Chicago sports fans have known plenty of suffering over the years. And right now, it’s not a great time to be rooting for professional teams in the Windy City.
Sure, you have the reigning World Series champions on the North Side, but there’s a segment of baseball fans loyal to the South Side team that doesn’t care.
The hockey team is coming off its most disappointing postseason in more than a decade. The basketball team is a flaming pile of dysfunctional garbage. The football team is coming of a season in which it had its most losses ever. And that aforementioned ‘other’ baseball team admits that it’s in a rebuilding mode despite actually playing well in the first month of the season.
Optimism isn’t abundant.
Let’s rank the lack of optimism from 1 to 5 starting with the best chance at winning a title …
1. CUBS — They are still Major League Baseball’s poster boys this season coming off the magical World Series win and ending 108 years of futility. And despite having some issues — the bullpen isn’t great right now, Kyle Schwarber is off to a slow start and the starting pitching is average at best — they are still a favorite to reach the postseason in a mediocre division.
The Cubs still have plenty of firepower and plenty of ammunition to make a trade at the deadline to help with any inadequacies, namely the starting rotation (Are you listening White Sox general manager Rick Hahn?), and a young core that will keep the team in playoff contention for years to come.
2. BLACKHAWKS — Sure, they were eliminated from the playoffs surprisingly — four straight games with very little fight after producing the second-most wins in franchise history and the best record in the Western Conference. But there are hall of famers all over the place in the organization, from general manager Stan Bowman to coach Joel Quenneville to five players on the ice — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford (yes, you dopey Crawford haters, when a goalie wins two Stanley Cups he’s going into the hall) — you have plenty in place to bounce back.
Also, remember that after they won the Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks lost in the first round the next two years — just like now — before winning Cups in 2013 and 2015.
3. WHITE SOX — Yes, the South Siders aren’t in terrible shape. First, they’re off to a good start this season, above .500 and in the running in the division. Second, the young players that are on the roster now are playing well and the veterans who could be trade bait are also producing, meaning Hahn can get more for them (namely, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana, Melky Cabrera and David Robertson) at the trade deadline.
Make no mistake, Hahn will not make deals to improve their playoff chances this season no matter how good they are. He said as much in radio interviews in late March. But the young players acquired in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton deals could be coming up to the Majors soon, and I’m definitely looking forward to that.
4. BEARS — Despite the mistaken angst over what GM Ryan Pace did on draft day in picking Mitch Trubinsky (you can say you don’t like it, but Pace has every right to follow his conviction), the Bears are not the worst team in town. They have good young players in key spots — Leonard Floyd at linebacker, Jordan Howard to running back, Kevin White at wide receiver, Cody Whitehair at center — and some good free agent signings. Now if they could just do something about head coach John Fox.
“Everything’s difficult, it’s all tough …” says Fox at almost every press conference about everything.
5. BULLS — Da Bulls, da worst. I don’t care that they made the playoffs. That’s part of the problem. They should have been trying not to, but GM Gar Forman cares more about looking good to the Reinsdorfs (Jerry and Michael) by putting butts in the seats then building the team for the future.
This team has no future. Dwyane Wade is old, and likely will opt to fulfill the second year of a contract that handcuffs the Bulls with $20-plus million in salary. Rajon Rondo may have become a team player in those first two playoff games before he got hurt, but he’s still old and average at best.
Jimmy Butler is great, but he’s not a franchise player and the Bulls should have traded him when the return was valuable.
And what young players have any viable future? Denzel Valentine? Cristiano Felicio? Paul Zipser? Isaiah Canaan? Cameron Payne? I don’t think so.
It’s sad how far this franchise has fallen from winning six titles two decades ago. Now it’s a laughingstock with a dysfunctional front office, a worthless coach in Fred Hoiberg who only has the job because of his friendship with Forman, and a flawed roster that needs to be gutted so better draft picks can be accrued.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.