The spring of our discontent has arrived, and April figures to be an interesting month for followers of Chicago’s not-so Fab Five.
Four of our professional teams— the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox– are all in action, while the Bears are on the clock.
Throw in a mayoral election and some inclement weather and you have the three staples of the Chicago food group — sports, politics and weather — intermingling. When all is said and done, it could be an April for the ages, a month of potential goodbyes and welcome backs, from Jonathan Toews and Nikola Vučević to Jason Heyward.
April also marks the opening steps of the six-month slog for our two summer teams and very well could be the end of the line for our winter teams, the two occupiers of the United Center. Even for Chicago sports fans used to multitasking games, it’s everything everywhere all at once.
The re-rebuild of the Hawks, not to be confused with the Stan Bowman-led rebuild of two years ago, continues its slow death skate toward securing the best odds in the Connor Bedard lottery. The Hawks began the “Farewell Jonathan” plotline of their unscripted series Saturday night at the United Center, giving the face of the franchise the first of his three “last hurrahs” at home.
The captain either could retire or get nudged into leaving via free agency, so the marketing department can begin planning “Welcome back, Jonathan” night next fall. We don’t know Toews’ future, but a behind-the-scenes team video of his journey through the last six games is virtually assured.
The sub-.500 Bulls, the Hawks’ West Side brethren, finish their fight for a play-in spot and the right to lose another first-round playoff series to the Milwaukee Bucks. Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnišovas then will give his annual end-of-season news conference and turns his attention to the draft and the long-running search for Lonzo Ball’s replacement.
The Cubs and White Sox, meanwhile, began their seasons with low-grade fan optimism and no love from Las Vegas, hoping to prove their positive spring training vibes are reason enough to believe they’ll remain relevant come October.
The two main architects, President Jed Hoyer and general manager Rick Hahn, already are under the microscope. Hoyer literally was on the hot seat on opening day, positioning himself under a heat lamp in the Cubs dugout while talking with reporters. The metaphors sometimes write themselves.
Up at the Bears cave in Lake Forest, general manager Ryan Poles is plotting the most anticipated draft in Bears history while Chairman George McCaskey turns his gaze toward his new “consultant,” Ted Phillips. (Not to be confused with … oh, wait, nevermind. It’s actually the same Ted Phillips!)
It should be quite the smorgasbord of craziness, and for those without a handy sports calendar, here’s a schedule of some of April’s must-see events.
Michael Kopech faces the Giants in the homer opener as no-nonsense advocate Pedro Grifol gets introduced to Sox fans. With Election Day on Tuesday, it’s also the last chance for mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson to pledge their allegiance to the Sox.
Huge game that could determine play-in seeding for both sub-.500 teams. A trip to Miami could be at stake for the No. 8 at No. 7 play-in game. Forecast is in the 80s.
Last chance in 2023 to once again ask why the Hawks let Eddie Olczyk leave the TV booth and go to Seattle.
Final Bulls regular-season game and possibly the last home game in a Bulls uniform for Vučević, the always accountable center who sacrificed his numbers to be the third wheel of the offense. Karnišovas wants him back, but can he afford him? Practice your “Voooooch” calls just in case.
Barring rainouts, it should be rookie Hayden Wesneski’s first home appearance since being named the fifth starter. Is he the Cubs’ best rookie pitcher since Kerry Wood?
The Twins were as disappointing as the White Sox in 2022 but at least brought back shortstop Carlos Correa. This game opens the season series, which mercifully was reduced to 12 games under the new schedule.
The last Toews-Sidney Crosby matchup? Can you imagine the Penguins letting Crosby play in another uniform? Naaaah.
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The No. 9 and 10 seeds of the Eastern Conference face off, with the winner playing the loser of the game between the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds. Assuming the Bulls don’t get the eight seed, this will be their destiny.
Barring a change in the Sox rotation, starter Mike Clevinger will make his home debut. Making him the No. 4 starter ensured at least two road starts to get his feet wet.
One last skate for Toews? The Hawks’ season ends at the United Center, and tears no doubt will be shed over the possibility of the end of an era.
“Welcome Back, Jason Heyward” night. Heyward was the rare Cubs player who hit .214 and .204 in back-to-back seasons but never was booed at Wrigley Field. A standing ovation, a video-board highlight package and a Cubs gift of an innings window from the center-field scoreboard are standard operating procedure for 2016 players upon their return.
Anticipation mounts after the huge predraft deal with the Carolina Panthers moved them from No. 1 to No. 9. Can the Bears break the streak and announce their pick before the Tribune’s Brad Biggs tweets it? Doubtful.
Poles watching heats up. The Bears have No. 53 (from Baltimore) and No. 61 (from Carolina) in the second round and No. 64 in the third round.
You’ve come this far, so you might as well watch the final six Bears picks, including No. 258 in Round 7. You can now sleep until the start of training camp in July.
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