2012 is finally over and it couldn't have come fast enough. In my 27 years on earth I can't remember a more depressing and all around disaster of a year in Chicago sports than 2012. All five of the major sports teams had little to no success and either suffered from collapses, injuries or just being all around bad. No team was safe and no team bucked the trend as all five will want to wipe away 2012 as fast as possible. Let's take a brief and painful look back at each team's 2012 season and why they were a disaster.
2012 started out pretty terrible for the Bears right off the bat. Brian Urlacher suffered a sprained MCL in the 2011-2012 season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. Things got better when new GM Phil Emery committed a robbery and somehow got Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins for next to nothing and finally giving Jay Cutler a true #1 wide receiver. The 2012 season started out fantastic for the Bears who rode a 7-1 record to the halfway point of the season thanks to the defense playing out of its mind and Brandon Marshall obliterating Bears' wide receiver records. The second half of the 2012 season was an absolute disaster. The Bears lost five of their last eight, looked lost on offense, couldn't stop anyone on defense and ending up missing the playoffs, something only one other team has done since 1990 when starting the season 7-1. The second half collapse cost Lovie Smith his head coaching job and begins an off-season a lot sooner than most would have predicted.
The Good: The Brandon Marshall trade, the first half of the 2012 season, Jerry Angelo being fired
The Bad: The second half of the 2012 season, the offense, every other wide receiver not named Brandon Marshall, Kellen Davis having a roster spot on the team
What to Watch For in 2013: How the Bears handle the post-Lovie Smith era will be the off-season's biggest headline. After three straight defensive minded coaches (Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith) the Bears will likely look for an offensive minded coach. It will be interesting to see if the Bears interview process involves any of the big names coaches on the market or if the Bears stick with hiring a coach without any previous NFL head coaching experience.
It will also be interesting to see what the Bears do with personnel. Will Urlacher and Hester be back or will they part ways with the team like Lovie Smith? Does Mike Tice get demoted from offensive coordinator with a new incoming head coach? Will Cutler get a new contract before the final year of his deal starts? It should be an incredibly interesting off-season and it will be telling to see what the Bears do in free agency to determine whether they are going to be contenders or re-building.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox had a pretty great 2012 until August started. The White Sox surprised a lot of people and were the top team in the AL Central for the majority of the season while the Detroit Tigers struggled mightily to find their rhythm. Chris Sale and Jake Peavy helped the top of the rotation while Adam Dunn had resurgence and Alex Rios began to look like the player the White Sox traded for. The White Sox fell apart down the stretch and those pesky Tigers eventually beat and overtook the AL Central from the White Sox as the season came to an abrupt and disappointing end. In the off-season the White Sox lost long time catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Texas Rangers and the team had so much difficulty filling seats at U.S. Cellular Field that ticket prices were slashed for the upcoming season.
The Good: Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, Robin Ventura, the Kevin Youkilis trade
The Bad: Collapsing late in the season and missing the playoffs, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, the Francisco Liriano trade, U.S. Cellular attendance
What to Watch For in 2013: It is hard to say what 2013 looks like for the White Sox and whether the team looks to contend or build up their farm system and young talent. As far as free agency the White Sox haven't added much to the team besides the signing of Jeff Keppinger and Rick Hahn making his debut as General Manager with Kenny Williams taking over as Executive Vice President. The American League has gotten a lot tougher with the Tigers still looking like the favorites in the Central, the Angels continuing to spend big money and the overhaul in Toronto. The Sox early season results will dictate whether this team tries to add talent via trades or if they have a mid-season fire sale and unload veterans for prospects.
The Chicago Cubs started off 2012 bad and they finished it historically bad. The first 100 loss season for the franchise since 1966 was ugly and at times was unwatchable. Despite a season filled with disappointment there were some bright spots. Jeff Samardzija looked to start coming into form as a starting pitcher while the trade for Anthony Rizzo gave the organization a potential one-two punch in the heart of their lineup with Rizzo and Castro. Darwin Barney tied a Major League record for most consecutive games without an error and Alfonso Soriano had a solid season. The Cubs waved goodbye to long time Cubs Ryan Dempster (trade) and Kerry Wood (retire) and saw one half of their outstanding announce team exit as Bob Brenly headed to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Good: The Anthony Rizzo trade, stockpiling young talent, Darwin Barney
The Bad: 100 losses, Bob Brenly's departure, Kerry Wood's retirement (for sentimental reasons)
What to Watch For in 2013: The Cubs seem to be keeping with Theo Epstein's plan to re-build in order to contend long term and with free agent additions like Nate Schierholtz, Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, and Kyuji Fujikawa it looks like the Cubs are slowly building a contender. The Edwin Jackson contract gives the Cubs a solid third starter while also giving them great trade bait should an offer come along. The Cubs will still be shopping Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Matt Garza and look to continue to replenish the team through prospects. The team is banking on Anthony Rizzo building off a solid 2012 season while also seeing the emergence of other young players like Brett Jackson, Wellington Castillo, Luis Valbuena, and Josh Vitters. The Cubs most likely won't contend for anything in 2013 but watching the Epstein Re-Building Plan come to form should be interesting to watch.
The Bulls looked as good as advertised as 2012 began. They were the top team in the East and were again being discussed as NBA title contenders. Everything was looking great for the Bulls as they were set to meet the #8 seeded Philadelphia 76ers and after Game 1 ended the Bulls season and future took a horrific turn. Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the closing minutes of Game 1 and not only ended his season but the Bulls never recovered from losing their star player and were bounced in the first round. The off-season didn't get any better for the Bulls as the core of the "bench mob" was traded away. Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, and C.J. Watson all left and only Taj Gibson stayed. The Bulls signed some veteran players to league minimum deals but none of real significance.
The Good: Everything leading up to the playoffs, Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau getting a new contract
The Bad: Rose's ACL injury, the playoffs, Thibodeau losing out on Coach of the Year Award, Carlos Boozer's defense
What to Watch For in 2013: The Bulls seem to be treading water until Rose returns and without a return date known, the team's record should continue to float around the .500 level. It will be interesting to see how the Bulls handle the off-season in 2013 as a handful of quality free agents will be available and the future of Carlos Boozer will be known. Regardless, Derrick Rose could return this season or he could return next season and whenever that happens it will be a welcome sight to see Chicago's own back on the court in the United Center.
The Blackhawks had an interesting 2012 to say the least. They were up and down during the entire 2011-2012 season and while they made the playoffs for the fourth straight season, they were bounced by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round. Patrick Kane had another off-ice incident that led to a sit down with management and Marian Hossa suffered a severe concussion after a vicious hit by the Coyotes' Raffi Torres. The Blackhawks haven't been on the ice since their elimination from the playoffs as the NHL is still going through ANOTHER lockout. Over half the season has been lost and 'Hawks players have started going overseas to play. Both the owners and NHLPA are in discussions to get an abbreviated season underway but one thing is for sure, the second half of 2012 featured zero NHL games.
The Good: Making the playoffs for the fourth straight season, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Coach Q's mustache
The Bad: No hockey in the second half of 2012, Patrick Kane's off-ice incidents, Hossa's concussion, goalie issues
What to Watch For In 2013: Hockey. Any kind of professional hockey in 2013 would be great to see. Whenever this lockout gets resolved it will be interesting to see how many fans come back to a sport that has burned them three times in Commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure. With such a passionate fan base like the Blackhawks have it will be interesting to see if the Madhouse on Madison is packed to the roof like it has been the last few years.
Thank goodness 2012 is over; I was getting depressed just typing this blog. Let's hope 2013 is the complete opposite of last year and we see nothing like 2012 in Chicago sports ever again. Have a safe and Happy New Year!
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Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, AL Central, Alex Rios, Alfonso Soriano, Anthony Rizzo, Arizona Diamondbacks, Bears, Blackhawks, Bob Brenly, Brandon Marshall, Brett Jackson, Brian Urlacher, Bulls, C.J. Watson, Carlos Boozer, Carlos Marmol, Chris Sale, Cubs, Darwin Barney, Dave Wannstedt, Derrick Rose, Detroit Tigers, Dick Jauron, Edwin Jackson, Francisco Liriano, Gary Bettman, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, Jake Peavy, Jeff Keppinger, Jeff Samardzija, Jerry Angelo, Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews, Josh Vitters, Kellen Davis, Kenny Williams, Kerry Wood, Kevin Youkilis, Kyle Korver, Kyuji Fujikawa, Los Angeles Angels, Lovie Smith, Luis Valbuena, Marian Hossa, Matt Garza, Miami Dolphins, Mike Tice, Minnesota Vikings, MLB, Nate Schierholtz, NBA, NFL, NHL, NHL owners, NHLPA, Omer Asik, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Phil Emery, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Coyotes, Raffi Torres, Rick Hahn, Robin Ventura, Ronnie Brewer, Ryan Dempster, Scott Baker, Starlin Castro, Taj Gibson, Texas Rangers, Theo Epstein, Tom Thibodeau, Toronto Blue Jays, U.S. Cellular Field, Wellington Castillo, White Sox