The Mailbag: Who’s Winning The Next Title Around Here?

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Welcome to The Chicago Homer’s Mailbag. It runs once a week unless it doesn’t, and in it I answer questions from readers via Twitter or email. The questions can be about any damn thing you please, and there likely isn’t a question I won’t answer. There may be questions I can’t answer, but I’ll try.

If you’d like to submit a question for the next edition of the mailbag it’s pretty simple. Either ask the question on Twitter using the #AskTCH hashtag — as long as you use the hashtag I will see it — or send an email to TCHMailbag@gmail.com.

We got through the worst week in sports alive, everybody, congratulations. Now there are just a few more weeks of suffering through Chicago baseball before football, basketball and hockey return.

Until then, we answer questions.

You asked this on Twitter, but never gave your opinion on the matter. So I ask you, Mr. Chicago Homer, not including the Blackhawks, which major Chicago sports team is the next to win a championship? – Krieger

When I did ask this question on Twitter the variety of responses I received showed just how difficult it is to predict. Unlike many of my Twitter followers, I won’t include the smartass answers here like the Chicago Sky or DePaul basketball. I won’t even include the Chicago Fire since you asked for only the major sports teams, and even if the Fire did win MLS, I don’t think it’d be that big of a deal in Chicago.

Not yet anyway.

It’s amazing how hard this question is to answer when you remove the Blackhawks from the equation, but that’s just the situation in Chicago sports these days. We suffer through the other teams and just hope the Blackhawks give us a reason to be happy every summer. Anyway, I haven’t answered your question yet, and that’s because I’m still stalling trying to figure it out. But no more games, let’s get to the teams in order of least likely to most likely.

4. White Sox – Yeah, I know, it hurts me to put them here, but I’m just being honest. The Sox are better than the Cubs right now, though that’s not exactly something worth bragging about, and I’m not sure how long that’s going to be the case. Both organizations are in the midst of their own rebuilds, and they’re going about them in entirely different ways.

I actually think what Rick Hahn and the White Sox are doing is going to work in the long run, but while I think this team could once again be competing for a playoff spot next season, I have a hard time seeing this team becoming the World Series champ without some major changes first. Though if Carlos Rodon works out like I think he will, having a top three in your starting rotation of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Rodon would certainly help in any playoff series.

3. Cubs – It’s simple, really, the Cubs suck right now, just like they’ve sucked for a few years now, but there is legit hope on the horizon. The offensive firepower this team has built up in its farm system through the draft and trades in recent years is insane, and even if only some of these prospects pan out, the Cubs are looking at the foundation of a very good offense for the better part of the next decade.

Young, cost-controlled offense at that.

Now, there’s a long way from “awesome farm system” to “World Series champs.” I’m not sitting here saying I think the Cubs have a good chance to win a championship any time soon, I’m just saying that their slim chance is slightly fatter than the White Sox at the moment.

2. Bulls – If Derrick Rose stays healthy and slightly resembles the Derrick Rose of old, the Bulls are almost a de facto favorite in the Eastern Conference. Not because they’re a powerhouse, but because LeBron James leaving Miami for Cleveland totally shifted the landscape of the conference. There’s the prevailing theory right now that Cleveland will need a year or two to “figure it out,” but I’m not even sure that’s really the case.

In a conference as open as the East, I think having LeBron James on your team is all you really need to do to “figure it out.”

That being said, the Bulls are in a much better situation than either the Cubs or White Sox, so it wasn’t hard to rank them ahead of both teams here. It’s important to remember, though, that even if the Bulls are the best team in the East and manage to get to the NBA Finals, they’d still have to play a team from the Western Conference to win it.

So the odds are better than the Cubs and White Sox, but I wouldn’t call them good. Though I must point out that 5Dimes currently has the Bulls listed at 5.5-to-1 which is a terrible bet that you shouldn’t take.

1. Bears – I make this judgment based on a few different things. First of all, the Bears had a really good offense last season, and now more than ever, if you’re going to win a Super Bowl in the NFL, you need to be able to score points.  It also helps if you keep your opponent from scoring them, which the Bears did not do last year, but the defense should be better this year.

Then there’s just the up-and-down nature of the NFL in general. Teams go from winning their division to finishing last the next season all the time in this league, and vice versa. So that means the Bears have just as good a shot to go 2-14 this season as they do 14-2.

But if this team stays healthy and keeps putting up points like it did last year, it’s going to find itself in the playoffs a lot in coming seasons, and maybe the ball bounces our way.

Now, if I were to rate every one of these team’s chances to win a title on a scale of one to 10, it’d look like this: Blackhawks 9 (I don’t want to be super cocky), Bears 5, Bulls 4, Cubs 2.5, White Sox 2. So don’t go getting all excited now.

Well I’m not sure who “our” is, but no matter which team you’re referring to, neither side has one. The Cubs have some very good prospects in their farm system, but players like Mike Trout don’t come around all that often.

I mean, the things that Trout has already done as a baseball player, as he’s not even 23 years old yet, are insane. He’s a generational talent, not just some hotshot young prospect.

Now, if you want to know which Chicago prospect is the next big thing in this city, I’m going to say Kris Bryant. I don’t know how good Bryant is going to be when he reaches Chicago, but since the Cubs drafted him I’ve always felt like his floor would be as a guy who hits .265 with at least 30 home runs a year.

His ceiling? Well, shit, I don’t know. I just know that he has the ability to hit the absolute shit out of a baseball. He’s got that Jose Abreu like pop in his bat.

As far as the White Sox are concerned, there isn’t a hitter currently in the White Sox system to point to. Abreu is awesome, but he’s 27 and isn’t a prospect. Carlos Rodon is the only prospect in the Sox system to truly be excited about right now, maybe Tim Anderson a few years down the road, and possibly Courtney Hawkins if he continues to improve like he has this season.

I would say that depends on your definition of regression. I don’t know that Alshon will lead the Bears with over 1,400 receiving yards like he did last season, but I don’t think last season was a fluke, either. I loved Alshon Jeffery in college, and I was thrilled when the Bears drafted him, and last season was why.

He’s very good at catching the footballs.

Now he might not have the highlight reel catches that he had last season, pulling balls down out of the air as tiny little defensive backs cling to him helplessly, but he’s still going to put up some good numbers.

My prediction is that his yardage total will drop from 1,421 yards to around the 1,200 yard mark, but his touchdown total will actually rise from seven to about nine or 10.

Either way, he’s still going to be good, and he’s going to be good for a while.

What are your expectations for Derrick Rose this season? – Eric Stone

I have no expectations. It’s sad to say, but the truth is that I just hope he stays healthy. The success of this Bulls offseason all hinges on Derrick Rose and the status of his knees.

But for the sake of this question, let’s just assume that Rose does stay healthy for the entire season. I still don’t think he’s ever going to be quite the same player he was when he won the MVP, but you know what? That might not be such a terrible thing. His willingness to fling his body into the lane and take contact all the time is what’s helped lead to these injuries in the first place.

So maybe all this time off has actually helped him become a better shooter, and therefore a better all-around offensive threat.

If that’s the case, it’d be a good thing for the Bulls.

https://twitter.com/Da_Robfather/status/490543661327712256

We’re still talking about this? Tell me, do you think that Carmelo Anthony suddenly decides to turn down that extra $57 million or whatever it was and leaves New York if Derrick had decided to send him some text messages?

I think this recruiting stuff is a non-story that the media pushes more than anything, and whether or not Derrick Rose wants to “recruit” or not, I really don’t give a shit. At the end of the day every single free agent is going to make the decision based on what’s best for them, not which players did and did not call them.

You know why LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all went to Miami in 2010? Not because of the recruitment that any of them did with each other. Because they all sat down and realized “hey, if we all go to the same team we’d be REALLY good. Let’s do that!”

That’s not recruiting, that’s common sense.

Also, I don’t know if you heard Pau Gasol during his introductory press conference, or in any of the radio interviews he’s done since, but there was one thing he talked about that just stood out to me.

Pau was asked about whether or not he talked to any of the Bulls about coming to Chicago. You know, did Joakim work the phones and “recruit” him, and you know what Pau said?

Pau said he picked up the phone and made the calls. He called players from the Bulls. He called players from the Spurs and the Thunder, and he asked them questions about playing in all these places. And you know why Pau Gasol did this?

Because Pau Gasol is a god damn adult and acts like one.

Would you rather have Pau, for whatever his contract is, not sure if those details have been released or Lance Stephenson for 3/$27 mil? My opinion is Mirotic and Lance is way more efficient than Mirotic and Gasol. With Gasol, we are looking at a starting 5 of Rose (1), Butler (2), Dunleavy (3), Gasol (4), Noah (5) with Taj and Mirotic off bench possibly playing the same position (4). With Lance we would have Rose (1), Lance (2), Butler (3), Taj (4), Noah (5) with Mirotic off the bench. I strongly dislike Lance and think he’s absolutely crazy but that lineup looks much better for those costs. Thoughts? – Casey Boguslaw

I’d rather have Gasol. I’m not worried about how efficient Gasol and Mirotic are together because I don’t think they’re going to be playing together all that often. It’s not like Nikola Mirotic is going to show up in Chicago and start playing 20 minutes a night.

Especially with the depth the Bulls now have up front.

And I really just don’t like Lance Stephenson. I don’t want to have to root for that guy.

Pairing these two questions together since they’re so similar.

Judging by what I heard Gasol say in interviews, I’m guessing he wants to play about 30 minutes a night. Whether or not Tom Thibodeau gives a shit about that, I guess we’ll find out. But I do expect we’ll see Gasol spend time at the five quite a bit, my only question is how often we’ll see both Gasol and Joakim Noah on the floor at the same time.

I think that combination would work really well on offense, as those are two very good passing big men to work some high-low game with, but it gets a bit sketchy on defense, and I think Thibodeau would have to pay attention to the matchups there. Gasol is much better at defending centers at this stage of his career than he would be the four, but you don’t really want to bring Noah out from under the basket since he’s so effective there defensively.

So my guess is that Taj will be the one playing the lion’s share of minutes at the four with Noah and Gasol splitting time at the five, and maybe getting some burn together from time to time.

As for Nikola Mirotic, as I eluded to in the previous question, I’m not expecting Mirotic to play a ton this season. Now, if there’s an injury (and there’s a good chance of an injury) that can obviously change, but I think Thibodeau will bring Mirotic along like he does most rookies.

Minutes wise, I’d say Taj will be playing over 35 minutes per game, Joakim will be in that 30-35 minute range, Gasol somewhere between 25 and 30, and Mirotic playing less than 10.

I don’t know how awesome it’d be, but I’d just like to warn Bulls against replacing the Bench Mob nickname of a few years ago with the White Mob nickname this season.

Also, this has next to nothing to do with your question, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cameron Bairstow steals some of the minutes I was just talking about in the last question. Talking to some colleagues of mine who have been in Las Vegas watching Summer League, I’m told Bairstow is the kind of annoying ass player that could get on Thibodeau’s good side really quickly. He’s one of those hard-working pests.

Of course, as always, we should all remind ourselves that Summer League is Summer League, and it doesn’t actually mean a damned thing.

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Keep up to date with everything in Chicago sports by following The Chicago Homer on Twitter.

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