By: Alex Patt
It is hard to believe we are entering the 18th year of the 21st century. Like the world around us, Chicago sports has gone through so many changes. Both good and bad. Sports trends are interesting to track because how drastically it can change, or how something can be sustained for a period of time. Chicago sports has seen ups and downs from all of its teams since 2000, obviously some more than others.
In 18 years, there have been five championship won, with plenty of bad seasons from each team. Even with these championships won, there have been plenty of good teams that have not won it all. Some Chicago sports teams saw sporadic years of success while others have had their peaks more or less bundled into one short period of time.
So looking at the trends, can we determine who was overall the most and least successful so far this century? To do this here is a presentation of some graphs of the team’s results every years from 2000-2018.
Every team (Bears, Cubs, Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks) has their own graph and on each one is a success scale from 1-8. At the end there will be a graph with every team on it using the same scale.
8 – Championship Winner
7 – Made it to Championship, but did not win
6 – Made it to semi-final (LCS, Conference Final, NFC Championship)
5 – Made playoffs
4 – Above .500, but did not make playoffs
3 – Mediocre, right at or a just a few below .500
2 – Well below .500
1- Near or at the very bottom
(Note: last graph goes up to 2017 only)
The key above in success-value is pretty straight forward. Though some markings can be arbitrary as to who was considered “very bottom” versus below .500 because some teams have been really bad, but others around them were clearly worse.
Notice that the championship winners are marked in yellow as they are on top of the success graph. Looking at the charts and just knowing the history, it is easy to say the Blackhawks have had the most success with three Stanley Cups and playoff runs from 2009-2017. Though everything before 2009 was pretty bleak. The first half of their chart is overall miserable while the second half is overall great, until 2018 at least. No matter what, they were the first Chicago dynasty of the 21st century.
If you are looking for just overall mediocre/decent, look at the Bulls. The thing with the NBA is that a near- .500 record gets you in the playoffs more times than not. Many of those Bulls teams that made the playoffs were just around .500 with exception to the 2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2014-2015 squads. Most of those playoff appearances were either one-and-done or over in round two. They had only made it to the Eastern Conference Finals once and are the only Chicago team to not at least make it to a championship series/game since 2000. The 2011 and 2015 teams were really the only two teams that had a shot at a title, but once again could not get past LeBron James.
Known for being the joke of the city the past few years, it is funny to see the Bears during the peak Lovie Smith years. Whether or not he was the best head coach, his teams had more success than anyone in the 21st century. Their trip to the Super Bowl in 2006 coupled with the 2005 and 2010 NFC North winning teams were all under Smith. From 2005-2012 all of his teams but two (2007, 2009) were at least .500 or better. Since he left there has been one .500 season (2013) under Marc Trestman and John Fox. Hopefully this will change under Matt Nagy.
The Cubs and the White Sox both have some similar and different trends. Both had winning teams in 2001, 2003 and 2004, obviously with the 03 Cubs team making it to the NLCS, and both won their respective division in 2008. They both saw themselves under .500 and/or near the bottom in 2013 and 2014, but the rest is very different. The Cubs from 2010-2014 were overall just miserable, while the Sox did have winning seasons in 2010 and 2012. Since 2015, the Cubs were trending up eventually to their World Series title in 2016 while the Sox were stuck in mediocrity and eventually set on rebuilding. Flash back to the mid-2000s and it was the opposite with the Cubs falling to the cellar while the Sox won the World Series in 2005. With the Sox rebuilding, they can make it back up and possibly have both teams on the higher-side of the success graph once again.
It will be interesting to revisit these trends in a few years. With several rebuilding teams, they can rise up and start winning. The future of the Blackhawks is kind of uncertain right now so we will see if they go back up or continue to be on the wrong trend. Can the Cubs stay five or above for long? When will the Bears reach five and above? We will have to wait and see.