The Hope Index: Rating the chances Chicago pro sports teams can soon make a championship bid

Those of us in the Chicago area know one thing when it comes to our professional sports teams: You gotta have hope.

Hope that eventually, the local franchises will awaken from their slumber. Hope that they will make the right moves. Hope that they will produce a winning season from time to time.

So here at the Daily Herald, we decided to rank our local heroes based on what we’re calling The Hope Index.

We list our pro teams, in order, from best to worst — with 10 being an absolute certainty and 0 being a near abandonment of faith — by how much hope we have that they will soon contend for a championship.

We’re giving them three seasons, and they don’t have to win a title, just come close.

You know, give us hope.


Hope Index: 8

Credit general manager Ryan Poles for such a high ranking. Last week’s drafting of Caleb Williams means — we hope — that the Bears finally have a quarterback who can lead them back to the Super Bowl. Multiple Super Bowls even.

But it’s not just Williams and fellow first-round pick Rome Odunze. Poles has built a high-powered offense to match with a strong defense. They still have some holes on the roster, but this is a better group than they’ve had since, oh, say, 2006, when they lost Super Bowl XLI to Indianapolis.

And the belief is that Williams will be a better QB than Rex Grossman ever was.

This ranking does not mean they should use public funds for a new Bears stadium. Just the opposite. If the Bears have enough money to contribute $2.3 billion to the cost of their $4.7 billion stadium project, maybe they should just build a $2.3 billion stadium. It would still be spectacular.


Hope Index: 7

I wanted to put the Cubs higher, but recent bullpen problems stopped me. Maybe if the Cubs had made one more off-season signing, they might be higher.

Still, the Cubs hitters have been very good so far, and the starting pitching has been impressive and should get a boost when ace Justin Steele returns from injury. This could be a playoff team this year, and it could go deep in the playoffs with a couple of key trade-deadline moves.

One more reason to like the Cubs’ future: they have the second-ranked farm system in baseball, according to Pete Crow-Armstrong, Owen Caissie and Matt Shaw could do for the 2026 Cubs what Javy Baez, Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo did in 2016.


Hope Index: 6

The Blackhawks were one of the worst teams in the NHL this season, and yet they’re near the top of our Hope Index. But remember, we’re talking about a three-year window here.

Connor Bedard is a big reason for this rating, but help seems to be on the way, as well. The Blackhawks have drafted good young talent, such as recently signed center Frank Nazar, and they have another high draft pick coming to them this summer.

They also have room to improve through free agency. If general manager Kyle Davidson can continue to make some savvy moves, there’s reason for … what’s that word again?



Hope Index: 5

This is another franchise with a lot of work to do. Some of it requires investing in new facilities that will make this a destination again for free agents.

But the Sky took a big step in the right direction by drafting 6-foot-7 center Kamilla Cardoso and 6-3 forward Angel Reese last week. Both players seem special and should be fun to watch.

The Sky still has a lot of work to do on this roster, though. Cardoso and Reese are just rookies, after all, and the Sky needs to find better players to build around them.

Red Stars

Hope Index: 4

It’s been a tough few years for the Red Stars. Controversy has caused a lot of turnover and uncertainty throughout the organization.

So let’s look at the good news. Mallory Swanson is healthy and looks like she has found her pre-World Cup form again. Alyssa Naeher remains a world-class goalkeeper.

So far so good. After seven matches the Red Stars are sixth in the 14-team NWSL, though they’ve lost three of their last five.

One downer: The Red Stars have let most of their most popular and most talented players from the suburbs move on to other NWSL teams.


Hope Index: 2

We don’t want to get too down on a team that came within a game of making the playoffs this season, but we have higher expectations here, and there’s no clear path to reach those higher expectations under NBA rules.

The Bulls’ roster has been wracked by injuries, bad contracts and mismatched abilities. Guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu seem worth keeping, but there are questions about most everybody else because of age, injury and/or contracts.

They can be fun to watch and they can be maddeningly inconsistent.

Unless they get lucky in the draft, or get lucky with a trade of like-for-like contracts most likely involving LaVine, there’s no clear way through for the Bulls.

White Sox

Hope Index: 0

Hope? At this point it’s more like a Misery Index.

The Phillies almost no-hit the White Sox in back-to-back games recently. As a team they’re hitting .212 through Wednesday. The good news is they’ve moved above the Mendoza Line, but it’s still an embarrassing mark. They could set records for losses in a season and batting futility.

They’ve also shown little ability to develop prospects. Their farm system is ranked 20th by with only two top-100 prospects, shortstop Colton Montgomery (No. 9) and pitcher Noah Schultz (No. 50).

Most organizations raid winning teams when they look for a new GM or a new manager. The Sox hired from within for current GM Chris Getz, from Kansas City for manager Pedro Grifol. Because of course.

They should be sellers at the trade deadline, but do they have anybody worth trading?

They’re not really asking for public funds to build another new stadium too, are they?


Hope Index: 0

I have so little hope for this franchise — on and off the field — that in October I wrote it should just fold. Nothing has changed since then to show me I was wrong. They still draw announced crowds of roughly 15,000 fans to 61,500-seat Soldier Field, among the worst in the league, and their stadium future is uncertain if the Bears go through with their plans.

They’re in 13th place out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer, so they’re on pace to make it 15 seasons without a playoff win, with just two playoff appearances and 1 playoff goal in that time. Statistically, that’s almost impossible, given how many teams get into the MLS playoffs each year.

Teams can turn things around quickly in MLS, but owner Joe Mansueto seems incapable of making the kind of changes needed to make this club successful.

Daily Herald Sports Editor Orrin Schwarz can be reached at

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