I'm watching the Gladiators in their first-round playoff shootout with the Orlando Predators, which at the moment looks like a battle to see who ends up with the final possession, and had two comments about the broadcast:
1) A lot of the players and coaches are mic'ed - they have the game on a delay but ESPN's already looking at a substantial fine from the FCC if anyone's watching. Um...you know pro athletes are going to drop a lot of F-bombs, right?
2) Was that really necessary to show that montage of Cleveland teams losing in the playoffs? What was the point of that? I hate you, ESPN.
Monday, June 30
I'm watching the Gladiators in their first-round playoff shootout with the Orlando Predators, which at the moment looks like a battle to see who ends up with the final possession, and had two comments about the broadcast:
We're not yet to the dog days of summer. Sure, the Indians aren't playing for much right now except my occasional enjoyment. The Browns' camp has started yet. The LeBron to the New Jersey Nets talk has started but I don't write about basketball. So we're left with what the Erie Warriors give us. Unfortunately that was another miserable series against the Reds.
Now a lot of Indians fans may not like the Reds. This isn't Chicago where the two team are separated by a mere eight miles; this is two cities barely in the same state at a distance of 281 miles. I've never really hated the Reds. Actually I've thought of them as my NL team really. I know what you're think. Until recently I looked at the hapless Reds and thought how cute it was that they kept trying so hard. In the days of the horribly stupid Jim Bowden (now guiding the always-hapless Nationals) I thought this team was doomed. As soon as they got a new owner I thought things would change. Well that hasn't happened completely yet, but the Reds certainly had our number this year.
So what do we have to show for the three-game series at home against the last place team in the NL Central? A 6-0 win courtesy of C.C. "I'm still pitching so my grandkids can enjoy their autumn years" Sabathia and Grady "How long will I need to carry this team" Sizemore. An 0-5 loss that obviously made up for the previous game's lopsidedness. And finally, a 5-9 beat-down that obviously wasn't Laffey's finest outing of the year.
So what's on the horizon for the Tribe? Well, Mastny got called up after a nice time in AAA. I suspect he'll see more time on the mound this time around now that any resemblance of a Circle of Trust does not exist. Oh and the Tribe are about to start a series in Swirling Garbage Field. If you've never been there I don't recommend it. This road trip has the Indians visiting the Pale Hoes, the Twinkies, and the Motor City Kitties. Now despite those names, all of these teams are playing better baseball than the Tribe right now. The feeling is that if this road trip is a disaster, and it very well could be, then the calls about a certain large left handed pitcher will be taken much more seriously.
I read an article in Sports Illustrated about Dan Uggla, the free-swinging Marlins 2nd-baseman who, according to the article, is a pretty easygoing country boy who doesn't put too much stock in overanalyzing the game - he sort of just goes out there and hits. Kind of like Manny Ramirez, only perhaps less wackier. This, I have no problem with. Go Dan Uggla!
But the SI author, Michael Farber, somehow conflates Uggla's personality and approach to the game with the whole modern-stats-analysis vs. old-time-baseball-wisdom argument. He writes that Uggla is "a dinosaur in this age of IsoP and the rest of the sabermetric alphabet" and that Uggla's "see-the-ball-hit-the-ball" approach should "delight non-seamheads." Ugh. I could see this out of some hack blogger, but you're writing a feature piece for America's flagship sports magazine, Mike! How can you know this little about statistics and the men who love them?
First off, why are so many traditional media writers so afraid of numbers that require more than one operation to calculate? You're professionals - adapt to the new knowledge, incorporate it, retain your old salty wisdom and writing skills, and you'll be an even better writer who won't have to say silly things like "sabermetric alphabet." It's fascinating to me how professional baseball writers have, almost to a man, fled from this Sabermetric Godzilla.
Second, Uggla's non-cerebral approach at the plate (though he continues to improve his walk rate, which the article completely glosses over) is irrelevant to those who look at numbers. You think Baseball Prospectus' crew looks at Manny Ramirez's career OPS+ of 154 and gives a fuck that he's a goofball on and off the field? It's more the traditional fan who cares about that stuff. Likewise, a non-stats-valuing fan is more likely to undervalue Uggla, a player who strikes out a lot and hits a lot of home runs, and overvalue some guy with no power who doesn't walk but hits .310 and can be described as "scrappy." It's actually the sabermetricians who first tapped into the hidden value of slugging percentage and the not-so-badness of the K.
Finally, and most importantly, even if you had never once even seen baseball and didn't know anything about the players Uggla is supposedly a throwback to, you could look at his baseball-reference page for like five seconds and conclude that he is, in fact awesome. The dude ranks 4th in the league in OPS and is slugging .632, AND plays second base! That's phenomenal! Your average "seamhead" doesn't care at all that he strikes out a lot, or is absent-minded, or whatever. He's just a great hitter, and this is lazy writing by Farber by somehow inferring that baseball fans who look deep into the numbers wouldn't love this guy. He seems pretty cool to me both as a fun guy to watch and a really productive hitter, even though I despise the Marlins. Come on, Mikey, if you're going to take shots at us fancy-pants numbers guys, at least try to understand instead of churning out this silliness.
Friday, June 27
If you haven't heard your Cleveland Indians are mired in last place. Yes, the team I had hoped would win 99 games is in last place in the AL Central. At least we're currently tied with the KC Royals.
The Indians look nothing like the team from last season. You realize with a bullpen that has imploded, Victor on the DL, and Fausto still nursing a sore hip, this team has lost something. Not only have I personally closed the book on this season, but you have to start questioning the Tribe's future.
But we'll have all off-season to do that so let's just live in the now. OK, maybe not the now, but how about the near future.
The Tribe dropped two of three at home to the San Francisco Omar's. Unfortunately one of those losses was to 11-game loser Barry Zito. Either way the Tribe didn't do a heck of a lot. Now we could discuss such plans like actually playing Andy Marte or sitting Garko, but the Tribe management is going to do whatever they feel is right. Remember down the stretch last year how it seemed like everything Wedge did was right? Well, nothing the man does is either surprising or seemingly effective right now. That's not to say he hasn't tried or that he has a lot to work with. Anyway Lee pitched his 11th win yesterday, imagine where this team would be without him this year.
Anyway, the Reds are in town. After being swept in the 'Nati the other Ohio team graces the North Shore for a three-game set. The Reds come to town with one more loss than the Tribe but the same number of wins, if you don't know how many I don't want to tell you.
C.C. takes the hill today in what could be his last start in a Tribe uniform. Well, I could probably write that about every start from here to July 31 or until he actually gets traded. Supposedly the Tribe is going to make one more push to sign him even though he didn't want to talk mid-season. Now all the Tribe can do is wait if two 1st round picks are worth more than the prospects offered by the buyers.
Hey, there is a lot of Tribe baseball left to play.
I've seen a few articles recently where writers have selected the best games ever, the best they've personally viewed, or the historical games they would most like to attend if time travel was possible other than via relativistic speeds. The first I saw was Bill Simmons picking his top three a while back - I can't find the link, but I remember one of them was a boxing match so, thanks for the good idea at least, I guess. Sports Illustrated's writers have been recapping the best game each of them ever saw (more on this in a future article), and The Hornless Rhino of the Cleveland Fan recently brought it home, picking his top three Cleveland sports moments. Am I going to do the same? You bet. I'd like to extend an offer to my co-writers to add theirs as well, and readers can include their picks via comments. I'm actually going to make two lists: 1) three general, historical games, and 2) one game each from the four major Ohio teams we cover here on the site.
As an aside, since the Pittsburgh Penguins are an important team to me, I'd put their instant-classic triple-overtime win over Detroit in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals on my personal teams' list if it were appropriate for this blog, just a shade ahead of the Darius Kasparaitis game-winner to topple Buffalo in OT in 2001.
Neither list is in any particular order, and both focus on more recent years because I'm a more recent person. here we go!
The Ohio sports games I'd most like to attend
Indians: 1995 ALDS, Game 1, vs Boston
I'm going to go with the Tony Pena game in '95, a 5-4 victory over Boston where the Tribe catcher won the Indians' first playoff game in 41 years with a 13th-inning home run. The Tribe had some other great playoff moments in the '90s (Sandy Alomar's HR, Kenny Lofton scoring from 2nd on a passed ball) as well as some regular-season magic (most notably, The Impossible Return) but this one announced that this was a franchise reborn that had fully realized their return to prominence. It had everything - Roger Clemens vs Dennis "El Presidente" Martinez on the mound, a three-run Tribe rally to take the lead in the 6th, Boston battling back in the 8th, and the Socks taking the lead in the 11th but Albert Belle tying it right back up with a solo shot. And of course, extra-inning walk-off HR's are always a beautiful thing, even from a team that made them routine like the '95 Tribe did. As a younger fellow with high school to attend the next day, I did not see the end of this game - given the chance to be at the game in person, I most certainly would.
Cavs: 2007 East Finals, Game 5, at Detroit
Without question the greatest moment in Cavs franchise history took place just over a year ago, as the Cavs rode LeBron James' 48 points to a 109-107 double-OT win in Detroit. This is the best individual performance I've ever seen in any sport, as LeBron scored the Cavaliers' final 25 points and 29 of their last 30 on an array of dazzling and often flatly ridiculous shots. What's more, it put the Cavs on top in the East Finals for good, as they clinched their first and only trip to the NBA Finals at home in the next game, courtesy of Detroit's total meltdown. Game 5 was a thrilling win and a superlative performance by the King - I would love to have been there slack-jawed with the rest of the crowd watching LeBron take the vaunted Pistons D 1-on-5 time and time again.
Ohio State: 2002 Fiesta Bowl, vs Miami
I guess I have a thing for double-overtime games. I know this game took place in 2003, but it was the 2002 season, so I'm marking it as such. The undefeated, #2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes went down to Arizona and knocked off the heavily-favored, undefeated, #1-ranked Miami Hurricanes to claim the national title in one of the best college football games ever played, a 31-24, double-OT decision in favor of the Buckeyes. So much to like in this one - Maurice Clarett's strip of Sean Taylor, Miami's last-second game-tying FG, QB Craig Krenzel's sneak into the end zone, the correctly officiated pass interference call, Kellen Winslow's unstoppability, the see-saw battle, and Cie Grant (a New Philadelphian like JHH and I, though his stupid Wikipedia entry says Dover because that's where our hospital is. Extended digression: I would edit my own Wiki if I was famous to remove any mention of Dover. OK, done.) harassing Ken Dorsey into throwing the ball away on the game's final play.
On a personal note, I watched this at JHH's place where we had a musical salsa-dispensing container (it's the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, remember?) and enough beer to last four quarters, thus necessitating an overtime raid of his dad's fridge for Beast Light. Tremendous.
Browns: 1993, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The only regular-season game on the list is at least partially a reflection of the Browns' lack of playoff success over the past 40 years. I could have gone with the playoff win over Buffalo, as the Hornless Rhino did, or one of the Tim Couch miracles I wrote about before, but I chose Eric Metcalf's two punt returns to beat the Steelers in Cleveland, 28-23, back in '93.
This game evoked shades of the Browns' absurd first win in Pittsburgh during the '99 expansion year, with the Browns seriously outgained and outplayed but pulling out the win nonetheless. (It also evokes the 2007 Browns-Steelers game in Pittsburgh, replacing Metcalf with Cribbs and the win with another fucking loss.) Metcalf had already taken a punt back 90 yards earlier, so the Steelers wisely kicked to him again in Billickesque fashion. Metcalf streaked up the sidelines 75 yards and with two minutes remaining the Browns had a lead they wouldn't relinquish. I remember watching this as a little kid and perhaps not realizing how amazing the feat was - today's version surely would appreciate its glory.
I think for inclusion on any fan's list, a game should have some historical importance (sometime later I'll quibble with some of the weaker SI writer picks on this basis), and we all know the only way to measure that is by whether or not it has a Wikipedia entry. In my case, the first two both do, under their popular nickname. The third sort-of does, but it also has a YouTube video where a guy reconstructed it using RBI Baseball as well as a Seinfeld where it figures in the plot, both of which I would argue are of greater significance. On to the list.
1980 Olympic Hockey Semifinals, US vs USSR
You might know this one better as the Miracle on Ice, perhaps? Everyone knows the name of the game and the teams who played - fewer know that the final was 4-3 in favor of the good guys and that it was not, in fact, the gold medal game (the US claimed gold in their next game, a win over Sweden). What you do know is that the US was a gigantic underdog against the semi-pro Russian Hockey Machine, that coach Kurt Russell pulled together a bunch of scrappy amateurs to fill out his rosters, and that Al Michaels's famous end-of-game call will show up in every Great-Moments-in-Sports montage until the end of time. USA! USA! USA!
1993 AFC Wild-Card game, Buffalo vs Houston
Some call this "The Comeback" - I like to call it "The Frank Reich Game" - whatever you want to call it, this is one of the most intriguing and unusual games in NFL history. I picked in in part simply because it's a great game and Reich's career-defining relief appearance makes for a great story, but also because I like to imagine actually being there, which is part of my selection criteria. I saw this recently on TV, and the game and the crowd's reaction to it gave me goosebumps.
You watch the first half, and you notice that the Bills look totaly outclassed by the Oilers, falling behind 35-3 early in the 3rd quarter. The fans are almost totally silent, stunned, yet none of them leave.
Finally, Buffalo finally gets a third-quarter TD, and the fans take some solace in that. ("Hey, at least we're not getting totally embarrassed.")
Reich throws a TD pass - a little warmth spreads through the crowd. ("We're making things respectable at lease")
Reich throws another TD pass. ("Hey, are you guys watching this? We're only down 11!")
Reich throws another TD pass - fans are crazy at this point. I've never seen such electricity in a crowd. ("We're fucking winning this game, I'm telling you man.")
Reich throws his 4th and final score with 3:08 left, and the fans go berserk. ("I TOLD YOU, I TOLD YOU!!!") The greatest comeback in history is completed...
Except it's not, as Warren Moon emerges from his coma to lead the Oilers to a game-tying FG to send it to OT. A Buffalo interception in the extra stanza and a short drive led to Steve Christie's field goal and secured the 41-38 win for the Bills and etched their name in football history. Listen to me talk about this game like I'm some fan - I don't even like the Buffaloes!
1986 World Series, Game 6, New York Mets vs Boston Red Sox
The previous two entries featured great crowds almost unable to believe what they were seeing, and this thrilling 6-5 come-from-behind victory (I like comebacks as much as I like extra innings/overtime) is no exception - listen how the fans get increasingly excited behind Vin Scully's call on the RBI Baseball video (linked above). It's amazing how many things had to go right for the Mets to pull this out - sure, everyone remembers Bill Buckner's error on Mookie Wilson's weak ground ball, but it shouldn't have even come to that.
Consider: the socks (who, oddly, appear in this post twice) led by two runs in the 10th inning and the first two Met batters were quickly retired. How often would any team win such a scenario? 1 in 250, maybe? Yet the Mets strung together three straight singles, tied the game on a wild pitch (listen to that crowd!), and won improbably on the famous Buckner play. What a game. That they would go on to take Game 7 seems now like a foregone conclusion, as asking the red socks to recover from such a devastating loss was just too much, though they did manage a 3-0 lead in Game 7 before losing.
So, there you have the games I would most like to attend, given a time machine and absolutely no sense of priority or responsibility on how to best use it other than attend sporting events. Your thoughts?
Tuesday, June 24
I can't stop thinking about the upcoming football season. Don't get me wrong, I love baseball. But (especially with the Tribe slipping out of contention) nothing compares to the gridiron. I'll let our resident Dawg Pound experts take care of the Brownies, I'm here to talk college with a Buckeye preview.
Last year's outstanding 11-2, Big Ten-winning season ended on an uber down note with a 38-24 thumping at the hands of LSU in the BCS National Championship...again.
At the end of the season, with the bitter taste of defeat still in the mouths of Buckeye players, things looked like they were going from bad to worse. Two-time All American Linebacker James Laurinaitis, monster DE Vernon Gholston, LB Marcus Freeman, big-play wideout Brian Robiskie, and shutdown corner Malcolm Jenkins were all thinking of going pro. In a move that shocked just about everybody, Laurinaitis decided to return, and Freeman, Jenkins and Robiskie followed suit. Gholston was the only one that went to the NFL, and although his loss certainly hurts OSU, they have a lot of depth at that position. Oh yeah, and we also picked up a guy named Terrelle Pryor, who appeared to be bound for Ann Arbor (she's still a whore) after Rich Rodriguez came aboard. Pryor decided differently, however, making the right choice and coming to the Buckeye state. Ohio St also landed two top OL's, Michael Brewster (6'5, 300) and Mike Adams (6'8, 310).
Ohio St appears to be one of the most loaded teams in the nation, returning 18 starters, pre-season Heisman candidate Chris Wells, and reigning Butkus award winner Laurinaitis. Looking at the schedule, the obvious game that jumps out at you is the Sept. 13 showdown at USC. Most pre-season polls have both OSU and USC in their top 5. It's not a stretch to think that this could be a #1 vs #2 match up, something Ohio St is certainly no stranger to (games versus Texas, Florida, Michigan, and LSU in the last two years). If Ohio St can notch a W in that contest, we could yet again be BCS Championship bound. No other non-conference opponents (Youngstown St, Ohio, Troy) pose a threat, and the Big Ten has seen better days. With Michigan in a somewhat rebuilding stage, a date in Camp Randall against rival Wisconsin on Oct. 4 is certainly the toughest test. Iowa is not on the schedule, and Penn St comes to the Shoe, so not too much to worry about there. At Illinois on Nov. 15 is the only other scare, but the Bucks will have revenge on their minds in that one. Lets take a look at how the OSU roster is shaping up.
Apparently an All Big Ten season from Todd Boeckman wasn't enough for some fans, as many are calling for Pryor to start. I'm gonna settle this once and for all, and not talk about it again. TODD BOECKMAN IS OHIO STATE'S QUARTERBACK. The man threw 25 touchdowns last year - give the guy a break. He does make some bad decisions, and will need to cut back on those and learn to take a sack here and there, Craig Krenzel style. Boeckman will certainly have weapons, as every player that caught more than 3 passes from last year's team are coming back, including pre-season All Big Ten Brian Robiskie. Brian Hartline, Ray Small, and Dane Sanzenbacher are all solid options, as are dual TE threats Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard. The line should be one of the nation's best. Alex Boone is a possible All American, and Steve Rehring, Jim Cordle, and Ben Person are all returning starters from a line that was very good last year. And of course lets not forget Erie's own McDowell grad Kyle Mitchum, still buried on the bench five years later. Here's to hoping for some PT this year for Mitch. Of course the highlight of the offense is Heisman candidate Chris "Beanie" Wells, who rushed for 1,600 yards and 15 TDs last season. Veterans Maurice Wells and Brandon (in)Saine are solid backups and good change of pace backs. The enigma of the offense will center around newcomer Pryor. No, he will not start, but he will certainly see the field. I would like to see him used Tim Tebow-ish like Florida did two years ago. Even better, Pryor is more versatile then Tebow. We can put him in the slot or in the backfield with Boeckman. Watching Pryor this season will be interesting, and I'm anxious to see how Tressel plays his wild card.
The defense is absolutely stacked, returning nine starters from a team that held opponents to 83 yards on the ground and 2.5 yards per carry last season. Gholston left school early, but three starters return on the line, and Lawrence Wilson was slotted to start last season but was sidelined for the year with an injury. The linebackers will be outstanding, led by Laurinaitis and Freeman. Senior Curtis Terry will fill in for the graduated Larry Grant. The secondary has all four starters back, with Malcolm Jenkins sure to take home some hardware at seasons end. Both 29-year-old Kicker Ryan Pretorious and Punter A.J. Trapasso are back after solid Junior seasons.
This team has a ton of talent, star power, and one of the best coaches in the game. I obviously expect big things. If the past is any indicator, we're looking at a great regular season, a Big Ten title, and an embarrassing show in the Championship to an SEC team (I hear Georgia's supposed to be good this year, maybe it'll be their turn). I would like to say there's no way Tressel would let something like that happen again, but I also said that last year. I guess only time will tell...
The NBA Draft is this Thursday, and the Cavaliers hold the 19th overall pick. Naturally, there has been a fair amount of speculation as to who the Cavs should choose with said selection. Should Danny Ferry draft a center like Roy Hibbert, a wing player like Brandon Rush, or look for that elusive point guard in a player like Mario Chalmers or Ty Lawson? Then again, the Cavs could just draft the best player available, if a player they hold in high regard really starts to slide.
As the owners of an aging front court and a club still faced with the absence of a second scorer, the Cavs obviously won't be able to plug every hole with that 19th pick. That said, they want to do their best to plug one of them. To get a relative feel for the kind of talent that may be available when the Cavaliers are on the clock, let's take a look at picks 18-20 in the last 5 drafts.
2003: David West (18), Sasha Pavlovic (19), Dahntay Jones (20)
2004: JR Smith, Dorell Wright, Jameer Nelson
2005: Gerald Green, Hakim Warrick, Julius Hodge
2006: Oleksiy Pecherov, Quincy Douby, Renaldo Balkman
2007: Marco Belinelli, Javaris Crittenton, Jason Smith
That's an awfully mixed bag. The standout of the bunch is clearly David West, who along with Chris Paul fueled the New Orleans Hornets' return to prominence this season, but there aren't any stars outside of West. Jameer Nelson is a solid starter, JR Smith and Hakim Warrick have been productive, and Cleveland's Sasha Pavlovic hasn't proven to be more than a depth player.
While we need to acknowledge that all of these players are still young enough for their figurative lights to turn on, it's also clear that the recent success rate of players in the vicinity of where the Cavs are drafting (middle-late first round) has hardly been overwhelming. Then again, that's the nature of the NBA draft: it's often very hit-or-miss. The teams who are able to strike gold with late picks tend to compete for a long time (e.g. Spurs). As LeBron James' contract year inches ever closer, the stakes are heightened; win now, or risk the gut-wrenching exodus of King James.
The Cavaliers' draft problems are well-documented, and with the exceptions of a no-brainer first overall pick (the aforementioned LBJ) and a couple of second round gems (Daniel Gibson, Utah's He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), the Cavs have been magnificently impotent in recent drafts. Granted, Danny Ferry has had only one first round pick (former Cavalier Shannon Brown) in spite of overseeing three drafts -- thank you, Jim Paxson. As we've established, the draft alone can't alleviate all of the Cavaliers' deficiences, which is where the club's roughly eleventy billion dollars in expiring contracts come into play. In a way, the Cavaliers' expected yield from that expiring cash may dictate their draft strategy.
As TCF writer Benjamin Cox expertly outlined back in April, the possibility of a trade to lasso LeBron a legitimate running mate is very real. With so much expiring money, the Cavs can try to follow the Lakers' example by acquiring something (in this case, Pau Gasol) for nothing (Kwame Brown's expiring contract).
The possibility of an off-season trade could affect Danny Ferry's draft strategy. These playoffs made one thing clear: above all else, the Cavaliers need an infusion of talent. Although they fought valiantly and, quite frankly, overachieved, anyone who thought the Cavs really had the horses to beat a team like Boston was kidding themselves. Danny Ferry's goal should be to wrangle the most talented player available, not make a need-based selection. When Cleveland goes on the clock, Ferry should aim to draft the best player available if there is one player the Cavs consider clearly superior to the available alternatives. However, if no player is unmistakably above the rest, Ferry's decision becomes more taxing.
A summer trade of some capacity appears imminent, and the Cavs need to decide whether a trade for a low post presence or a guard/wing player appears more likely. If Ferry and company believe it to be most likely that they can land a scoring guard like Michael Redd, then they should spend their draft pick on a big man like Roy Hibbert or Kosta Koufos. If it seems more likely that a big man like Elton Brand or Jermaine O'Neal will end up in Wine & Gold, then the Cavs should go the guard/wing player route on draft day. Stated bluntly, if there is no clear "best player available," then the Cavs should attempt to plug as many holes as possible.
As someone who doesn't watch oodles of college hoops (sure, I try to catch the Buckeyes when they're nationally broadcast, but beyond that, wake me up for the tournament), I try to be wary of too much armchair general managing (is there such a thing?) on draft day. With that in mind, I am still a bit wary of the center/power forward options that may be available with that number 19 pick. Rookie big men tend to be very raw, and even a singular talent like Dwight Howard took time to develop his offensive game. With such a low pick, the Cavs would not be drafting a polished post player, and it's likely that they would be drafting a project. With the task of "win now to keep LeBron" so evident, the Cavs may hesitate to commit the time that will be necessary to properly develop a young center or power forward.
Then again, the majority of the Cleveland front court will be eligible for AARP membership in the not-so-distant future. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has a player option for the '09-'10 season and may soon retire, and Joe Smith is in the last year of his deal and makes enough money that his expiring contract may be traded. Ben Wallace will be 34 when the season begins, has chronic back problems, and will likely be dealt before or during the '09-'10 season when he will account for $14 million worth of expiring money. Sure, Anderson Varejao is young, but he essentially has an expiring contract worth nearly $6 million, and I'm willing to bet an appendage (my left leg, so I can get a peg leg if I lose the wager) he will decline his '09-'10 player option. A/V is a non-factor on offense, and is not on the best terms with the front office, making it entirely plausible that Varejao could be traded this off-season. If he isn't traded this summer, it would be shocking to see A/V wear Wine & Gold past next February's trade deadline. Sooner or later, the Cavs will have to get younger up front.
This off-season and the next two seasons leading into LeBron James' option year will be a crucial journey. Regardless of the choice he makes, Danny Ferry won't be able to cure what ails the Cavaliers through this draft alone. But even if the 19th pick isn't a magic potion, nabbing a solid contributor would make Ferry's job much easier down the road, and it would be a solid first step in what the Cavs surely hope will be a defining off-season. While such a low pick is less likely to yield a quality player than it is a fizzle -- NBA drafts are always chock full of them -- the teams that stay competitive for the long-term tend to find solid contributors outside of the lottery picks. If the Cavs are to succeed in their goals of staying consistently competitive, retaining LeBron James, and ultimately bringing home the Larry O'Brien Trophy, a quality draft pick would be a great first step.
Monday, June 23
Congratulations are in order for the AFL's Cleveland Gladiators, who clinched a playoff spot in their first season in the league with a 47-35 win over in-state rival Columbus on Saturday night.
After a disastrous 2-14 campaign last year in Las Vegas, the franchise relocated to Cleveland under new management (including Cleveland hero Bernie Kosar) and with some new key players, including free agents QB Raymond Philyaw and WR Otis Amey. Drawing solid crowds and playing exciting, high-scoring football, Cleveland notched a 9-7 record in the far superior National Conference (American Conference teams went 6-10 and qualified for the playoffs) and secured a playoff berth. Even better is that the club got some help this weekend; losses by intraconference rivals New Orleans and New York mean that the Gladiators will open the postseason at home, where they are 6-2 on the year.
FCF tips its cap to the Gladiators and wishes them luck in the playoffs. Their divisional playoff game is Monday, June 30, at the Q.
Friday, June 20
With the NBA season wrapped for another year, this seems like a pretty opportune time to take a look back at the Cavs season, highlighting some of their best games and most exciting moments. Sure, the Cavs didn't duplicate their 2007 Eastern Conference championship run, but they did win 45 regular-season games despite holdouts and injury trouble, end another Washington Bullets' season in the first round, and take the eventual NBA champions to 7 games. Let's look at some of the most memorable moments of the year:
LeBest Player in LeLeague
LeBron posted another MVP-caliber season, even though a deserving Kobe Bryant took home the hardware. LeBron's numbers were actually very similar to his past few seasons; 30.0 ppg (NBA scoring champ), 7.9 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, and shooting percentages in line with career totals. Importantly, he led the league in 4th-quarter scoring, helping the Cavs top the league in come-from-behind wins and filling Cavs fans with confidence in tense, late-game situations. This guy is good. We'd all like to see him hit a few more FT's (he's vowed to improve his FT shooting this summer), and 31.5% from behind the 3-point line is really not good, but this guy is the best Cav ever and makes every game worth watching.
Big ups to Andy Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic for their early-season holdouts, destroying team chemistry, delaying their own physical development, and potentially costing the Cavs a chance at a higher seed. Varejao's was particularly unpleasant, with him ripping Cavs' management and vowing to leave his deal ASAP. I was amused when he got far less money than the figure he had originally overvalued himself at. At least Varejao got things together by later in the season - Pavlovic was pretty much useless for the whole year after returning to the club.
The Toronto game
Note to home fans: Don't heckle LeBron.. It will not end well for your team. On Jan. 6, LeBron took exception to someone yelling at him from courtside. Naturally, LeBron took it out on his opponent, scoring 24 of his 39 in the 4th to erase a huge lead and almost single-handedly destroy the Riptors.
Andy in the stands
Someone please buy me some season tickets; the Cavs went 6-0 when I was at the Q this season. That mark included wins over the Lakers (take that, Dave!), Bulls (you too, Dasharath!), and an OT thriller over the Bobcats (take that, Raymond Felton, who kept me from the bar an extra half hour by sending the game into OT with a buzzer-beating three). I also saw them knock off Toronto, the LA Clippers, and who knows, the Timberwolves or something. I still have not seen the Cavs lose in person in the LeBron era.
The Portland Game
84-83. Just read about it.
Two key contributors
Throughout the year, I think that a lot of Cavs fans undervalued the contributions of two players: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Devin Brown. Though Big Z is frequently a target of fans' complaints, he put up 14.1 ppg, a career-high 9.3 rpg, and 1.6 bpg on the year, as well as maybe the league's most confused-looking mug shot. Sure, pick on him all you want for being slow, but Z is an excellent shooter and a fine offensive rebounder, and you can't teach height. Brown, for his part (7.5/3.4/2.2), came off the bench a number of times to spark the club in moments where they seemed to have forgotten that the object of the game is, at least in part, to score points. Then he (apparently) played a prank gone horribly wrong on Coach Brown, earning him a permanent spot on the bench during the playoffs to watch Wally Szczerbiak miss shots.
TCB in January
A few of the highlights I already mentioned (Blazers, Riptors) came during the Cavs' stellar 11-3 month of January. During this month they also beat the Spurs on the road (where SA was 34-7 on the year), pitched essentially a perfect game against the Bullets (121-85), and took down the future West champion Lakers once more.
Notching two home wins over the C's
Not to mention those three in the postseason...
Short-handed in Atlanta
You might remember this game, where an injury-depleted Cavalier squad, the night after a beatdown in Houston, went into Atlanta and toppled the Hawks 100-95. It was one game where the club's effort was so strong that I felt compelled to write an article about how proud I was of them.
The Big Trade
You might have heard - we switched some players with the Bulls and Sonics. No, seriously, GM Danny Ferry made a last-minute overhaul of the Cavalier roster, bringing in Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, and Delonte West in exchange for Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Shannon Brown, Cedric Simmons, Donyell Marshall, Bobby "Bingo" Smith, Michael Reghi, Lamond Murray, Moondog, Cliff Lee, Leigh Bodden, a bag of basketballs, an instructional book by Pete Maravich, and six players to be named later.
Most hailed the trade as a good move, and I thought the reconstructed team ended up going farther than the old team would have. Wallace played good defense even as his body starts to betray him and Wally was a bricklayer extraordinaire. The less-heralded players turned out to be key - Delonte West stabilized the PG position, while Joe Smith brough veteran smarts and a deadly mid-range jumper.
The post-trade win over the Bullets
As a result of the aforementioned deal, the Cavaliers ended up playing (and winning) a game with this as their entire active roster:
Billy Thomas (really)
I think that's all I need to say about that.
I heard they were playing games here, but the Tribe season had started, so I can't confirm this.
Eastern Conference Playoffs, Round 1: The Washington Series
Hey, it's you guys again! Have you noticed how many of this season's highlights involve Washington? Yep, the Cavs ended the Bullets' season once again, dispatching them in six games as they did two years ago (it only took four to sedate an injury-riddled Washington club in '07). Did anyone really think Washington was going to win this series, other than their crazy players DeShawn Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas? The Cavs held serve at home fairly easily, including a 30-point drive-by of the Bullets in Game 2, with "overrated" LeBron pouring in 31 per. At this point, the series was over.
Sure, the Wiz embarrassed the Cavs in Game 3 (by 36?!), but the Cavs ended all doubts with a road win punctuated by Delonte West's huge game-winning three-ball. Yeah, they squandered a close-out at home, but destroyed the Bullets in Game 6 behind a seriously overrated triple-double (27-13-13) from the King.
Two things stick out for me from this series: one is the Bullets' pathetic attempts to thugify themselves and foul LeBron hard constantly, a tactic that didn't exactly transfer into wins. The other? LeBron's absurd alley-oop from Daniel Gibson in Game 1. Wow.
Eastern Conference Playoffs, Round 2: The Celtics Series
The Cavs' second-round foe was the Boston Celtics, who posted the league's best regular-season record and claimed the top seed. It took Boston a surprising seven games to knock off the sub-.500 Atlanta Hawks, losing all three on the road and winning all four at home.
Luckily, all three games in this series were in Cleveland, in the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena. The new guys (West, Wallace, Szczerbiak, and Smith) all played huge roles in a blazing 108-84 victory to kick off the series, and the Cavs locked down on defense to take a 2-0 series lead in an 88-77 highlighted by LeBron's fantastic dunk over Kevin Garnett. LeBron then played his best game of the series in an ugly (yet beautiful) 74-69 win over the C's to complete the three-game sweep of Boston.
Oddly, according to some obscure league rule, the Celtics got to move on to the Conference Finals and face the Pistons. Don't ask me why. Whatever the reason, the books closed on the Cavs' largely successful 2007-08 campaign and our thoughts turned to the Tribe, and Browns once again. But the Cavaliers will be back.
In case you hadn't heard, Terry Pluto has declared the Indians season over. Of course, once again I was about to do the same. I would have used such pessimistic headlines as:
Time to Pull the Plug
You Guys Turn the Lights Off When You're Done, I'm Going Home
Is There Any Room Left On That Wagon, Rays Fans? The answer should be no.
etc. and so on and so forth.
I don't really want to discuss the Tribe being swept by a team that has been as horrible as the Rockies this year, so I won't.
The Indians head to LA to take on the Dodgers tonight. If you're interested, the Euro Cup will be shown this Saturday on ABC and ESPN at around 2:00 PM. So you might want to check that out. But if you can't help yourself, the Tribe will be shown on Fox Saturday as well. The upside of watching the Tribe is that Lee will be pitching.
Also, in case you didn't hear, Fausto was shut down for a few days due to continued soreness in his hip. In the sort-of-good-news department, Hafner doesn't need surgery, just more strengthening of the shoulder.
This probably leaves you wondering: what are the options for the Tribe at this point? Paul Cousineau over at the DiaTribe offers up the usual insight which I always recommend.
It's rough to feel this way about your team before the All-Star game, I'll leave it at that.
Tuesday, June 17
I got to go to Cleveland's 12-2 thrashing of the Twinkies last week, and my aspiring photographer friend Vijay took some shots from the game for your enjoyment. Check it out:
Jamey Carroll, collecting one of his 18 hits on the evening.
Too cheap for a ticket? Try tailgating on this parking deck!
Aaron Laffey, bringing the gas.
Ben Francisco can mash.
Mr. Clutch 2008.
Mr. Everything 2008.
Lest we forget.
Sunday, June 15
If you’re like me, you're sitting in your New York extended-stay apartment listening to Travis and sipping an Anchor Steam you just bought from Whole Foods. Oh wait, what I meant to say was, if you’re like me you’re wondering when Andy will get around to posting those Tribe pictures. For a man so prolific at writing you would think a few pictures with comments wouldn’t take so long. Maybe he’s waiting for the right time.
Moving on to actual baseball, the Tribe won today, honoring all fathers who aren’t Padres fans. This marks the second series in a row the Tribe have won and just like before, this three-gamer went win loss win. Game 1 saw Sowers struggle again, but that could have been due to a 2:43 rain delay. At least Sowers going out there allowed the Tribe to stick to the relief of Betancourt, Perez, and Kobayashi, with each going over an inning. Had the likes of Mujica been called upon, the 9-5 victory would have been closer. Game 2 did see Mr. Mujica come in to do what we call “relief pitching,” where he gave up five runs in the top of the tenth. Today’s contest of Cy Young winners Sabathia (2007) and Maddux (I have no idea, but he was good and always got a Golden Glove too) goes to C.C. While Ben Francisco’s three-run shot off the Professor was the difference, I have to point out Grady had another home run. Somewhere I read speculation of moving our hard-hitting center fielder down in the order given that he has 17 homeruns (career high is 28). Wedge’s response was that he didn’t want to mess with what was working, i.e. Grady hitting first. Choo (pictured but not yet discussed) did some good things too.
With the White Sox losing today, the Tribe move up to 5.5 games back of the division leaders. If you haven’t noticed, the Tigers (6.5 games back) have won a solid six in a row. Sure those first three were cool when they beat the previously-mentioned Sox, but I expected more from the Dodgers, especially with Brad Penny on the mound.
In other news, Interleague play continues this time out west…er, kind of. The Tribe are on their way to Coors Field in the always-forgotten Mountain time zone. While much can be made of the Tribe’s disappointment just remember the World Series-losing Rockies now sit on a record of 28-41, 8.5 games back of Arizona and last place in the NL. Luckily the Indians get tomorrow off to adjust to the wicked east coast to mountain jetlag.
Game 1: Paul Byrd, RHP (3-6, 4.89) vs. Greg Reynolds, RHP (1-4, 6.69)
Game 2: Jeremy Sowers, LHP (0-1, 7.23) vs. Jeff Francis, LHP (2-6, 5.49)
Game 3: Cliff Lee, LHP (10-1, 2.55) vs. To be announced
How do I like the chances of Lee versus a yet-to-be-named pitcher? Your knee-jerk reaction may be “we can’t lose”, but if he is a soft-throwing lefty, watch out. The only real consolation is he can’t possibly be a grizzled soft-throwing left-handed veteran.
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
I was under the impression that the struggles of a number of Indians who have spent time on the DL this year were caused or exacerbated by injuries they've sustained. Thanks to an astute reader of the Canton Repository, I now know it's the other way around: "injuries" are a clever ploy for the big-ticket Indians to avoid facing the music for poor performance. How silly of me! I know it's a letter to the editor, but it's so emblematic of what's wrong with some baseball fans that I feel the need to trash it and defend my Tribe. Let's go:
It seems every time a high priced Indians player gets in a slump, he comes up with a questionable injury.
We're obviously in for a treat with this opening line - wild generalizations, accusing professional players of faking injuries to avoid answering for lowered performance. Perfect.
In 2007, Hafner went into a batting slump. So all of a sudden, he developed a shoulder injury. Of course, the writers all quickly blamed his slump on the injury. This year, as reported, he was 100%. So now all of a sudden the injury is back. Could it be that the opposing pitchers have found his many weaknesses?
Have you ever tried to hit MLB pitching? I understand it's difficult, and I have to imagine even more so with an injured shoulder. There's a pretty solid chance, I'd say, that the shoulder's been hurt all year and Pronk tried to play through it but simply couldn't. Plus, wasn't it the elbow before and now the shoulder? Maybe he's not the same hitter he once was, but the dude had OPS's of 1.003 and 1.098 in 2005-06, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here. But nice job including the writers in the conspiracy.
Joe Borowski was just fine until he was shelled in two outings. So he came up with a shoulder problem and was quickly placed on the 15-day DL.
And now he's back and in seven appearances has given up a run in only one while posting a WHIP of 1.28. This part seems relevant to me.
Victor Martinez was leading the entire league in hitting
but with very little power and no speed. Could you seriously not tell how much his hamstring was affecting his hitting this year?
then in just over three weeks he dropped over 50 points off his batting average and it now hitting below .300
No sabermetrician, this fellow.
So he was out for a week with a slight injury to his finger. He claimed he was cutting his own finger and got an infection?
I don't remember this at all. He just had elbow surgery - that I remember. And how do you know if the injury was "slight"? It's amazing how loath this guy is to admit that one of the team's most productive hitters might not be at his peak due to injury.
The latest, Fausto Carmona, came after he had two bad outings. He hurt himself covering first base. Again another timely injury that landed an Indians player on the 15 day DL.
Straight-up bullshit. In the two games before the game where he got hurt, Carmona had pitched 16 1/3 innings and given up exactly one run, lowering his ERA to an excellent 2.25. Way to fact-check. Even with the poor start where he hurt his hip, Carmona has a tremendous ERA+ of 137, and we think he invented an injury to hide on the DL?
It's funny how things only happen when a slump occurs.
As you proved conclusively for the case of Carmona. Or Jake Westbrook, who suffered an injury that will keep him out for over a year in the middle of his best season as a pro. Or Travis Hafner, who conveniently got hit in the head by a pitch so as to avoid destroying the entire AL for a full year. Yep, players only ever get hurt when they're not playing well, you've convinced me.
As I stated in my last letter
I wish I had seen it...
now that Paul Byrd has been caught with illegal drugs, he has completely lost his winning ways.
I stated he would not win 10 games, and I don't think he will.
Using wins and losses to evaluate pitchers, are we? Byrd has been very consistent this season after two bad outings to start the year, posting a 3.90 ERA in his last 11 trips to the mound as compared to 4.59 mark he compiled last year. His 15 wins a year ago were a byproduct of OK pitching and superb run support. Your citing of meaningless W-L records won't work on me, boy.
It's interesting that he completely fails to give Byrd any credit for pitching out of his early-season trouble in an article where he basically insinuates that the whole Indians roster fakes injuries as excuses for poor performance. For that matter, what about CC Sabathia? Did he come up with a questionable injury after four bad starts to begin the year? Nope, he went out and posted a 2.09 ERA over his next 10 starts. Ditto for Ryan Garko and some of the other Indians hitters who have made improvements at the plate since the club-wide hitting drought of the early months. Any thoughts on these players?
Mark Shapiro brags about his great farm system. Why not bring some of them up? He should replace Casey Blake, Ryan Garko, and Asdrubal Cabrera.
I've never heard Shapiro brag, ever - most of the talk about the Tribe's minor league depth is from baseball writers, local and national. Why not bring some of them up, you ask? Did you not see 2007? Guttierez, Francisco, Cabrera, Laffey, Lewis, Perez, Garko, Carmona - the Tribe's organizational depth was the #1 reason they won the AL Central and topppled NY in the playoffs. This guy has the opposite condition of the guy in Memento - he can only make new memories and forgets everything that happened before.
The last line is almost comical, considering the players he suggests and the lack of alternatives suggested. Replacing either Blake (exact same OPS+ as last year, 101, plays many positions) or Garko (the club's best hitter in June) makes no sense right now, not to mention, replace them with whom? A while back, they gave some of Garko's AB's to Michael Aubrey and it seems to have spurred him back into productivity. As for Cabrera, yes, he's struggled, and they have tried to replace him with Josh Barfield (injured, probably faking to hide a one-game slump) and Jamey Carroll (getting on base at a .375 clip right now, which is pretty good). This is not the solution to the Tribe's problems.
The Indians have some issues this year, mostly batting production well below predicted levels and poor relief pitching. I'd rank faking injuries for convenience pretty low on that list.
Friday, June 13
Well we have a few things to talk about, don’t we? Let’s start off with the good stuff first. The Tribe seems to have hit an offensive streak here recently. Over the last eleven games the Tribe has scored 75 runs. This series win against the Twins (win – loss – win) marks the first series win since the Indians swept Oakland in mid-May. In his Tuesday night outing, C.C. pitched a complete game shutout, allowing 5 hits. This, of course, was in a game in which the Indians only scored one run, so they needed that kind of performance from their ace. Now onto the bad.
- No Hafner (DL sore shoulder)
- No regular second baseman (Cabrera sent down, Barfield DL)
- No Carmona (DL sore hip)
- No Jake Westbrook (Tommy John, out over a year)
- No Victor Martinez (DL sore elbow)
Now on the face of it that looks like a season-ending list of injuries for this team. I on the other hand am only really dismayed by Westbrook’s injury. Having Jake recovering from TJ for a good portion of his three year $33 million contract isn’t the best use of the Tribe’s money. The Hafner situation isn’t too much of a concern. The man was hitting .217 and if this gets him back or at least closer to normal then the Tribe isn’t going to miss him that much. The Carmona injury hopefully isn’t a big deal and he’ll be back soon enough. The second baseman issue is a concern in the sense that we may not have a offensively viable option there. The injury to Barfield in his first game up is depressing, but nothing more really. Victor was hurt from the beginning of the season. A sore hamstring seems to have limited him at the plate, as he still has zero home runs this season. Which would you rather have; Victor gutting it out the rest of the season hitting no home runs or Victor sitting for two months and some return to his former self? Neither is what I would call ideal, but if Victor can come back healthy I’m OK with Shoppach, whose name can not be put in print without the “would be a starter on most teams” tag, in there everyday. So while the Indians continue to put guys with names like Santos, Haad, and Velandia on the 40 man roster I’m not ready to say the season is over because of these injuries on the plain fact that the team wasn’t doing so great offensively before and I suspect Hafner and Martinez weren’t going to get much healthier while playing regularly anyway.
What does concern me is the crap-tacular bullpen.
In other good news the Tigers swept the AL Central leading White Sox. This puts the depleted Indians 6.5 games back. Is that insurmountable? No. Is this team capable of a turnaround? Maybe. The offense scored 12 runs last night, thanks to Francisco providing 3 RBI on 4 singles and Shin-Soo Choo, who also had 3 RBI. Laffey pitched six innings of one run baseball and sports an ERA of 2.83, this from a guy who started the season in Buffalo's starting rotation. So once again, the thing I’m worried about is our bullpen. And in case you don’t believe me, Terry Pluto came along the other day and stole my thunder, which shouldn’t be surprising since this is his job after all.
OK enough talk of the past, let's do what I always like best in these tough times for the Tribe - look ahead. The gimmick that is interleague play once again graces Cleveland as the San Diego Padres make a visit.
Game 1: Josh Banks, RHP (2-0, 0.39) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (0-1, 6.91)
Game 2: Cha Seung Baek, RHP (1-2, 5.01) vs. Cliff Lee, LHP (10-1, 2.52)
Game 3: Greg Maddux, RHP (3-4, 3.33) vs. C.C. Sabathia, LHP (4-8, 4.34)
Sowers' last outing against the Tigers was less than impressive - let’s hope the softer Padres (a team actually hitting worse than the Indians) provides Sowers a opportunity to pick up his first win this season. The game to go see live is obviously Sunday’s matchup of “maybe the greatest right hander of our time” vs. C.C.
Hot weather, hotter bats: After struggling the first 2 months of the season, the Indians offense has been better of late… The Indians are batting .277 (108-390) with 64 runs scored (5.8 RS per game) in their first 11 games in June, raising their team batting average from .234 to its current state of .242. The Indians hit .266 (105-394) w/65 RS (5.9 RS/G) on their last road trip the Indians currently rank 9th in the AL in runs scored (289).
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Tuesday, June 10
Not really. Just paraphrasing the general opinion of a number of Intenet denizens who support the Tribe but are having a hard time dealing with their struggles so far this year.
Just today, I read a sharply-critical, piling-on variety of article about the Tribe on The Cleveland Fan. This particular piece, the sort that is quite in vogue with Indians supporters across the blogosphere these days, appeared on The Cleveland Fan and was written by Gary Benz. It was a tad cynical for my taste, and I generally disagreed with the harsh words he had for all things Wahoo (for a more optimistic, levelheaded perspective, check out the DiaTribe). Most of all, though, I didn't like my club being compared unfavorably to the California Angels.
The article is titled, "Making the Wrong Excuses," referring to the Indians' front office apparently trying to sneakily blame their lack of success thus far on injuries via their broadcasting team and "media enablers." Conspiracy! I don't think that it's unreasonable to, for example, point out that missing a dude who was 2nd in the AL in ERA and 4th in pitching runs created last year is affecting the team's performance. There's a healthy dose of Shapiro-bashing as well, criticizing an off-season plan that most analysts thought gave the Tribe a serious chance to win this year (all 11 predictors on The Cleveland Fan pegged the Tribe for between 91 and 95 W's and many national commentators liked them for the World Series). Benz ends the piece with the strangely metaphorical "what troubles this team looks to stick around for awhile, like an obnoxious dinner party guest who doesn't have to work tomorrow, an apt description actually of the 2008 season." What have you done for me lately, Cleveland Indians organization (96 wins, 1 game from World Series last year)?
OK, let's settle down. Lots of key dudes have been hurt, compared to the '07 squad, where the only injuries I can recall (Westbrook missing a few early starts, Dellucci being hurt) actually helped the team. Yeah, every team deals with injuries, but some teams some years get it worse than others. The article criticizes many members of our underachieving Erie Warriors individually, especially Travis Hafner (in this case, deservingly if not very friendly). Oddly, he tries to downplay complaints about Victor Martinez' power numbers (still no HR!), as if a one-year drop in SLG% of .168 is normal, then argues that not having Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook hasn't hurt the starting staff that much, and so on. It's a weird article - you can tell this season is really bugging this guy and he's not making his points as clearly as I think he can. There really isn't a paragraph I agree with here, and the overall tone is mean-spirited and defeatist. Cheer up, Gary!
I could at least go along with Benz's analysis if there actually were some in-depth look at the team's statistical performance, which there is not. This is especially true in regards to an extended comparison he makes with the Angels. You see, California currently sports the league's best record, even though they've had some injuries as well and Vlad Guerrero has been underperforming in a Hafnerian fashion. I think his point is that the Angel roster is better-constructed or something (having an extra $40 million to pay helps, I would think) but an inspection of the teams' scoring numbers reveals, mostly, that the Angels have been really lucky this season.
That's right, I said it - lucky. People seem unwilling to talk about luck even in a sport that trends so close to .500, and where the margin between good and bad is so razor thin. Look at the '06 and '07 Tribe if you don't believe me. The '06 squad was prodigiously unlucky - a team that scores 88 runs more than its opponents and finishes 14 games below .500 is an unfortunate club, not so much a bad club. In this case, a historically unfortunate one. Last year's playoff-qualifying Indians had a nice run differential but also had luck on their side and outperformed their expected wins by a few (I think - can't find the numbers but this is my recollection); the '05 team was the other way around and had to sit out the postseason, thanks to an epically fortunate white sock team that won like 297 one-run games, including 56 against the Tribe).
Yes, wins and losses are the bottom line, but a team's record is not the whole story when evaluating performance and, importantly, predicting future results. Consider, as our first exercise, the two teams' run differentials. This may surprise you after reading 645 straight negative pieces about the Tribe, but they've actually outscored their opponents on the year, 283-272 (oops! 284 - CC just shut out the Twinkies!). The Angels, that model of resillience? 274-274. Dead even in runs scored and allowed, yet they're 13 games above .500! There's a word for that, even if, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, you don't believe in luck: unsustainable.
Again, let me re-disclaim, I know the object of baseball is to win, but it's quite instructive to look at runs scored and allowed (and more advanced metrics) as a way to evaluate more in-depth how well a team really plays. Going deeper, consider Baseball Prospectus' adjusted standings. This evaluates teams by 3rd-order winning % (historically a much better predictor than actual win % or 1st-order pythagorean run-differential %) and shows the difference between that and their actual W-L record. Like Han Solo, I call this number luck. Let's look at who, across both leagues, has won fewer games thus far than anticipated, based on this approach:
Teams winning less than expected
1 Toronto Blue Jays (-4.2)
2 Colorado Rockies (-4.1)
3 Atlanta Braves (-4.0)
4 Detroit Tigers (-3.5; uh-oh)
5 LA Dodgers (-2.9)
The Indians rank at just -1.0, meaning that on average you'd expect them to be 30-34, not 29-35. Fair enough. The Tribe have indeed outscored their opponents by a slim margin, but 3rd-order winning % takes into account more advanced factors than just RS and RA, using equivalent runs and adjusting for other teams' performances. Overall, it's typically a good predictor, and here it's got us pretty well pegged through 64 games. Now let's look at who's had the ball bouncing their way so far in 2008:
Teams winning more than expected
1 California Angels (8.0)
2 St. Louis Cardinals (4.8)
3 Minnesota Twins (4.5)
4 Florida Marlins (3.6)
5 Philliedelphia Philas (2.8)
Look at the Angels! Yeah, they have the best record in baseball (for now), but they are eight games above their expected win total, just 65 games into the season. That's astounding. Let's put it this way: there is no way the Los Angeles/Anaheim/Every City in Southern California Angels are going to finish this season 97-65 (projecting, based only on current win %) if they continue to score the same number of runs as their opponents. Are. Not.
In fact, BP's projections, based on performance thus far, predicts a sub-.500 finish for mighty California of .484. Cleveland? .478.
So, if you really like to bash the Tribe for not playing very well so far, fine - almost no one except Ben Francisco and Cliff Lee is exceeding their PECOTA predictions - but when you consider these numbers you'll see that in baseball, the difference between a team like the league-leading Angels and the angst-inducing Indians is rather thin. I know it's tough, Gary - but let's stick with our boys a little longer.
First off, before we talk about the Indians and Tigers splitting four games at Comerica Park this past weekend, let's acknowledge that losing Jake Westbrook for the entire season (and likely much of next year) is a tough blow to an already-struggling team and organization. Yeah, they have a lot of starting depth (less so once CC and Byrd leave), but Westbrook was a solid, established guy who averaged an ERA+ of 108 over the past 5 seasons and logged over 210 innings in 3 of the past 4. He was also off to an excellent start this season (ERA+ of 137) before going down with elbow trouble. Let's hope Jeremy Sowers can revert to his 2006 form and that the Tribe bullpen stops reverting to their 2006 form.
The first game of the series, a 4-2 Tribe win, was, I think, the sort of Indians games we expected this year: a solid starting pitching effort (7 IP, 2 ER from Paul Byrd), scoring some runs, not necessarily a lot, and getting a strong finish from the bullpen. That was the formula they used last year to great success and it was nice to see again. Too bad we didn't see it the next few days.
Edgar Renteria, haven't you done enough to us already? The game-winning hit in the World Series wasn't enough, now you have to go to Detroit and hit a Grand Slam to beat us? Enough, man. I even forewent the usual photo of Indians congratulating one another after scoring in favor of that anti-Renteria graphic. Boo.
I saw examples in this series of two very common managerial decisions that continue to make me wonder how the ostensibly qualified men who pilot these very valuable franchises on the field can keep making them. They are:
1) Defensive indifference. I wrote about this on my other blog last year, but I haven't gained any understanding of it in the interim. This is a situation that happens where a team has a multi-run lead and is trying to close the game out in the final inning. The trailing team gets a baserunner aboard, and the leading team basically lets him go to 2nd base without trying to get him out. The other day, with Joe Borowski on and the Tribe holding a 4-2 lead, they let a Tiger waltz from first to second without even pretending to care. Rather than a stolen base, this is properly scored as "defensive indifference." I think this is a dumb thing for a team to allow to happen. Yes, I understand that the lead run is not important in this case, since the batter will eventually need to score, and yes, I understand that you want to focus the pitcher's attention on the hitter.
But would it really hurt to at least try to throw him out? I mean, you've got the tying run at the plate here - throw out the runner and that's no longer the case, plus you've recorded another out and decreased the other team's chance at a comeback (decreased it to 0, if there were already two down). Isn't it worth a shot to try to get that out? Additionally, if you can hold the runner to first rather than offering discount tickets to the keystone sack, you keep force plays in order. One can imagine a ground ball being hit where a middle infielder can get the lead guy at second but would never get the batter-runner at first. DI takes this option away, and if this was Friday's game, the Tigers now have the tying run on and one less out than they might otherwise. It's weird that teams keep practicing defensive indifference. Maybe I'm missing something.
2) Only using closers in "save" situations. The rulebook defines conventional saves as a pitcher finishing out a game where he enters with a 3-run lead or less (more if he enters with baserunners, but you see my point). Managers, for some bizarre reason, use this arbitrary piece of stat-keeping as their main decision point in when to use their closer. Up 3 runs in the 9th? Bring out the Big Guy. Up 4 runs in the 9th? Bring out Some Other Guy. This is just bizarre to me. When the Indians cut the Tigers' lead to 4 in the 9th in Saturday's game and had a man on, thus making it an official save situation, Jim Leyland naturally went to closer Todd Jones, with Rick Manning saying that he "has to." No he doesn't. He can, but there's no rule saying that your closer must be present for any instance where a save is available. Look, I'm all for using stats in baseball analysis, but not where the arbitrary definition of a certain metric affects decision making. If baseball's record-keeping braintrust had declared a save situation as a lead of 2 runs or less, do you think managers would act the same way, only using 2 and 3 as their decision point? I do.
Speaking of Manning, his overuse of the word "aggressive" is really starting to bother me. Not everything that's good is necessarily aggressive, Rick. Also: say "passive" just once to balance it out. Please.
As if to highlight my point, behold the Indians lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of eight runs in the first two innings with the help of...four hits. See, Rick, it's not about being aggressive, it's about being productive. First inning: walk, walk, Garko hits a 3-run shot. Second inning: walk, Shoppach hits a 2-run homer, single, walk, walk, hit by pitch, single, sac fly. 8-0. Four hits. There's a reason that those who understand baseball statistics have such an interest in walking and high on-base percentage, and Monday's game was a perfect illustration of it.
One last note: the white socks have been winning way too many games, and a feature I saw on SportsCenter this morning tried to link their winning ways to an Ozzie Guillen drunken rant from about a week ago. Please. Ozzie's latest idiotic plea to have himself committed has nothing to do with their recent success. Maybe SportsCenter should have tried to correlate their win streak with, I don't know, scoring nine runs per game? It's like, all Eric Wedge has to do is give a press conference where half his words are beeped out and boom! the Indians go on a week-long tear. Let's be clear: manager tirades do not make teams hit and pitch better.
The Indians (29-35) return to Cleveland for six games starting tonight: three against the Twins (31-33) and three against the Padres (28-37).
Tuesday: Baker vs. Sabathia
Wednesday: Blackburn vs Byrd
Thursday: Hernandez vs Laffey
Sunday, June 8
I went to my second Cleveland Gladiators Arena Football League game, and as with the first, the Gladiators came away with a victory and I left a happy fan.
Their opponent was the Chicago Rush, who sported a 10-3 mark and an absurd six-game lead in their four-team division. That's ridiculous. The Gladiators entered the contest with a 7-6 mark, fighting for one of the six playoff spots in the National Conference. As of the time of my attendance, I knew roughly how Cleveland was doing but didn't realize that Chicago was favored.
Speaking of the playoffs, man is it easy to qualify. Of the 17 teams, 12 make the postseason. Although Cleveland is on the bubble in the superior National Conference, the Utah Blaze currently hold a spot in the American Conference with a record of 4-10. Think about that. I bet Pittsburgh Pirate fans would like some of that action.
As for the game, Cleveland absolutely stuck it to the Rush, dominating from start to finish in a 65-44 victory. They looked far better in all phases than the visiting Rush, especially with quarterback Raymond Philyaw executing their offense with precise efficiency to the tune of 8 TD's and 1 FG in their first 9 possessions. The defense came up with three stops, which is the equivalent of allowing -20 points in the NFL. Even better was converting those stops into points - the Gladiators notched an interception return for a TD and took back a missed field goal attempt off of the netting for another score while rolling up a four-touchdown lead in the 4th quarter.
Part of the reason for the success was how inaptly Chicago was named - they had almost no pass rush on Philyaw all game while the Cleveland defense forced a couple of stops by putting heat on Chicago's lefty passer. Tremendous playing from the Gladiators all around - once again, I find myself able to enjoy Arena League football both ironically and genuinely. I also enjoy the money left in my wallet after a Gladiator game - $17 for a reasonable seat in the Q. A few other notes:
- The between-possession on-field promotional games were mostly as dumb as ever, but big, big ups to the DJ. Tasked with playing an iTunes-length song snippet inbetween literally every down (sometimes more than one), this guy came up with a dazzling array of choices. Seriously, dude, can I have my iPod back? Not even just hits, but like deep tracks on Evil Empire and Check Your Head, stuff I'm sure only I appreciated. Metallica and Led Zep? Sure, anyone can play "Enter Sandman" and "Rock and Roll," but how about this guy busting out "Harvester of Sorrow" and "Lemon Song"? Outstanding. He mixed it up as well, sneaking in Onyx's "Slam," Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart," and Stereo MCs' "Connected" (which I just bought on iTunes). I'm going to write the Gladiators a letter once I finish this article telling them what a gem they have.
- You know the shell games they have on sports Jumbotrons, where they have three icons, show you one that has a football under it or something, shuffle them around, and have fans guess which has the football under it? That's gotten way easier over the years - it really used to be a challenge, but now it's designed for everyone to win and feel good about their skills. It's funny because everyone gets it every time now and they're all so excited.
- Bought myself a boss black and red Gladiators t-shirt - what a great color scheme. I only wore a white under-T to the game with the intent of picking up said swag, and now I've got it. I'll buy a t-shirt from any Cleveland sports team, unless maybe if we had a soccer team. Do we have a soccer team? Who cares?
- One of the game's best moment was when "Tequila" was playing before a Gladiator kickoff and one of the Gladiators, a rather large fellow, was doing the Pee-Wee Herman dance. If you want to endear yourself to this sports fan, referencing Pee-Wee is a hell of a way to start. What a lovable team.
- Otis Amey is a beast. Easily my favorite Gladiator.
- Gladiator RB Marlion Jackson became the 10th RB in AFL history to top 300 yards in a (16-game) season. 300. Meanwhile, Cleveland averages 330 yards per game through the air. One might say the league has an emphasis on passing the football.
- One more note on the DJ - after a questionable call by the officials, he cued up "Terrible Lie" by NIN. Well done, my friend.
- I went for a walk at halftime to get some water, and when I came back, someone had stolen my game program, which I had left under my seat. Um...you know those are free, right?
- The most truly sublime non-football highlight was Hard Rock Cafe's "Sing for your Supper," where two middle-aged people were played a bit of a song's verse and asked to belt out the chorus. This woman got "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," had clearly never heard it, and was booed heartily. They had to cut away and play the football game at that point, but later returned to the singing game. They gave her another chance, but used the same song which (surprise!) she still had not heard. Once again, boos cascaded down. Then the guy comes up, and Bon Jovi's "Bad Medicine" starts playing. He gets this excited, almost giddy look in his eyes, and takes over on the mic: "Your love, is like BAD ENERGY! Bad Energy is what I need!" He won handily. Bad energy - that doesn't even make sense!
Friday, June 6
With JHH on the DL for a few more days, I'm here to recap the wild and wacky Tribe-Rangers series and look ahead to the weekend in Detroit.
The good news: we scored some runs! Lots of them! The Indians put up an uncharacteristic 13, 7, and 15 tallies up on the board while taking two the first three games in the Lone Star State, then notched 4 in the first inning yesterday before realizing they were the '08 Tribe offense and shutting down for 8 innings.
Even with the weak finish, the four-day production was enough to lift the Tribe to 11th in the AL in OPS and 10th in OBP. I think we were last or next-to-last in those categories going in, so that's nice.
The bad news: we didn't pitch very well! CC Sabathia actually had the best outing by a starter with 6 IP and 5 runs (4 earned) allowed, besting Aaron Laffey (5 IP, 8 ER), Lee (5 IP, 6 ER, 1 cooler destroyed, and a gift win), and Tom Mastny (hopelessly trying to get someone, anyone out). Our once-vaunted rotation has returned to Earth, and the bullpen continues its sub-mediocre even-numbered campaign, two trends that concern me.
Part of that, of course, is playing in a small, windy stadium like where the Rangers play - that helped inflate the Indians' totals, though not as much as the fact that the Rangers absolutely refuse to ever make a commitment to having strong pitching (Exhibit A: Sidney Ponson). The other part is that the Rangers can mash - they're first in the league in team OPS (19 points higher than 2nd-place Boston) and 2nd in OBP. Debate how much of that is park-related, but it's a strong lineup. Only two Indians (Francisco, Sizemore) outpace Texas' team OPS; next closest is David Dellucci, who falls over 50 points short.
I didn't like Milton Bradley before this series, and watching him firebomb us for four days did not help.
The Indians scored 8 runs in a 3-game set at Kansas City the weekend before this. Casey Blake had 7 RBI in the first game of the series.
I said a while back that it would be easier, or at least more fun, to root for a subpar Tribe if they were playing 11-10 games instead of 1-0 games, and boy was I right. These games were really entertaining, even the ones we lost. Monday's was particularly amusing - we squander almost all of Casey Blake's personal 8-3 lead and come back with a 2-run HR by Ben Francisco and a 3-run job by Dellucci. Thank you and good night.
Speaking of Francisco, that gentleman can hit. He came to the plate late in Wednesday's game already 5-5 with 5 singles, and then made his only out on a sharply-lined ball to left, hit as well as any on the night. It's also nice having Big League Choo on the club, not least because these two guys represent about the only thing close to accurate predictions any of us had in our season preview article.
That same evening, Ryan Garko collected 4 hits and drove in 6, all on singles. Nice work if you can get it.
Did you see Clifton pacing and smashing stuff in the dugout during his start? I can't believe how long he kept that up! Eventually you get bored and the moment passes, but the Phifer just kept on pacing and stewing.
Let's say it again: Spaulding Mastny was almost impossibly bad. Where is Jeremy Sowers again? I'm sure there's a simple explanation, maybe options or something.
My favorite random moment of the series was when a Tribe pitcher had Ranger batter Josh Hamilton down in the count 1-2, and the catcher did that thing where they half-stand-up with their mitt high enough to catch the pitch way up in the zone and entice the batter to strike out swinging at a high pitch. The battery got the ball just where they wanted it and so apparently did Hamilton, hitting the ball an estimated 789 feet. Wow.
Hamilton, though he's played great, further epitomizes the Rangers' pitching-phobic approach to organization building - to get him, Texas dealt Edinson Volquez to the Reds, where he currently sports like a -0.90 ERA.
Next up for the Tribe is 4 in Detroit, facing a Tiger club fresh off a sweep out west at the hands of the Athletics. Go Tribe!
AP Photo/David Pellerin
Thursday, June 5
After posting double-digit wins for the first time in almost 15 years, the Browns and GM Phil Savage used some aggressive off-season trades to send a message to the rest of the NFL: the Browns aren't rebuilding anymore, they aim to win now. As a result, the enthusiasm and interest of Browns fans is higher than it's been since the team returned in 1999.
Finally, after years of torment, Browns fans are looking forward to what promises to be a memorable season. Returning a talented offensive crew with an additional wrinkle, one Donte Stallworth, the Browns should light up the scoreboard again in 2008. The acquisitions of defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams will be a tremendous boon to the defense, and the trickle-down effect of their presence should make life easier for the linebackers and the secondary. Unfortunately, there are several key factors which could potentially derail the Browns' return to prominence.
Backed into a corner. The Browns traded their best cover corner when they unloaded Leigh Bodden, you can sugar coat it and bash Bodden for a sub par '07, but any way you slice it, he was the team's best cornerback. Whether Savage dealt Bodden to prevent a contract dispute (as has been reported), was dissatisfied with Bodden's propensity for injury, thought Bodden was just plain washed up, or secretly hates corn rows; the reason is at this point irrelevant. The fact is that Bodden is gone, and Daven Holly's regrettable (and probably season-ending) knee injury comes at a most inopportune time for a Cleveland secondary that was already very thin, and also happens to be quite green.
At present, the Browns plan to start Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, who have between the two of them, um, two years of NFL experience. The fact remains that the Browns were going to search high and low for depth corners prior to Holly's untimely injury, and all Holly's affliction really did was make their need more dire.
The usually top-notch Tony Grossi stated, "the [Browns] cannot realistically expect to compete for the AFC North title, and beyond, with a starting tandem of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald and Jereme Perry as the third cornerback." Grossi goes on to suggest that the Browns consider swapping their first or second round 2009 draft choice for a corner of starting caliber (they've already traded their '09 third round pick).
While I frequently agree with Grossi's analysis, parting with high draft picks is probably not the best way to solve this problem. Phil Savage has already enacted a dangerous strategy during the last two years by unloading high picks to land high-priced veterans or to move up in the draft. There's a reason why NFL GMs value draft picks more than their phalanges; the draft is an inexpensive to build a team's nucleus. Players in the draft are young and cost-controlled (once you get outside of the top 10 picks, anyway). Building your team with exorbitantly priced free agents and trading away draft picks like Pokemon cards (yes, I said Pokemon cards) is a recipe for failure, just ask Daniel Snyder.
Make no mistake, the scarcity of quality CBs is the single greatest threat to the Browns' success this season. That said, Phil Savage needs to fight the urge to jettison any more high draft choices to slap a Band-Aid on this wound. Although Holly was going to compete with Brandon McDonald for the second starting spot, the guy wasn't exactly the second coming of Deion Sanders, and there's no need to panic and trade too much for a replacement. While it might be satisfying to add a solid corner right away, the Browns can't keep sapping themselves of the draft picks that they will need to sustain themselves in 2009 and beyond.
So what is the answer? The Browns must be patient. Savage should obviously scour the waiver wire and the free agent pool in an effort to discover a diamond in the rough, and if a great trade value presents itself, than the Browns should consider pulling the trigger (ideally for a late round pick, but barring the sudden availability of Champ Bailey at a Sam's Club price, the Browns should not part with a day one pick). And by all means, take a good hard look at some of the young guys on the roster like the recently re-signed Jereme Perry, who played in 12 games for the Browns in 2006.
Regardless of how he does it, rest assured that Phil Savage will be certain to address the cornerback problem. Quite frankly, Savage has far too much invested in this season to allow a problem like this to derail what should be the defining year of his tenure.
Same motley crew. Even though the play of the linebackers was less than satisfactory in 2007 (that is, perhaps, putting it lightly), the Browns will trot out a very similar cast of characters this season. Sure, Beau Bell was drafted to add depth, but to expect a fourth round pick to be an impact player in his rookie season is unrealistic.
With the revamped defensive line ready to plug the gaps up front, it's time for the linebackers to put up or shut up. If the linebackers fail this season, their troubles can't be written off as the result of an inferior defensive line; they just aren't very good.
The improved line should make things easier for the linebackers, but they won't make Willie McGinest and Andra Davis any faster, they won't give D'Qwell Jackson that extra 15 pounds of muscle, and they won't make Antwan Peek into an iron man. Odds are that the linebackers will have most of the same shortcomings they had last season, only hopefully those inadequacies will be less magnified this time around. The degree to which the linemen can mask the defects of the linebackers will go a long way in determining how well the Browns can stop opponents this season.
Will the Soldier be on the battlefield? After undergoing his 177th knee surgery this off-season and alluding to a possible holdout, Kellen Winslow has suddenly become a murky figure.
Winslow's right leg has been sliced and diced more than Michael Jackson's mug, and even though the operations have limited Winslow and caused him considerable hardship, he's still a terrific talent. Will all of these operations begin to have a cumulative effect? At some point, will Winslow's leg simply collapse like a house of cards? Obviously no one knows for sure, but the Browns aggressively sought an insurance policy for Winslow in this year's draft by trading with -- you guessed it -- the Dallas Cowboys to select Martin Rucker (tight end, Missouri) in the fourth round.
Phil Savage paid a heavy price for Rucker: the Browns' 2009 third-round pick. Rucker has been described as a poor man's Winslow, meaning that he's a solid receiver but a sub par blocker. Savage's willingness to unload a third-rounder for Rucker indicates not only that Winslow's long-term health may be uncertain, but also that Savage may anticipate a contract dispute.
K2's intentions regarding his contract are unclear. Winslow has indicated that he'd like more money, and hey, who wouldn't? Supposedly Winslow is looking for a contract in the ball park of what Dallas Clark recently received from the Colts (6 years, $42 million). The question now becomes whether or not Winslow will hold out and/or become a distraction if the Browns don't jump to meet his demands.
Winslow skipped the voluntary OTAs, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be absent from training camp. It's easy to see where Winslow is coming from; like the Browns, he's worried that his injury history, longer than the histories of some countries, will shorten his career. With fewer prime years, Kellen's feeling pressure to get paid right now.
As much as some fans might want to paint Winslow as a villain for having the impudence to ask for a raise after the Browns took such good care of him following his motorcycle wreck, Winslow's just trying to make a good business decision. Odds are that most players would behave similarly if put in Winslow's position. It's easy to talk about "loyalty" and the like, but it's unfair to judge Winslow without having experience in a similar situation.
But morals aside, Winslow, who's under contract for three more seasons, doesn't appear to have much leverage here. The Browns need to hang tough with Winslow to avoid setting a bad precedent for future contract disputes. If a player like Braylon Edwards posts big numbers again in '08, you can bet he'll be looking for a bump in compensation, and that's why the Browns can't afford to look soft with Winslow.
If these contract disputes have taught us one thing over and over again, it's that players would rather get paid a little less than desired than nothing at all. In other words, once Winslow starts getting fined for skipping camp and the possibility of missing game checks arises, it's a pretty safe bet that he'll toe the line.
Arms race. As unlikely as it seemed just a few months ago, the Browns will have both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn on the team for at least one more season, and local talk shows will have about half of their air time permanently spoken for. Now I'm not here to pick sides, although I am here to say that the Browns should have chosen one quarterback and traded the other.
Keeping Anderson and Quinn on the same roster risks a great divide amongst the players, coaching staff, front office, and fan base. But just as important, having two good quarterbacks is a luxury that the Browns cannot afford, and simply don't need. According to Football Outsiders' adjusted sack percentage, the Browns were the fifth best team in the NFL at protecting the quarterback in 2007. Good teams with good offensive lines need not worry about serious quarterback injuries. Heck, the Jim Sorgis and Matt Cassels of the world can attest to that.
But most importantly, by getting conservative and keeping both quarterbacks, the Browns missed a golden opportunity to fill a need. Having a first-rate reserve passer is fine if a team has no other needs to fill, but the Browns could have used another linebacker, and they definitely could have acquired another cornerback.
And then there's the small fact that Brady Quinn, confident fellow that he is, aims to win the starting job this season, with or without Anderson in his way. If 2007's botched quarterback derby taught us anything about Derek Anderson, it's that this cat does not respond well to competition.
With that in mind, what happens if Brady Quinn lights things up in training camp and during the exhibition games? How will Anderson respond? Taking things one step further, what happens if Anderson cracks under the pressure? Will the Browns make a quarterback switch? Will the fans revolt? Will the locker room be split between Derek's guys and Brady's guys? It's easy to see how things could get really ugly, really fast.
Don't get me wrong, it'd be great if Derek Anderson totally matured in his second year as a starter. It would be great if Anderson suddenly was supremely confident, could read defenses like a book, developed a feathery touch pass, and stopped forcing the ball into triple coverage. It would be great if Eva Longoria decided to crash at my place tonight. As great as it would be for Derek Anderson and the Browns to ride off into the sunset together, the smart money says that the determined Quinn and the incumbent Anderson will provide some serious drama in training camp which could last all season long, until the Browns end the competition by showing one of them the door.
(Akron Beacon Journal Photo/Paul Tople)