Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Time for sports fans to move forward, even though it’s going to be U-G-L-Y!

The Chicago Bears are through (thank the Lord) for the season. Not that I ever expected them to have a great season in 2011 -- but seeing a potential playoff-bound team devolve into one that finished the season 1-5 was just incredibly ugly.

The "big name" of this off-season?
To me, it’s no wonder that this city’s sports fans already are turning to the future (and by that, I don’t mean the next couple of months of Chicago Bulls basketball).

IT WAS THE end of last week that I happened while walking through the halls of local politics to stumble across a quarrel between two government officials. What had the two of them going at it was baseball.

White Sox versus Cubs.

Always something that can bring the 6-year-old out of grown men and women.

Are the Cubs really nothing more than a “AAA team” as I heard one person say, only to hear another scoff and go on and on about the wonders that new baseball boss Theo Epstein will bring to the North Side – which will supposedly supercede in the public memory any success the White Sox achieved in 2005.

A THOUGHT THAT strikes me as being the equivalent of the Soviet Union of old rewriting history to erase unpleasant memories.

Personally, I expect that the White Sox will have a better ball club than the Cubs will during 2012 – but only because the Cubs are really that weak. I don’t expect the White Sox to be anything more than incredibly average for the upcoming season (which will be better than the misery that will come from Wrigley Field during Epstein’s first season as president of baseball operations for the Cubs).

Although Chicago baseball may well have its highlight for 2012 during the summer months when former third baseman turned godawful radio broadcaster Ron Santo is formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

A future Hall of Famer?

It would be nicer if the great star base thief of the 1980s and early 1990s also were to be inducted – although it seems that some people can’t appreciate what made Tim Raines special as a ballplayer (including his stints with the White Sox – playing for a division-winning team in 1993 and coaching at first base in 2005).

INSOFAR AS FUTURE seasons are concerned, I’m not even going to venture a guess what either team will do – because I’d probably look as ridiculous (but nowhere near as voluptuous) as the women who give us long-range weather forecasts on television.

I can’t help but notice the trades the White Sox have made in recent days – Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor and Sergio Santos were all traded away for minor league pitchers. Which makes me think that the Charlotte Knights have the potential for an interesting pitching staff in 2012 that could someday bolster baseball on the South Side.

Or maybe not. Because the crying-broke White Sox also gave “Mark Buehrle-type” money to pitcher John Danks! It’s too unpredictable.

Just as is the fate of the Cubs; particularly since I am not among these people who thinks it is any surefire thing that Epstein will bring anything resembling a championship to the North Side.

WHEN THE MOST notable move the team has made thus far is hiring one-time first baseman Bill Buckner to be the hitting coach for the Boise Hawks (a Cubs minor league affiliate in the Pioneer League), it means he hasn’t done much on the field for 2012.

Even the last time the Cubs went out and got a new baseball boss who was supposed to bring “winning ways” to Chicago (the early 1980s when Dallas Green became Cubs boss after managing the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series victory), there was much activity.

In fact, I recall the sense that Green was picking the Phillies clean, making deals with them (and managing to get minor leaguer-turned-Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg in the process) and bolstering the Cubs to the point where they made that “first ever” playoff appearance in 1984 (which may be the biggest moment of success the Cubs have ever had in my lifetime).

By comparison, Epstein has made an agreement to have NO dealings with the Boston Red Sox, and hasn’t done much. It may well be possible that something is in the works that could make January the high-point of the Cubs’ offseason.


Green’s Cubs of the ‘80s boasted in their marketing efforts that they were “coming out of hibernation.” Epstein’s Cubs seem to be more than comfortable IN hibernation.

Will ’12 truly be an ugly baseball season in Chicago?
The only shot for a Chicago championship?

Baseball has a certain beauty to it that makes watching individual ballgames worthwhile. So I’m likely to try to get out to a few ballgames during 2012.

PART OF WHAT makes ball clubs and seasons interesting is watching how those games build upon each other while a team makes a serious striving toward a championship.

That is something we’re not likely to see at all in Chicago come the summer months.

It makes me wonder if we have a better shot at seeing something of championship quality in football from the Bears before we get anything in baseball out of either side of the city.


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