Times they are a changing on the Chicago sports scene.  I honestly cannot say that there has been a time in this city’s history (at least in my lifetime) where each of our sporting franchises have been in such good hands from a front office perspective.  Let’s take a lap around the various franchises for a quick peak at the brains percolating behind the scenes.

The Cubs

The Cubs are in the midst of a 13-5 run, easily their best of the season, and yet the front office is not losing focus of the big picture which involves reloading the entire system to achieve sustained success over the course of several seasons.  This is in direct contrast to the boom and then bust approach made popular during the Jim Hendry regime.  I basically agree with everything Theo Epstein said before the game today about their current position.  I could not have more faith in a front office taking an organization in the right direction.  It’s been a fun first nine months (off the field anyways) and I can’t wait to see the return they’re able to extract for Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and whatever other pieces they’ll be able to spin off for future assets in the next two weeks.

The White Sox

I think it’s safe to call the Lillibridge & Stewart for Youkilis trade.  It was a complete and utter knockout for Kenny Williams over Ben Cherington.  The judge’s scorecards weren’t even close if it came to that.  Boston has already designated Brent Lillibridge for assignment meaning they have ten days to trade or cut him outright before they can send him down and expose him to waivers.  Basically they’ve already cut bait on half of their haul in the trade.  Meanwhile Youkilis has come through in seemingly every big scenario he’s been put in on the Southside.  Kudos to Kenny for making a major addition to the team in a position of need for essentially nothing.  Now if they go out and re-acquire Lillibridge should he hit waivers, THAT would be the coup de gras of the season and a nice Eff-You to Boston - the home of the 2008 Eff-You Patriots who coined the phrase.

The Bulls

I spent a good amount of nouns and verbs describing what I think the Bulls should do this off season two weeks ago, and guess what?  They’re taking my advice.  Obviously they’re geniuses.  All signs point to the Bulls moving on from the albatross that is the Asik offer sheet and biding their time until the summer of 2014 when they can get back in the game and do a proper re-load.  I was a fan of the move to bring Kirk Hinrich back into the fold as apparently Derrick Rose has told coaches for years that no one gives him more difficulty on defense than Hinrich has.  I get the sense that Kirk and Coach Thibs are going to get along famously.  As for the Vladimir Radmonovic signing that came over the wire on Wednesday night… not so much.  I would have much preferred the Bulls pursue Jon Leuer whom Houston is cutting to make room for Asik, and then waiting to see who’s in a better position in three years (I have a feeling some “I told you so’s” will be in order).

The Blackhawks

I’ll admit I’m as guilty as the next guy in getting caught up in the hype of the Zack Parise and Ryan Suter chase at the beginning of the month.  As a fan there’s nothing more fun than your team being in the center of off season activity.  The Blackhawks reportedly went all in on both players (Parise in particular) but both players decided to sign identical 13 year, $98 million dollar contracts to play close to home (Minnesota).  It sucked to hear at the time but you know what?  Both those players had the same hype Brian Campbell did four years ago and look how eager we were to get rid of him last summer.  Campbell’s deal was roughly half of theirs in both length and dollar amount to boot.  My point is that while fun to sign big name free agents eventually the shine wears off and you end up with untenable, untradeable contracts that result in the fan base quickly turning on them (see Alfonso Soriano).  The Hawks took Vancouver (the eventual Western Conference champs) to seven games two years ago and fell three goals short of beating Phoenix this spring.  I am the first to admit this team has room for improvement but I also don’t think going all in on just one or two more players is the best play.  I’d much rather see what can be done with the healthy stable of talent down on the farm and some clever trades at the appropriate times.  It is yet to be seen that Stan Bowman can pull the right strings at the right times but given his pedigree and the fact that he’s won a championship more recently than any of the other GMs noted above, I think he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.

The Bears

Phil Emery… I’m impressed.  As far as I’m concerned this guy came out of nowhere – honestly, had you ever heard of him prior to four months ago? – and has presided over perhaps the best offseason the Bears have had since the drafts of the early 80s.  They bought low on Brandon Marshall, invested in the future as well as positions of strength in the draft, made Lance Briggs happy without breaking the bank, and then this week the Matt Forte deal was an absolute thing of beauty.  Of the 4 years & $32 million included in the deal, the Bears only guaranteed Forte the same amount that he would have earned this year and next if placed under the Franchise tag ($18.1M) which was the plan all along.  He’s going to be paid like the ninth best running back in the league this year.  I’d argue he performs like he’s in the top five.  That’s the way you negotiate a deal from a front office perspective ladies and gentlemen.  Having accomplished this, the Bears have now added a bonafide #1 receiver for the first time in franchise history (and because he was acquired via trade they didn’t have to pay some outlandish signing bonus) and they have retained a top flight running back for less than they were willing to sign him for a day later.  This is how good teams build an offense. 

The naysayers will complain about the lack of improvement on the offensive line but I’m in the camp that a new offensive system (basically any system not associated with the word “Martz”) and some cohesion as a young line develops, will result in a more upright quarterback this season.  If not, then next year is all offensive line in the draft/free agency.  Shea McClellin also will be under quite a bit of scrutiny as the team really needs a second defensive end that can produce across from Peppers, but I’ll wait to see him on the field before coming to any definitive judgment.

So that’s the state of things around these parts.  There was a time not too long ago where the Chicago teams were the ones overpaying for free agents, getting played by other front offices, and generally being the rubes at the table.  It’s a new sensation but I must admit that it’s fun cheering for teams that get to swim in the smart end of their respective pools.