An analysis of this past month in Illinois Professional Sports

Max Berglind, Sports Reporter

Bulls basketball is back, Bears and Blackhawks are disappointing, and Major League Baseball has entered a lockout. The past month in professional sports in the Windy City created a flurry of optimism, resurgence, and restoration. 

The Chicago Cubs went into the league-wide lockout with a bang after disappointing all of the 2021 regular season. The Cubbies signed former New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million contract late on Nov. 30. Stroman, last year, had career bests in Earned-Runs-Average (ERA) at 3.02, Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP) with 1.145, and in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with a 3.32. Stroman bolsters a Cubs starting rotation that finished 29 in Major League Baseball. 

The crosstown rivals had the exact opposite story. The White Sox exceeded expectations in 2021, going 93-69 and winning the American League Central Division. They also made a splash, signing relief pitcher Kendall Graveman to a $24 million deal over three years. The bullpen of the Chicago White Sox was the second-best in baseball. The signing of Graveman only bolsters the loaded relief staff that includes Craig Kimbrel, Garrett Crochet, and Liam Hendriks. 

While not having the hot start that they anticipated, the mighty Blackhawks are getting back on track. 

The Blackhawks fired their former head coach Jeremy Colliton on Nov. 6 after starting the season 0-7-2. Since then, interim head coach Derek King has led the Hawks to a 11-8 record, making for a 11-15-2 overall record. The National Hockey League, in their history, has had two other goaltenders reach the 500 career win mark. The Blackhawks goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, became the third goalie to reach the milestone with the Blackhawks 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens a week ago Thursday. The Blackhawks netminder is part of the reason why the team is still in contention for the playoffs.

The Blackhawks seem to be getting back on track, but they are not done yet. The Bears are a game from elimination

The Chicago Bears traded up and drafted quarterback Justin Fields in the 2021 draft to be the franchise’s savior. The 2021 Bears had Super Bowl aspirations. They are now sitting at 4-9 and multiple games out of a playoff spot with three weeks to go. The offensive line woes are evident, as the unit allows over three sacks per game. Head coach Matt Nagy is on the hot seat, and there is extreme doubt in his job security beyond this season. Most head coaches do not get the chance to work with two quarterbacks that the franchise drafts during the quarterback’s tenure with the team. Unless the Bears pull off a playoff spot, we likely see a new person on the sideline for the Monsters of the Midway next year.

While the Bears are plummeting, there is a new team on the rise. 

The Chicago Bulls are back. The Bulls are 17-10, sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference. They are over .500 for the first time since December Superstar shooting guard Zach Lavine and free-agent acquisitions Demar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso. DeRozan is tenth in the league-wide Most Valuable Player Race, averaging 26 points, five rebounds, and four assists on above-average efficiency. Ball and Caruso have provided excellent defense for a Bulls team that is seventh in the National Basketball Association in points allowed (105.2 per game) and fifth in point differential (plus 3.7 per game). Although the Bulls are fighting through injuries and COVID-19 protocols, they beat contending teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets. 

Whether the team is in a tailspin, or they are outperforming expectations, all the sports teams have something to look forward to during the holiday season. Whether it is a resolved lockout, a playoff spot, or the letting go of a infamous head coach, Illinoisians are prepared for any possible outcome.