The past few days have been particularly eventful in the world of Chicago sports. Here are my quick thoughts on a few of the biggest stories.
Cubs fire manager Dale Sveum on Monday
A month ago, I’d have considered Sveum’s job safe. And yet there was enough smoke that became visible over the past several days that when I heard the news of his firing Monday morning, it was expected.
If you’re familiar with the front office and its way of thinking, you’ll probably agree the firing isn’t because the Cubs were 127-197 under Sveum during the past two seasons. I’m inclined to believe the primary reason is the lack of development of the material young players, particularly Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, on the big-league roster. I’ll buy that maybe the front office thinks the team is getting close to being able to contend again, and that it’s determined Sveum isn’t the guy to take the Cubs to Point B (and C, and so on). There’s a small chance there’s a handshake deal in place with Joe Girardi, and the front office feels he’s too good to pass up.
I’m fine with pulling the trigger. Sveum deserves only partial blame (or credit) for what’s happened under his watch, of course, but the bad (Castro’s regression, questionable bullpen usage, batting Darwin Barney second) outweighed the good (Welington Castillo’s growth, aggressive defensive shifting).
If in fact a major reason for Sveum’s firing is the player development struggles, then I find it discouraging the front office hired him in the first place. The ability to develop young players should have trumped anything related to tactical philosophy in its first managerial hire given the Cubs’ distance from winning at the time.
A firing only two years in is an admission of failure in one of the front office’s first major decisions.
Blackhawks open regular season play tonight
I expected a middle-of-the-Western-Conference finish entering last year for the Blackhawks, who set the league on fire during the regular season and won the Stanley Cup. Take what I have to say with a grain of salt.
Some regression should be expected, but I see no reason that the Hawks aren’t clearly the best team in the Central Division and one of two favorites, along with the Kings, to win their conference. The losses (Dave Bolland, Ray Emery, Michael Frolik) are sustainable ones. The flaws in the roster (Michal Handzus isn’t the answer, short term or long, at No. 2 center) are the same ones that have been overcome before.
The goaltending and the penalty kill aren’t likely to be quite as good as they were last season, and there’s a chance a Jonathan Toews injury or a Duncan Keith return-to-nonexcellence threatens to really derail the train, but the Hawks still have plenty going for them that a repeat is quite possible.
Bears suffer first loss under Marc Trestman
Teams should be entitled to a mulligan or three over the course of a football season. I’m mostly willing to give the Bears one for Sunday’s 40-32 loss at Detroit. It stinks that Trestman wasn’t able to eradicate the Bears completely and forever of Bad Jay Cutler, but expecting him to probably wasn’t realistic.
Given a day to reflect on the game, what bothers me more than Cutler’s play was the way Reggie Bush ran wild on the defense. His 18-carry, 139-yard effort came a week after Ben Roethlisberger passed for 406 yards against the Bears, which came a week after Christian Ponder, of all people, looked competent for a half against them.
As long as the Bears are forcing turnovers, and scoring on them at a rate nobody else in the league can touch, such yardage totals are forgivable. If the turnover well dries up, this could suddenly be a mediocre, even bad, defense.