Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman celebrated a Stanley Cup championship at Grant Park on Friday, the second time they have done that in four years. Rocky Wirtz beamed appropriately.
It's easy to give these three guys credit for all the Blackhawks' success, as the franchise turned on a dime when Wirtz took over after his father, Bill, passed away in 2007. But that would be incorrect.
Chairman Wirtz, general manager Bowman and coach Quennville inherited a sleeping giant made possible by a decade with one playoff appearance. It was during this painful period, when the Hawks were coached by guys like Denis Savard, Trent Yawney, Brian Sutter and the immortal Alpo Suhonen, when a winner was built through the draft.
Patrick Kane was the first overall pick in 2007; Jonathan Toews the third overall a year earlier. Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell all were drafted in the first two rounds from 2002-04.
There's joy after pain.
That's the path that teams like the Cubs and Astros are hoping to follow. It's the one the Nationals have taken, landing Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in back-to-back drafts in the middle of a run of six consecutive losing seasons, including 102- and 103-loss nightmares.
The Rays have morphed into a perennial contender after 10 straight 90-loss seasons, including one that was followed with the selection Evan Longoria third overall (2006) and David Price first overall (2007). B.J. Upton (second, 2002) and Delmon Young (first, 2003) also were nabbed in the first round.
The Orioles had six straight 90-loss seasons, and during that run claimed Matt Wieters with the fifth overall pick and Manny Machado third overall. The Tigers lost 119 games in 2003, then said hello to Justin Verlander with the second pick the next year. They grabbed North Carolina lefty Andrew Miller with the sixth overall pick in 2006 and traded him to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera less than two years later.
Whether it's baseball, hockey, football or basketball, the easiest way to add star players is through the draft. The impact of one or two players may not be as great in baseball as in other sports but it hasn't helped the White Sox to have only one pick in the top 10 in the last 23 years.
With that said, don't look for general manager Rick Hahn to follow the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer formula of stripping the house to the studs before he tries to rebuild the White Sox.
He says going though an extended period of losing to accumulate high picks "is just one way to skin a cat,'' and points to the Cardinals, Braves, Red Sox, Rangers, A's and others as showing "you do not need to lose perpetually to get good.''
No you don't. But the Hawks probably wouldn't have had their parade Friday without having really bad seasons in 2005 and '06, at the least, and that might be some consolation to Chicago baseball fans this summer.
Up and running: Keep an eye on the Nationals. They look like a team about to take off, with rookie second baseman Anthony Rendon a hitting machine and Harper about ready to return from the disabled list.
Rendon entered the weekend hitting .337 with an .845 OPS in 27 games — the kind of performance that was forecast for him when he was an All-American at Rice.
"Since we drafted him, and since we have heard about him and watched him play in the minors, you can kind of tell when a guy is going to be able to hit," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "He was one of those guys. It's fun to watch him go up there. He stays with his plan. He's very disciplined for a young hitter. It's pretty impressive."
Rendon is 23 but manager Davey Johnson says he's hitting like a veteran.
"The game hasn't changed since I was a little kid," Rendon said. "The strike zone, the plate's the same size. The bases probably got a little longer, but that's pretty much it."
Auspicious beginning, Part II: The Rays' Wil Myers has provided a lift since he was promoted. He also has become labeled as the second coming of Dale Murphy, which is OK with Murphy.
"I know people say there is a resemblance, and it looks like there is a little bit,'' Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times. "I really enjoy and like what I've seen, how he has handled his career. He's a big, tall guy but he has a swing that's real simple and easily repeatable, which is one of the challenges for taller players.''
Myers, the key to the Rays trading James Shields to the Royals, entered the weekend hitting .268 with two homers and eight RBIs in 10 games.
"As a player, (he's) not overwhelmed,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "Physically, (he's) extremely gifted. As a person, (he's) somewhat naive and entertaining. He's been very comfortable, in a good way.''
Bad idea: Jim Leyland wasn't going to start Mariano Rivera in the All-Star Game but was relieved Rivera shot down the idea.
"(He) took me off the hot seat,'' Leyland said. "… I'm so happy. He took me off the hook from all that silly stuff that they wanted him to start the game. I hope I give him the ball in the ninth inning in New York."
As expected, Leyland says he'll save Rivera to use as his closer if the AL has a lead in the July 16 game at Citi Field in New York. That would be fun.