For the past week or so, ESPN has helped the Olympics fill background noise as we start to prepare for the ever-approaching fall prep sports season. Seemingly each day, some sort of major news has come across the bottom ticker during episodes of “¿Highly Questionable?” and “The Jump” that pertains to one of the handful of professional sports teams just up Interstate 57.
At last week’s MLB trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs became the news of the sports world by dismantling much of the remaining core from the 2016 World Series-winning team that was left, with franchise pillars Anthony Rizzo (New York Yankees), Javier Baez (New York Mets) and Kris Bryant (San Francisco Giants) all dealt for prospects.
Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks are left for the time being, as are the ghosts of Jason Heyward and Jake Arrieta, the latter of whom returned this season far removed from his Cy Young form of yesteryear. Aside from that, there’s not much left as the Cubs have signaled a total rebuild.
Did the organization get a premium haul in return for the trio of fan favorites? That remains to be seen. But with the Ricketts family and their deep pockets running the show, particularly after totally changing the landscape of Wrigleyville, it’s a gut punch to Cubs fans to see the team submit to sucking rather than maintain their high payroll and keep the core together.
On the South Side, Rick Hahn led one of the most aggressive front offices in the game, acquiring Cesar Hernandez from Cleveland before moving highly touted second baseman Nick Madrigal in a package with the crosstown Cubs for all-star closer Craig Kimbrell.
The Sox obviously are all-in, and rightfully so, as leaders of the AL Central. The two Chicago clubs meet on the North Side this weekend, and for the first time in about 10 years, it will be with the White Sox living the high life and the Cubs clinging to relevancy on the diamond.
Thanks to the lingering effects of COVID-19, the NBA Draft was held the night before the MLB trade deadline. The Chicago Bulls didn’t have a pick until the second round, but it made one of the night’s biggest splashes when Chicago native and Illinois product Ayo Dosunmu, an AP All-American last season, fell from his first-round projection and into the Bulls’ lap with the 38th pick.
That was a sign of things to come for Bulls fans, as the team made the first splash when the free agency period opened Monday by acquiring point guard Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade with New Orleans and signing former Lakers fan favorite Alex Caruso. Those moves were followed up by a sign-and-trade for all-star wing DeMar DeRozan.
The Bulls might not be conference contenders yet, but with a pair of big names in Ball and DeRozan joining Zach Lavine, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams in the starting five, head coach Billy Donovan definitely has one of the most notable lineups in the league and made GarPax a distant memory.
Perhaps no team has seen the equal highs and lows as of late as the Blackhawks, the true epitome of the up-and-down emotions Chicago’s collective sports teams have had. Similar to the Cubs, former championship stalwarts were traded, as Duncan Keith is headed to Edmonton, and the contract of Brent Seabrook, who is all-but-officially retired, was shipped to Tampa Bay.
They also have made some big splashes, though, by acquiring reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from Vegas and trading for star defenseman Seth Jones. Nothing moves the needle, both good and bad, like transactions, but Stan Bowman’s busy offseason with personnel pales in comparison to the disgusting accusations the organization has been facing.
According to The Associated Press, allegations of former assistant coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulting two players during the 2009-10 Stanley Cup-winning season have developed into a self-investigation from the Blackhawks as a next step is awaited.
TSN has reported Bowman, the team’s president and general manager, was long aware of the accusations and not only did nothing initially but later gave Aldrich his endorsement when Aldrich applied for a youth coaching job, where he allegedly assaulted players as well.
And then there’s the Bears, who started training camp last week. Newly-acquired veteran Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback, but the team didn’t mortgage the future to trade up for Justin Fields to see how well he holds a clip board.
Fields has drawn rave reviews from NFL insiders thus far. Time will tell if he’ll be the savior Mitch Trubisky never was, but Bears fans haven’t been this optimistic since the moments before Cody Parkey’s double doink.
As it stands, the White Sox are probably the only team in the city with realistic championship hopes this season. But the Bears could be right there if Fields is a hit, and the Bulls are setting themselves up to become the next trade destination for a disgruntled superstar.
The Blackhawks likely will be lucky to make the playoffs, although Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will look to make one last run before officially closing their windows. Regardless, the Blackhawks are an organization that has a lot more to worry about than league standings.
But if there is one thing that has come out of the crazy week of Chicago sports fandom that makes sense, whether right or wrong, it’s that the Cubs once again are returning to form as the Loveable Losers.