organizational issues, has exhibited the amount of disfunction that continues to rear its ugly head for a franchise FLOUNDERING the last 37 years.
Are we in for another rebuild on the rebuild? Who knows?! The one thing this team has given its fans over the years is sustained questionable moves.
So, how have we gotten here?
Two teams with the same owner, Bulls and White Sox, are looking to repeat the same process.
A team whose family has owned the team, the Bears, for 100 years that continuously botches the process of the front office structure and effects the product on the field.
Oddly enough though, the two teams with the most recent sustained success, Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Cubs, that have EMBRACED the change in ownership.
Selling a team and rolling over staff is not the secret to success but it appears to produce a map in our city that can find some success down the line.
With regards to 2024 though? In the interest of continuity, '24 may look a lot like...... well, you know.
Until next time!
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