Chicago Sports: 2015 Year in Review


Just like that, we’ve made it through 2015 and are about to enter 2016. I have to say that 2015 was a pretty great year looking back on it both for me personally, and from a Chicago sports perspective (at least for the most part). This is the first time I have done this, but I’m looking forward to recapping the past year of Chicago sports. Enjoy.


6cphie5heyvfwn6lbzfowe61h2015 had a bit of a rough beginning for the Bears. They missed last year’s playoffs and began their offseason by firing general manager Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman, and most of the coaching staff. Ryan Pace was brought in to turn things around as the new GM, and one of his first moves was making former Broncos head coach, John Fox, the Bears’ new head man. Adam Gase and Vic Fangio both left San Francisco to be the Bears’ new offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, giving the Bears one of the league’s best coaching staffs.

Kevin White was selected as the Bears’ number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft with the hopes of building a formidable receiving core between him and Alshon Jeffery, but White missed the entire 2015 season due to injury. Following White’s lead, the Bears could not stay healthy this season. This forced lineman to switch positions and backup players to become starters. Not that there was much optimism surrounding the Bears’ heading into 2015 season, but the injuries they suffered kept them from finishing with a better record. As it stands right now, the Bears are 6-9.

Looking ahead to 2016, it may be reasonable to expect a better Bears team than the one we saw this season, but the playoffs should still be out of the picture. However, I look at Ryan Pace as an up and coming Theo Epstein-type GM, and I have confidence that he’ll turn this thing around sooner than later.


NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago BlackhawksThe Blackhawks solidified themselves as a modern day dynasty in the NHL by winning their third Stanley Cup in six seasons in 2015. Things were not looking so bright, however, when Patrick Kane suffered a broken clavicle near the end of February that required surgery. He was ruled out for possibly twelve weeks.

What the Kane injury did that some people overlooked at the time was open up $6.5 million in salary cap space for the Blackhawks. By placing Kane on long-term injured reserve, his cap hit vanished. Stan Bowman took advantage of this and went ahead and traded for the likes of Antoine Vermette, Andrew Desjardins, and Kimmo Timonen. Obviously the Hawks went on to make the playoffs, and as a surprise to everyone, Patrick Kane was in the lineup for Game 1 of Round 1 against the Nashville Predators; about a month or so ahead of schedule.

The Blackhawks would go on to defeat the Predators in six games, sweep the Minnesota Wild, and knock out the Anaheim Ducks in seven to win the Western Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

In the Cup Final, the Hawks took games 1, 4, 5, and 6 to win their third Cup in six years, but it was the first time since 1938 that they won it on home ice. Duncan Keith won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP by unanimous vote. Andrew Desjardins and Antoine Vermette both played pivotal roles for the Hawks throughout the postseason, and without them it could be argued that they would not have won the Cup.

So far in this 2015-16 season and following some significant roster changes over the summer, the Blackhawks sit third in the Central Division with 46 points through 38 games played. Patrick Kane leads the NHL with 53 points and set the Blackhawks’ and American-born record with 26 consecutive games with at least one point, a streak that ended just a couple of weeks ago.

Moving forward, there is no question that the Hawks could use an addition on the blue line as well as at the left wing position. If they can somehow upgrade in those areas, we could be looking at another deep playoff run in a few months.


The Bulls ended their 2014-15 season with a 50-32 record, which was good for third in the Eastern Conference. In the playoffs they beat the Milwaukee Bucks in six games before getting knocked out in six games by Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Following the end to their season, the Bulls’ front office decided it was time to let head coach Tom Thibodeau go. The two sides never seemed to be on the same page during Thib’s time in Chicago despite his .647 win percentage in five seasons with the Bulls. As a replacement, Fred Hoiberg was lured away from Iowa State to become the new Bulls head coach.

In the NBA draft, the Bulls took Arkansas forward Bobby Portis with their top pick, and he has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. The Bulls as a team are 18-12 through 30 games this year, which isn’t bad, but their 130107_gq_trout_aapparent off-the-court problems seem to be overshadowing what is taking place on the court. To make it simple, the Bulls are a dysfunctional group of players. Derrick Rose has gradually been losing his place as the face of the team to Jimmy Butler, and the two of them are rumored to have issues with one another.

As the season progresses into 2016, there is a chance we see Pau Gasol get traded away has he has already stated he would like to explore free agency in the summer. Whether or not that happens, the Bulls will still be in the playoffs come April, but won’t get too far as long as Cleveland remains intact. The future is not as bright for the Bulls as it has been in recent years.


Next to the Blackhawks winning the 2015 Stanley Cup, the Cubs were the best sports story in Chicago this year. After finishing the 2014 season with a record of 73-89, manager Joe Maddon and starting pitcher Jon Lester were brought in during the fall of 2014. Instantly, Maddon instilled playoff expectations in his team and a completely new vibe.

The Cubs started their 2015 season with four of their top prospects (Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber) all in the minor leagues, but soon brought up both Bryant and Russell by the end of April. As the spring gave way to summer, the Cubs took off and just about steamrolled their way through the remainder of the regular season.

Kris Bryant wound up hitting .275 with 26 home runs and 99 runs batted in, and took home Rookie of the Year honors this past fall. Anthony Rizzo led the team with 31 homers and 101 runs batted. Kyle Schwarber was called-up a little over mid-way through the season and ended up with 16 dingers and 43 RBI in just 69 games.

On the other side of things, Jake Arrieta put together the best second half to a season by a starting pitcher in MLB history, and ended the regular season with a 1.77 earned run average while leading the MLB with 22 victories (and just 6 losses). He threw his first career no-hitter on August 30th, and won the National League Cy Young Award.

130107_gq_trout_aThe Cubs finished the season with 97 wins, good for third best in baseball, and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. In the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs took games 2, 3, and 4 to win the series and advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2003. They would end up getting swept by the Mets, but that is beside the point. The Cubs showed the baseball world that they are the real deal by winning 97 games and moving on to the NLCS behind their young bats and top of the rotation.

So far this offseason the Cubs have only gotten better. They have, to this point, signed John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward, giving them one of the best starting rotations in the National League and arguably the best lineup in baseball.

Expectations have not been this high for the Cubs in a long, long time, and 2016 is shaping up to be an unbelievably exciting year on the North Side.

White Sox
The Sox brought in Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, and Adam LaRoche heading into the 2015 season with the hopes of making a surprise run in the AL Central. Unfortunately for them, things did not go as planned.

The team went 76-86 on the season and finished
second to last in their division. Jeff Samardzija was a major disappointment as he ended the year with a league-worst earned run average of 4.96. Chris Sale, who got off to a great start to the year, did not have a great finish, but still wound up with a respectable 3.41 ERA and the third most strikeouts in the Major Leagues.

On the offensive side, Jose Abreu put together another stellar year with a MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians.290 average, 30 home runs, and 101 runs batted in. Much like Samardzija, Adam LaRoche was extremely underwhelming with a .207 average and just 12 home runs and 44 RBI.

So far this offseason, the White Sox seem to be working towards competing in 2016 instead of rebuilding. They recently acquired Todd Frazier from the Reds in a three-team deal, and Frazier will no doubt be a huge upgrade at the hot corner for the Sox and in the middle of their order. As of now, the Sox are being linked to Yoenis Cespedes as a possible landing spot for the free agent outfielder. If they can sign him, they’ll all of a sudden have a threatening lineup.

The White Sox still need another quality starting pitcher to be considered a real threat in the Central. As things stand at this moment, they shouldn’t be considered a playoff threat. That could change with a couple of good signings though.

So there you have it. Chicago sports in 2015. Overall, it was a pretty good year for the city with three of their five teams making the playoffs and one walking away as a champion. Not every sports town can make the same claim as often as Chicago can.

2016 in Chicago looks to be an intriguing year sports-wise. Given the current rosters of each team, here are my predictions for the upcoming year (these are subject to change if more roster moves are made):

Bears: 8-8; third in NFC North; miss playoffs

Blackhawks: 101 points; third place in Central Division; advance to second round of playoffs

Bulls: 48-34; third place in Central Division; advance to second round of playoffs

Cubs: 102-60; NL Central Division Champions; (I refuse to predict a playoff outcome)

White Sox: 80-82; fourth in AL Central; miss playoffs


White Sox near bottom in attendance

Let me make this clear… I am a die-hard Cubs fan and always will be. I have never liked the White Sox and never will. Having said that, it still bothers me that the Sox can’t seem to draw fans for the life of themselves.

The Cubs, one of the 3 worst teams in baseball this year, are TENTH in attendance in the MLB. Being in tenth place in attendance is really not that great of an accomplishment for most teams. But when you are as bad as the Cubs are this year, being tenth in attendance is something to be proud of. The White Sox on the other hand, who, oh by the way are battling for their division title right now, are TWENTY-FOURTH in attendance. There is no way to sugar-coat that statistic whatsoever. It is flat out pathetic.

Living in the Chicago suburbs as I do, I often hear some of the reasons as to why Sox fans don’t go to White Sox games. They don’t like battling the traffic to get down there, they don’t like the location of the park seeing as how it’s on the south side (the area around the park is actually very safe nowadays), etc. Actually, some people dislike the Sox’ owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, and the policies that he has put in place at U.S. Cellular Field, which has turned them away from attending games.

Whether it is the traffic that you don’t like, the ballpark’s surrounding area, or the team’s owner, White Sox fans should be putting all of that aside right now and selling out every single home game at this time of year. Your team had been in first place for over half the season, and you didn’t show up! Your attendance is good for twenty-fourth place out of 30 teams. And now, with the regular season coming to an end and the Sox one game out of first, there is not a more important time to sell out every home game. I bet if you ask the players on the White Sox, they would unanimously agree that having a sold-out home stadium really helps them on the field. By not showing up, as has been then case all year, Sox fans are sending the message to the players that they really aren’t interested in the team or what they are doing on the field.

The one thing that prompted me to write this blog today is something that I saw while briefly watching the Sox game last night on TV. Apparently, it was “bring your dog to the park” night at the Cell. Now to me, that is about as low as any team can get in trying to lure fans into the stadium. I mean seriously. You’re in the middle of a heated battle for the division lead, and you have to implement this kind of promotional night to try and get fans to show up? That’s a disgrace.

The Sox are playing their final home series of the regular season this weekend against the Rays. You can bet I’ll be checking the attendance for each game of that series. For the sake of the White Sox players, I hope that some fans do decided to show up this weekend.

Updated U.S. Cellular Field Critique

Prior to this past weekend, I hadn’t been to the Cell in almost 10 years or so. During that gap in time, U.S. Cellular Field endured some renovation projects that really did make the park a lot nicer to look at. Before going down to the game this weekend, I didn’t think very highly of the park based on what I had seen when I was there in the past. Now, I have some new and similar opinions compared to the ones that I had before this past weekend.

The outside of the stadium looks pretty cool. I’m not a huge fan of concrete exteriors, but it doesn’t look all that bad on the Cell. Walking up to the stadium from the east you get a cool view of the park from beyond the left field bleachers. You’re also walking over the Dan Ryan expressway at the same time. When you get up to the stadium on the north side of the park, there is a really cool Chicago sports store that sells merchandise for the Sox, Cubs, Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks. I would recommend checking this place out. On the second floor of the store, you can actually have your game ticket scanned and then walk over a bridge (over 35th street) and into the park. The store and stadium are connected by this walkway/bridge.

My seat was in the upper deck for this game. Apparently at U.S. Cellular Field, if your seat is not in the first level, you are not allowed to walk around the park on the main level. You are restricted to whichever level your seat is on. If you have read any of my past write-ups on MLB stadiums, you know by now that one of my favorite things to do is walk around each park that I go to. Well, since I was restricted this past weekend to only the upper level of the park, I couldn’t walk around the whole stadium. This really hacked me off. No other park in baseball that I have been to (17 of them) has had this “rule.” So since I wasn’t able to walk around the lower level of the park, I got a good look at the upper level concourse.

The concourse on the upper level was actually pretty spacious, considering the stadium was built in 1991. The playing field is not visible while walking around the concourse, but that’s the way that every upper deck in baseball is. Along the field-side of the concourse, the wall was lined with old pictures from the White Sox’ history. This was a nice touch and provided something interesting to look at/read while walking along the concourse. The food seemed to be pretty decent. I had a pulled pork sandwich, which wasn’t great nor bad.

The playing field itself is not the most attractive in baseball, but it’s not terrible either. When the park was first built, the big “wall” behind the outfield stands used to be made up of white pillars. Since the renovations were done on the park, those pillars holding up the advertisements have now been painted black, which looks a lot better than the white did. The original seats that were put into the park were blue, but have since been switched to a dark green color. Again, the dark green looks a lot better than the blue. Also, a small deck/patio area was built above and behind the left field bleachers during renovations. They call it the “Fundamentals” area where kids can get some quick baseball tips and lessons I believe. Don’t quote me on that. The scoreboard in dead center field is nothing great. They carried over from the old Comiskey Park the lollipop-looking circles that sit atop the scoreboard. Aside from that, there’s nothing too interesting about it. The screen on the scoreboard that shows replays and videos is pretty small in comparison to other parks. This screen also provides statistics about each player during the game, and give the score of the game obviously. Behind the right field bleachers is another screen that gives more statistics as well as the batting order for each team. Just beyond the center field wall there is a black platform that is covered in green ivy which looks pretty nice. It acts as the batter’s eye.

Going back outside the park, the surrounding area is a lot nicer and safer than what it used to be. There is about a 3-4 block perimeter surrounding the park that has been nicely redone and is now much safer to walk around than it used to be. Just don’t stray too far outside that area…

That’s pretty much all I can write about regarding this park for now. Maybe in the future I’ll get to access the lower level. Even with the renovations, however, I am not ranking this park any higher than I previously had it.

For my other MLB stadium rankings, click here.