While many of you were still shaking off the cob webs from the night before, visiting WebMD.com to confirm that a Brain Cloud is in fact not a real malady, the Chicago sports media was gathered at Halas Hall on New Year’s Day to hear Bears General Manager Phil Emery offer his rationale for the firing of Lovie Smith twenty-four hours earlier.  In what can only be described a breath of fresh air, the new Bears GM, who had previously only spoken to the media on the day he was hired last spring and then again during the bye week this season, gave one of the most refreshingly clear and honest press conferences in the history of sport. 

It was a thing of beauty, the kind of talk that any employee in any line of business would ask to hear from their superiors to know exactly where the company is headed.  He was clear, concise, and well spoken.  He provided detailed answers to the questions posed that showed both significant thought and analysis had been applied to craft the response.  For those who have not heard the press conference (and have 53 minutes to kill) here is a link.  It’s everything I’m looking for as a fan to, A) re-assure myself that smarter people than I are making the decisions for my organization, and B) affirm that there is in fact a plan in place despite what it may look like most Sundays in the fall.

The whole thing both inspired me and got me to thinking, what if all of our (Chicago’s) GMs spoke with this kind of clarity and candor?  Thus a post was born.  Below please find my interpretation of what the brain trust of each of Chicago’s professional organizations would say if given a podium and a shot glass of sodium pentothal.

Chicago Cubs

Vice President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein (TE) and General Manager Jed Hoyer (JH)

TE: Good morning.  I’m not exactly sure why Jed and I are here as I feel we have been pretty consistent in meeting our goal of transparency with our fans.  We inherited a piss-poor organization top to bottom just over a year ago and we’re taking strides to remedy that piece by piece.

JH: It’s true.  We sucked.  I had no idea how bad it was when Theo called to offer me the job.  There were points during our 101 loss season this past summer that I found my thoughts wandering back to my life in San Diego and wondering exactly how it is I got here.

TE: To be fair I would like to give credit to both the Ricketts family and Jim Hendry and his staff for at least showing up to the party in opening their pocketbooks and taking off the blinders in their final amateur draft (summer 2011).  That draft class of Javier Baez, Dan Vogelbach, Dillon Maples, Trey Martin and others did give us at least something to work with.  Additionally Starlin Castro obviously is a piece we look forward to building around.  The rest however…  Not so much.

JH: The system was barren except for at the very lowest level.

TE: So we have methodically gone about looking under every log and turning over every stone to find incremental improvement in every way that we can.  If there’s a Single A shortstop who has an OPS 2% higher than our guy we’re going to go and get him.  If there’s a pitcher at AA who throws 96 and our guy only throws 95mph we’ll make the swap and turn over our roster individual player by individual player. 

JH: The league hasn’t done us any favors as they’ve really caught on to all of our old tricks from Boston over the years in limiting the amount you can spend in both the draft and international signings.  I don’t want to use this forum to complain or name names, but just because that owner on the other side of town can be a real miser I don’t understand why the rest of us can’t allocate our funds however we see fit. 

TE: That’s enough Jed.  There’s no magic bullet to all of this.  Despite the volume getting turned up this winter from some of our more audible critics, we’re going to do this the right way and not spend money just for the sake of spending money.  Signing a 32 year old Josh Hamilton is what got the organization in the situation that it was in when we arrived.  Sure he’s a big name and would get us into the “A Block” on Baseball Tonight, but in three years we’d have another Alfonso Soriano situation where you’re all screaming at the expensive black hole taking up one ninth of the batting order. 

JH: Bear with us.  There is a plan.  Our kids are really good.  They’re just 2-3 years away still.  We’ve got the second overall pick in the draft in June and we’re going to continue to load up on high upside arms and bats that will stock our farm system like a trout pond.  Once this thing starts rolling we’ll really have something.  In three years when Dan Vogelbach is one of the best hitting prospects in the minors we’ll have the option to either trade Anthony Rizzo before he gets expensive for a package of someone elses prospects, or we can use Dan to get a star to serve as the final piece for our team.  Our assets will beget more assets and we’ll roll talent over like accumulated interest.  It will be sick.

TE: True that.  Just have patience folks.  We have the same goal you do.  You’re nuts if you think I came here for any other reason than to be immortalized as the guy who broke both the Curse of the Bambino and Billy Goat.  And thank you for being so cool about things thus far.  There’s no way we would have been able to get away with this in Boston.  This year and maybe next winter we’re going to keep taking shots on buy-low upside guys hoping that they either pan out and can be long term assets for us or we’ll flip them for more prospects at the trade deadline.  With that second pick in June we’ll get a pitcher who potentially can be our ace for years to come and should be able to contribute as early as next season.  Things are falling into place folks and the future is bright.  You’ve waited 105 years Cubs fan, what’s two more at this point?

Chicago White Sox

General Manager Rick Hahn

Hello Chicago!  Damn it feels good to have the chains removed.  It’s my show now bitches, let me flex my shit and show you who’s really been calling the shots all this time.  What, you think Kenny knew who Carlos Quentin was five years ago or had even heard of Scott Podsednik back in 2005?  You find me anyone else who can be given an envelope of magic beans and can turn them into Jose Quintana and Nate Jones and I’ll give them a hearty pat on the back.  I grew up on the Northside of town but you Cubs fans and your title drought don’t know agony like keeping this team afloat every year.  I’m given shit to work with and am told to make a sundae out of it year after year.  We could trot out a 100 win team next summer and we still wouldn’t draw more than 2.5 million fans.  Without fans our ownership won’t open the purse strings and thus on paper we’re destined for a never ending cycle of mediocrity.  But you know what?  Year in and year out we exceed expectations.  With Major League Baseball’s thirtieth ranked farm system (read: last) going into last year we rolled out rookie after rookie, each continuing to deliver better than the last which kept us in the AL Central race to the bitter end. 

Be honest.  With a show of hands how many of you had ever heard of Dylan Axelrod before April?  Addison Reed?  Hector Santiago?  No you had not, put that hand down.  We here on the Southside take others trash and make it our treasure.  Yes we’re going into this year with a lot of hope for continued development from our youth but that’s our modus operandi.  We tried the “All In” approach in 2011 (a marketing campaign I was against from the start for the record) and look where that got us.  I’m going to keep doing what I do in making trades where I send legitimate prospects for washed up pitchers and position players only to watch them recover their form once they arrive in the no pressure Cell.  Don Cooper is a freaking magician for the record and deserves to be mentioned in every conversation that starts with Dave Duncan…  Meanwhile those prospects will inevitably flame out wherever we ship them to.  It’s a gift.  I’ll sign the Donnie Veal’s, Dewayne Wise’s & Alex Rios’ off of waivers to watch them contribute, and continue to pull cheap talent out of Cuba (Alexi Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo) while every other organization tries to throw more money at bigger names.  It’s the way we roll down here and it’s good for 80-90 wins per year.  Sometimes that translates to a playoff run that some people may even come out to watch.  

He then proceeds to drop the microphone and walk away from the lectern

 

Chicago Blackhawks

General Manager Stan Bowman

Settle down everyone.  Settle down.  That’s enough.  Do you think I want this lockout either?  Do you have any idea how much time I’ve spent in Rockford these past three months?  That’s nobody’s idea of a good time I promise you.  Rocky is doing his best work behind the scenes to pull a coup d’etat with some other owners in forming a plan to poison Gary Bettman’s Diet Coke at the next negotiation lunch break.  But let’s be honest, no one is talking about the lockout so I don’t think we should start now.  The reason I’m here is to talk about the state of our organ-i-zation.  I’d like to begin by reminding everyone that we are the last team to bring a championship to this city.  Please repeat that to yourself on a regular basis.  

So we knew coming off the Stanley Cup season there was some serious re-tooling that had to take place because we were up against the salary cap and didn’t have the ability to bring everyone back with the raises they rightfully deserved.  It was my call who got to stay and who had to go.  I’d burned my “Blame Dale” card the year prior.  I will note that I consulted with my father, you know, the living legend and NHL Hall of Famer with his nine Stanley Cups and NHL wins record as a coach, on all the decisions made at the time.  It was he who really wanted to trade Byfuglien & Ladd when I thought moving Campbell and Brouwer would be enough.  I wanted to keep Niemi and let Hjalmarsson go to San Jose too but he talked me out of it.  In fact he was behind most of our bad ideas these past few years while I was the one who pulled the trigger on the Barker for Leddy deal.  But I digress.  What’s done is done at this point. 

More so than any of the other team in this city we know exactly who we are and who our core is.  Toews, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, Hossa and Kane (he’s got one strike left) are going to be Blackhawks for the foreseeable future.  We’re then going to pepper kids in around them from our talented farm system.  It’s essentially the Cubs plan but we’ve already got stars at the major league level.  So why am I catching heat for this while those Mass-holes in Wrigleyville are getting a free pass?  I think our success in 2010 brought with it an unfair burden of expectation.  We’ve made the playoffs in each of the years following our championship (*cough* as an 8th and 6th seed respectively *cough*) each time being a hard out in the first round to a team that went to the Stanley Cup (Vancouver) or Western Conference Finals (Phoenix).

But that’s not enough for you people is it?  Duncan Keith hasn’t been the gold medal & Norris Trophy winning defenseman we came to expect since the celebration ended.  Corey Crawford has not done the world’s best Antii Niemi impersonation, and we haven’t been able to properly fill the second line center hole since Bernie Nicholls left in 1996.  What I can tell you is there are kids on the way.  Phillip Danault is coming off a solid World Junior Championship with Canada (where Mark McNeill was an injury fill in as well), Teuvo Teravainen played for Finland, & Brandon Saad, Marcus Krueger, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw, etc. are playing well at Rockford.  The catch is that none of them are defensemen.  Our only hope is that Dylan Olsen or Adam Clendening pan out because the cupboard gets pretty bare after that.

So that’s what there is to know.  Given our core we’re in no position to be making any big free agent splashes any time soon.  It’s going to come down to my drafting and our player development.  When the kids come up and make an impact remember who brought ‘em here, and if they flame out feel free to give me a call and I’ll tell you who’s to blame.

Chicago Bulls

Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxon (JP) and General Manager Gar Forman (GF)

GF: Thank you for having us today.  I would like to start by making very clear that in no way are we punting on this season.  Derrick is going to come back stronger than ever and we feel as though we have built a strong enough team around him to really make some noise come this spring…

JP: Oh horse shit Gar.  Sit down.  The whole point of this exercise is to give the people a straight answer.  You people want answers, I’ll give you answers.  This year is a wash for us.  If it wasn’t for Adrian Peterson and his superhuman recovery from his knee injury I was in favor of just telling Derrick to shut it down and set his recovery target date for training camp next year.  Now he’s got a bug in his ass that he can come back just like Peterson did in the NFL and now we have to play the role of the supportive organization for our star. 

We built this season’s team on the premise that unfortunately we need to field a full roster due to league rules and given the salaries of Rose, Boozer, Deng and Noah we’re going to be near the salary cap no matter what we do with the rest of them.  Since that’s the case then we’re darn sure not going to go over that cap and pay any penalty taxes.  The 2012-13 Bulls are the NBA equivalent of a yard sale where just about everything must go.  We took a shot that come February some of the pieces we added - from Marco Belinelli to Nate Robinson to Nazr Mohammed – would hopefully have some value to another team.  I’d love to move Richard Hamilton but he can’t stay on the floor and we can’t trade Kirk until we’re sure the kid (Marquis Teague) can handle legitimate minutes. 

GF: May I say something?

JP: No.  We came into this year knowing we can’t compete.  That’s the flaw of being too dependent on one individual player in this age of stacked super teams.  Luol has continued to be our rock and Noah appears to have taken a leap to an all-star level so the season is not a total wash.  Additionally we are happy with the progress we’ve seen in Jimmy Butler and the flashes Teague has shown recently. 

Boozer is only here because someone needs to score and he can do that as well as anyone who dresses on a nightly basis for us.  It’s the rest of his game that’s flawed.  If he could give that one skill to Taj I think we’d have something.  Unfortunately they are two different people and they take up two roster spots and $17 million combined this year and $23 million next.  It’s just a matter of time before we amnesty Carlos but it really doesn’t make sense to do it until after next season (2013-14) when Luol & Kirk come off the books and Nikolas Mirotic is available to come over from Spain.  Within five years of that we should finally get that draft pick from Charlotte that’s been floating around since Tyrus Thomas left.  At that point we re-tool around Derrick, providing the players that will best compliment whatever style fits him coming off of this injury.

GF: John, if you don’t mind, I’d like to remind everyone…

JP:  Can it Gar.  Listen folks, short term it’s not going to be too fun around here.  We’re all anxious to see Derrick come back and confirm he’s everything we’ve grown to know and love.  With that said however we’re not going to be making any real noise for another year and a half.  Please renew your season tickets in the meantime and purchase merchandise (but only that with the name ‘Rose’ or ‘Noah’ on the back – just a little tip from you favorite Uncle John).

GF: With all due respect I think you’re not giving our guys enough credit.  If the team comes together like I think it could and we hit our stride in April…

JP: Why don’t you just stop talking for a while…  Anyone else have something they’d like to add?  No?  Good.  See you in two years everybody.