Thursday, April 30

Go jump in the bay

Announcer: Channel 4 news, with 5-time Emmy award-winner Ron Burgundy, and Tits McGee.
Veronica Corningstone: I'm Veronica Corningstone. Tits McGee is off tonight.
Ron Burgundy: I'm Tits...I'm Ron Burgundy

FCF's own Tits McGee, JHH, is in an undisclosed location, thus the onus to recap the Tribe's disappointing three-game set with the Boston Red Sox falls upon me. This actually works out well, because it fits into a broader theme that I wanted to write about: I hate Boston.

Not to go all Jeff Foxworthy on you, but if TNT shows an entire montage of you committing dirty fouls, and it's only the sixth game of the playoffs...you might be a dirty team. And no, that montage didn't include Ray Allen punching Anderson Varejao in the sack a few weeks ago. These guys are despicable. I can't even stand looking at them, especially Rajon Rondo, who is quickly becoming blatant Bruce Bowen dirty instead of sneaky John Stockton dirty. What does it take for this guy to get punished? He clobbers Brad Miller in the head from behind at the end of Game 5 in what he himself admitted was in no way an attempt to get the ball, then throws Kirk Hinrich to the ground by his arm in Game 6, and escapes with only a personal in the first game and a flagrant-1 in the second. Please. Bill Simmons, ESPN's astute columnist who unfortunately strays into Boston-apologist mode, offered some lame unwritten rule about calling fouls differently in the final 15 seconds of the game to somehow justify an obviously bad call. Chicago fans are booing Rondo every time he gets the ball, and I don't blame them. Turn your headband right-side-up, you dummy. Speaking of headbands, can't they get Brian Scalabrine a green one, or do we need yet another reminder that he's super-white?

As uncomfortable as I remain rooting for the Bulls, I'd love to see them send these thugs in green to an early off-season. If not, our club here in Cleveland will be more than happy to.

I'll get to baseball in a second, but I couldn't help but notice that both the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, my favorite NHL club, have reached the East semis. If Boston advances at Pittsburgh's expense, I might just snap. Boston sucks.

Which brings me back to baseball, and the Indians' exploits against yet another Massachusetts-based sporting organization that I loathe. The Tribe had a solid chance to win every game, but ended up falling in the first game and rubber match, dropping yet another series.

Game 1 was an intense pitcher's duel between Cliff Lee and Boston kunckleballer Tim Wakefield. Lee was of the 2008 vintage tonight, keeping the Red Socks off the scoreboard for 8 innings, allowing just 5 hits and no walks. He was super-sharp. Unfortunately, Wakefield's knuckler was brutal on the Indians' bats, as they mustered only a first-inning single from Victor Martinez in 7 innings. Walks and wild pitches gave them a few scoring oportunities, but nothing materialized, so the game headed to the 9th scoreless. The Red Socks got two baserunners on against Kerry Wood via a walk and cheap hit, and Jason Bay essentially ended the game with a titanic three-run blast. The Indians showed some life, getting an RBI single from Mark DeRosa and putting the tying run on, but Boston's unspeakably offensive idiot of a ninth-inning pitcher eventually closed the door on a 3-1 Boston win.


Game 2 took a decidedly different tone, as the score sat at 7-7 after just three innings. Indians starter Anthony Reyes had absolutely nothing, giving up all 7 runs earned in just two innings of work. Brad Penny was victimized by bad defense in his 2 2/3 innings of work (only 4 of the 7 runs he allowed were earned), as well as a home run off of the left-field foul pole by Ben Francisco.

Both bullpens were stout, each allowing a lone 7th-inning run over innings 3-8. Boston collected theirs via a Julio Lugo RBI single, the Tribe on a Mark DeRosa solo shot. Then, in the 9th, the Indians finally caught some breaks. Boston's half ended on a line drive to second base that easily could have found outfield grass, and the Indians' 9th appeared destined for scorelessness until, with two outs, Boston pitcher Jose Lopez dropped an easy flip from 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis, allowing DeRosa to scamper home with the winning run, as Cleveland triumphed 9-8.

DeRosa was the hitting star in this game; soon after being dropped to the eight spot in the lineup, he showed why he used to be second, collecting four hits, scoring four times, and notching seven total bases. Asdrubal Cabrera and Francisco also had two hits, pacing the Indians' 13-hit attack.


Game 3 was right back to frustration, as they blew an early 5-0 lead and lost 6-5 in 10 innings. Have I mentioned, at any point in this or any other article, how much I despise Boston's sports teams? How about Papelbon? OK, good. The Tribe built their lead on home runs by DeRosa and Kelly Shoppach, the latter of the two-run variety (and both contributing to the FCF fantasy bottom line). Victor Martinez, of all people, contributed the Indians' first triple of the season (the last MLB club to hit one); Asdrubal Cabrera boosted his average to .329 with another pair of hits, and Francisco kept heating up with a hit, three walks, and a stolen base. Fausto Carmona pitched very well, allowing just 2 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Sadly, a DeRosa error in the 8th that led to two unearned Red Sock runs proved to be the Tribe's undoing. Man, every little thing we do wrong this year seems to kill us. The Indians had good chances to tie the game in the 8th (bases loaded) and 10th (Francisco on 2nd via walk and steal); a slumping Grady Sizemore was retired to end both threats, and my dislike of Papelbon somehow went up another notch.

So, good and bad from the series. The good is, obviously, the solid pitching performances from our top two starters and proof that we can compete with the league's best clubs. The bad is, equally obviously, that two losses in three games still sucks. Oh, and bonus good: the FCF team clawed their way up from 10th to 7th place in the Cleveland Sports Blog League.


The weekend sees our Tribe pack their bags for a trip to Detroit, Toronto, and...don't make me type this...Boston. The latter two are quick two-game sets. Here are the pitching matchups as the last-place (8-14) Tribe tries to gain some ground on the 11-10 Tigers:

Friday: Carl Pavano, R (0-3, 9.50) vs Armando Galarraga, R (3-0, 1.85)
Saturday: Aaron Laffey, L (2-0, 2.41) vs Zach Miner, R (2-1, 6.00)
Sunday: Cliff Lee, L (1-3, 3.94) vs Justin Verlander, R (1-2, 6.75)

Go Tribe!

Meanwhile, the Cavs continue to relax

Since the Cavs are in idle right now, waiting for the conclusion of the Atlanta-Miami series to produce their next victim, the media coverage of the Cavs has focused on the admittedly mundane topics of how they're spending their off-time and trying to stay sharp. Right after the sweep of the Pistons, there was some discussion about whether the Cavs getting "rusty" was worth the extra rest they have earned.

Please. It's so, so, so worth it. These guys have played 86 games now, and NBA games are rough. Playoff games in particular - watch these guys beat each other up and then ask yourself if Cleveland's players, weary from a long season, would be better served by playing three more bruising games, or by letting their bumps and bruises heal and shooting a few J's each day to keep their shots on point. Ask Boston's veterans how much they're enjoying Chicago taking them to overtime every night. I thought so.

I predicted Atlanta-Miami to go seven games, and with the Hawks now up 3-2 and preparing for a Game Six at Miami, we're certainly on pace for such a finish. Of course, if Dwayne Wade's back continues to trouble him, the Heat might just be bounced after six, which would see the Cavs open the second round Sunday, seven days after closing out the Pistons.

Now, it appears Miami has some extra "motivation" to stretch this to seven. ESPN's Daily Dime reports that:

The Hawks' [Josh] Smith may have provided some added motivation for the Heat by trying (and missing) a between-the-legs dunk on a fourth-quarter breakaway. Wade said his team was "very insulted" by it.

"They turned it into a pickup game, really trying to embarrass us at the end," [Erik] Spoelstra said. "[But] they pretty much pounded us in every way you can. They scored 12 straight baskets in the second quarter, so we can say what we want, but they did a number on us."

"I spoke to [Smith], and we'll keep it in-house" said Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who has had many such discussions with the mercurial forward over the past five seasons.


Oh, really, Dwayne, you were "very insulted" by it? Get over yourself. You know when teams don't do things like that? When they're not up 20, that's when. You don't want the other team trying circus dunks on the fast break, then play better. I personally found it rather amusing, and I imagine so did anyone not wearing a Heat uniform or under 90 years of age. Of course, NBA players like to get on their high horse about stuff like this and play the "disrespect" card liberally. The first part of Coach Kumar's comment doesn't make much sense - how does "turning it into a pickup game" constitute an effort to embarrass you?

I still wonder how much motivation this actually provides. These guys are serious competitors and want to win very badly no matter what - I really doubt they go out there thinking about Smith's dunk, and even if they did, I fail to see how this improves their basketball skill. Of course, as a Cavs fan, I hope the Heat do force a Game Seven and prolong the Cavs' fun little vacation another day.

Wednesday, April 29

Finally, the Baseball Gods smile upon us



(Plain Dealer Photo/Chuck Crow)

Monday, April 27

Pulling out my hair

This Indians season, thus far, is beyond frustrating. I don't even know what to say about it. Nothing's working. No facet of the team is performing. Any time two of the three aspects of the club show up, the other loses the game. We haven't gotten one single fucking break all year long. Mark DeRosa, Jhonny Peralta, Cliff Lee, and Fausto Carmona are destroying the FCF fantasy team. Everything bounces the other way. CV Bucknor makes us get Mike Lowell out three times to record one out. Nothing drops for us. Everything drops for them. We're routinely called out on strikes on balls a foot outside of the zone. This is killing me. I can't even enjoy the Cavs. I'm glad I didn't see any red sox fans wandering around my neighborhood tonight tonight because I'd want to punch every single one of them in their smug fucking faces. It's 95 goddamn degrees in late April. I want to hit something. I hate baseball.

Can we get a real opponent?

Well, that was easy.

The Cavaliers emphatically put an end to the Detroit Pistons' 2008-09 campaign, as well as their run of six straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, by earning a 4-0 series sweep with a 99-78 win on Sunday. The Cavs won every game in this series by double-digits, a feat achieved only once previously in NBA history. The Pistons were a clearly overmatched team, but give the Cavaliers credit for taking care of business and getting the series over with quickly. The Wine and Gold now enjoy up to a week's worth of rest before tackling the winner of the Atlanta-Miami series, currently led 2-1 by the Heat.

There's not much I can say to make Game 4 seem even vaguely interesting, especially in light of the fine game played by Orlando and Philadelphia later in the day and the double-overtime instant-classic between the Bulls and Celtics that preceded it. Hell, I took a nap during the entire fourth quarter. Let's have a few game notes anyway:

- LeBron finished off a historically good series (though one that will be overlooked because of the non-competitive nature of the games) with a 36/13/8 line (including 16/17 at the line and a +10, lowest among Cav starters), close to his series average of greater than 30/10/7. This guy is ridiculous.

- The guards showed up this time; after miserable Game 3s, West and Williams combined for 36 points on 14-24 shooting, 9 assists and a +55 rating.

- Boobie Gibson was the only Cav in the minus column, at -6.

- The game featured more excellent Cavalier defense, holding the Pistons to a low percentage (39.7% including 1-10 on threes) and outrebounding them 41-30. All series the Cavaliers denied the paint area to the Pistons, whose big men were total nonfactors, limiting Detroit to low-percentage shots and keeping them off the foul line. The Pistons went 48-58 from the line in this series. LeBron by himself was 47-59.

- I can't believe they made Michael Curry do an interview late in Game 4. Leave the poor guy alone! The sideline chick asked him something dumb like "how much of what you said to the guys was emotional and how much was tactical?" What's he going to do, break it down into percentages? He rightly ignored the question and gave some stock answer about playing hard, but wow they should never have had that conversation.

- Lots of big minuses on the Piston ledger, including Wallace (-14), Stuckey (-17), Hamilton (-19), and Maxiell (-20). No surprises there. Are you bored yet?


So, we move to the second round, as expected, but not until the close of the Hawks-Heat series. Neither poses a legitimate threat to Cleveland, so let's hope it goes the full seven games so the winner is worn out when they come to visit the Q. Go Cavs!

Sunday, April 26

Oh the Tribe played some games too

Maybe you were glued to Mel Kiper's hair this weekend and forgot that the Indians play in Cleveland and have uniforms and everything. Yeah, while the Browns were busy not drafting a linebacker, kinda, the Indians were busy trying to free up their October months.

Before this series started, you knew the Twins would be a tough team to beat. The Twins might just be what the Indians continually try to be, a team built around pitching and young hitters signed through their arbitration years. Owning the other members of the AL Central has been a key to a winning season for the Tribe in years past.

Friday's game had a lot of blame to go around. Fausto Carmona went six innings but gave up six runs, five earned, on eight hits. The pitching highlight was two hitless innings pitched by Vinnie Chulk. Offensively things were just as depressing. The Tribe were one for five with runners in scoring position with one run batted in, with Grady Sizemore winning the door prize for this game's singular RBI. Twins starter Nick Blackburn scattered six hits over seven innings, but more importantly he he didn't allow a single walk. Oh please don't let these kind of performances continue into May. Tribe (6-11) lose 5-1.

Saturday's game was supposedly attended by FCF editors Andy and Nick. I imagine they spent most of the three hours of the game discussing the Browns multiple trades to take a center as their first round pick, because there was very little about the game that was probably interesting otherwise. Pavano had another one of those outings going five while no so much scattering 11 hits, earning himself five runs. Kobayashi's ninth-inning appearance led to the other two Minnesota runs. Others making pitching appearances were Perez in a scoreless sixth and Smith showing up for the seventh and eight and only allowing a hit. Both efforts went a ways towards lowering their respective ERA's. On the other side of the ball this game's "I hit the only Tribe RBI" goes to Kelly Shoppach. The Tribe were a miserable two for twelve with runners in scoring position. You may have heard Wedge was mad after this game.

“What bothers me more than anything is we're not making good outs. Outside of a couple of guys, our approach has been very poor. It's something we pride ourselves on and work hard at it. There's just no excuse. Whatever the hell it is, we better figure out it pretty damn quick because I'm not going to sit around and watch what we've been watching. We're beyond all this. They aren't kids anymore.”

Yeah losing the first two games of this series is a real kick in the teeth. Tribe (6-12) lose 7-1.

Sunday's game saw our most consistent pitcher on the mound in Aaron Laffey. Yeah, I know he only made two previous starts, but nevertheless. I can't say this was a must-win in April, but being swept at home by a division rival is not a good sign. Luckily for the Tribe, Laffey did his best to throw to contact and worked six and a third innings whlie allowing only two runs, our best outing by a pitcher this series. The real story this day was Tony Sipp. Jensen Lewis replaced Laffey and didn't record an out, allowing a hit and a walk. In comes Mr. Sipp. Maybe Sipp is our bullpen savior, or maybe the fact the Twins have never faced him helped, but Sipp recorded two strikeouts to end the seventh with the bases loaded. Talk about a performance. Sipp was called up last series but I neglected to mention it since we won that series and all. Today however Sipp was the difference getting the coveted highest WPA at .235. Offensively, the Indians were kind of able to do a little against Twins starter Perkins. Shin-Soo Choo continues to perform as best we could hope, with Cabrera and Garko also making big contributions. Wood gets a save against a team not the Kansas City Royals, as the Tribe (7-12) win 2-4.

The starters haven't exactly been pleasing to watch. The offense sputtered over these last few games. The bullpen is anyone's guess. Few things about the Indians right now make you think this will all be alright in the near future. Sure, Pavano is giving us a few innings but is it worth it? Why do I have to see Graffanino in the lineup so often? Can Tony Sipp and Laffey pitch every game? A topic around the internet these last few days is with LaPorta cruising in AAA why not bring him up? Of course let us not forget Dellucci lurks in Columbus as well, oh the humanity. The good news, if you're still clinging to such notions, is that the Tribe is only 3.5 games back in the AL Central.

Game 1: Tim Wakefield, RHP (2-1, 2.45) vs. Cliff Lee, LHP (1-3, 5.25)
Game 2: Brad Penny, RHP (2-0, 7.80) vs. Anthony Reyes, RHP (1-0, 4.76)
Game 3: To be announced vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (1-3, 7.36)

Wakefield has pitched two straight complete games - the last was a rain-shortened seven-inning affair, but still complete none the less. Penny has never made a start against the Tribe. What is it with these teams not being able to announce three straight pitchers? The interesting thing being that I kind of like TBA over Fausto right now.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Saturday, April 25

Handicapping the Quarterback Derby

The time until the NFL draft is now being measured in hours and minutes, and as we close in on one of the NFL's signature events, the crystal ball which contains the Browns' first pick is no less foggy. A combination of misdirection from inside Berea, and a very legitimate uncertainty as to how the dominoes will fall before the Browns go on the clock leaves us with a veritable smorgasbord of possibilities. Crabtree, Orakpo, Sanchez, Curry, Jackson, Raji, Monroe, Oher, either Smith; it wouldn't be a shock to hear any of their names called at number five.

Of that list, and within the context of the draft itself, Sanchez's name may be that most fascinating. During the last few weeks, the talented, charismatic, and extremely green signal-caller from SoCal has been one of the hottest and most volatile properties in this draft.

Supposedly Eric Mangini spent four hours breaking down film with Sanchez, which cannot be taken lightly. Then again, the Mangini/Kokinis duo has made misinforming the press into an art form this spring. If the Browns didn't already have two quarterbacks on their roster in which they've invested substantial time, treasure (Anderson), and draft choices (Quinn), you'd have to believe their interest in Sanchez was genuine. Then again, the new regime didn't pick either of the incumbents.

But given the general weakness of the balance of the roster, and the fact that investing a high first round choice and boatloads of guaranteed cash in Sanchez might not do much to change their current predicament, one can't help but wonder if the Browns are simply trying to grease the wheels for a trade. Let's take a closer look at the two quarterbacks on the Browns' roster at present, the passer they're supposedly flirting with, and try to determine what the Cleveland brass is actually thinking.

Brady Quinn
We'll start with the golden boy; Quinn, the (relatively) hometown hero with soap opera good looks, who lit up the scoreboard for one of college football's most-storied programs. There were murmurs about Quinn's accuracy coming out of Notre Dame, and whispers about his arm strength. His arm strength isn't an issue, but it was made into one because the two quarterbacks he's been measured against most often, JaMarcus Russell and Derek Anderson, have two of the strongest arms in the game.

In spite of the Browns investing a first round pick and a high second round pick in Quinn, he's never been given the keys to the offense for an entire season. Most highly-touted prospects get at least a season (usually two, three, or four) where they're unequivocally "the guy," but Quinn hasn't had that privelege. Instead, Quinn's only real shot came when Romeo Crennel made a "quarterback change" (fancy way of saying he was forced by Phil Savage and/or Randy Lerner) when the Browns had been all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

At least partially due to his contract hold out in the summer of 2007, Romeo Crennel banished Quinn to the bench, and BQ was never given a fair shot at the starting job in training camp. It's likely that the situation frustrated Quinn, who easily could have marched into Cleveland with Tim Couch's sense of entitlement. In spite of the vexing circumstances, Quinn never voiced one iota of irritation. Thus far, Quinn's only response has been to hit the weights, the books, and the film room even harder, and for that he should be commended.

Quinn's contract is very club-friendly, and its incentive-based nature has made it even more so, as Quinn has barely seen the field in his first two seasons. In the 2006 draft class, Quinn universally hailed by draft pundits as either the number one or number two quarterback on the board. You don't just get rid of those guys without at least getting a glimpse of what they can do. To have a player like that, with a contract that has virtually no risk in the event that he fails, and to never give him a fighting chance to be your franchise quarterback is not simply foolish, it's downright certifiable.

If I'm Eric Mangini, I'm giving Brady Quinn this season. If he shows me enough to prove that he's my guy, that's great. If he flops, I can cut him lose with very few repercussions and draft a quarterback next season. This season is going to be lost to player development anyway, so why not use it to give Quinn an honest evaluation?
Chance to be the '09 starter: 75%


Derek Anderson
Just think: had Phil Savage dealt DA for draft picks when he had the chance, he might still have a job right now. Following his sixteenth-alternate-twice-removed "Pro Bowl" season in 2007 (so many guys opt out of Hawaii, the "Pro Bowler" label is pretty worthless), Anderson was one of several reasons for the colossal disappointment of last year's team. Derek Anderson isn't your quarterback of the future. At this point, we know who Anderson is. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the lack of a trade so far, it appears that the rest of the league does, too.

Let's assume that the Browns are trying to trade Anderson, and given the Jedi mind tricks they've been trying to pull on opposing front offices when talking about Anderson in the press (the starting job is an open competition...these aren't the droids you're looking for...), there's no reason to think that isn't the case. The fact that they haven't gotten a deal done has to make you think that the market for Anderson is so low (a fifth or sixth round pick, maybe?) that Mangini figures it's more valuable to simply keep the somewhat-estranged quarterback.

It shouldn't be total surprise that the market for Anderson is practically non-existent. For all his numbers in '07, Anderson struggled in the last few games of his "Pro Bowl" year, and that carried into 2008. Anderson was exposed as inconsistent, inaccurate, and mentally weak. Derek Anderson is a good backup, and maybe even a stopgap starter, but a potential franchise quarterback he is not.

Add in the fact that DA's price tag is about $8 million per year, most of which is built into guarantees, and you've got an overpriced backup that won't command much of a return. Unfortunately, because so much of that money is guaranteed (and trading him would also accelerate his bonuses), cutting Derek Anderson only saves the Browns about $600,000 this season. Considering that Anderson is an asset who still has value, albeit depleted, it seems unlikely that Eric Mangini will cut bait with DA. From Mangini's perspective, retaining Anderson if a favorable trade doesn't materialize probably makes sense.

Look at it from Mangini's point of view. If Brady Quinn fails or is injured, you've got a guy who can step in and play. If Anderson stinks up the joint for the rest of the year, you can cut him when the season's over, and you've only spent $600,000 more than if you'd traded or cut him earlier. If Anderson knocks your socks off, however unlikely, you've found your starter. And if Anderson plays decent football, maybe you increase his value for a possible trade next season.

It looks more and more likely that we're stuck with Anderson, in some capacity, for one more season. The only good news is that he'll probably be wearing a baseball cap most of the time. The only scenarios in which Anderson starts for the Browns this year are if Brady Quinn is injured, or if the Browns draft Mark Sanchez and feel that he isn't ready to start.
Chance to be the '09 starter: 20%


Mark Sanchez

Ever since it's come out that Eric Mangini was left disenchanted with Michael Crabtree following their recent meeting, there has been a ton of buzz surrounding the Browns and USC's Mark Sanchez. It seems unlikely that the Browns' interest in the junior quarterback is real.

Sanchez is far less proven at the college level than Quinn. Quinn started 46 games in college, whereas Sanchez only started 16. While Sanchez was impressive in his season as the starter, quarterbacks with more college starts tend to have a higher rate of success in the pros, as do passers who stay for their senior years, like Quinn did. Although underclassmen have only been able to enter draft for about 20 years, it's worth noting that Ben Roethlisberger is the only quarterback to enter the draft as a junior and win the Super Bowl with the team that drafted him.

Choosing Sanchez would also be very costly. Not only would it require the investment of another premium draft choice in a quarterback, but it would mean that the Browns would be throwing somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-30 million in guaranteed money at Marky Mark. By comparison, JaMarcus Russell received $31.5 million guaranteed in 2007 (number one pick), and Matt Ryan cashed in for $34.75 million guaranteed after last year's draft (number three pick). The Lions just inked Matthew Stafford for $41.7 million guaranteed. Considering the high failure rate of first round quarterbacks, regardless of college pedigree, that's a very risky investment.

No, it's more likely that the Browns are creating another elaborate facade, from which they hope to reap some sort of benefit. Mark Sanchez is a hot commodity right now, and it's not an exaggeration to say that as many as three teams (Broncos, Jets, Redskins) could make a serious play to trade up for the young gun. Eric Mangini is nobody's fool, and he must realize that Sanchez presents the most likely scenario for the Browns to trade down and accumulate more draft picks, which is probably Mangini's preference.

While it may have been genuine, it seemed a little suspicious that the Browns would trash Michael Crabtree so publicly after their meeting with him. Mangini played his hand well, but it might just be more deception. If other team's think the Browns have soured on Crabtree, they'll probably think that it's even more likely that the Browns are seriousy considering Sanchez. If a team like Dan Snyder's Redskins, for example, is as infatuated with Sanchez as we've been led to believe, they might blink, deal some extra draft picks to the Browns, and not risk calling the Browns' bluff.

In my book, the trade down is the ideal draft day scenario, although it's also unlikely. Teams just don't want to pay the price to trade into the top five, and have to pay the top five contract, as well. However unlikely, if a trade down did materialize the Browns would save some money, they could select a player of similar quality to those available at number five (Maualuga, Wells, Jenkins, Oher, etc.), and they'd add at least one more valuable draft pick.

Things could get very interesting if Sanchez is on the board at number five and nobody bites on a trade offer. If I'm Eric Mangini, I take Sanchez anyway, and force other teams to let me trade down, not unlike what the Chargers did a few years back with Eli Manning. Between the Broncos, Jets, and Redskins, one team will probably bite. And even if you get less than fair value per the "draft trade value chart," who cares? You still save the money and get a player of comparable ability.

The bottom line is that there's a very slim chance that Sanchez is actually part of Eric Mangini's plan for rebuilding the Browns, unless it's as a bargaining chip. Regardless of who's under center, the Browns will probably struggle this season, and next year offers a much better quarterback class including names like Texas' Colt McCoy and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford. The Browns would likely be in a position to make a play for one of the top passers in next year's draft.

Even if the Browns decide to go with Sanchez and trade Quinn, Sanchez would likely sit for a season behind Derek Anderson.
Chance to be the '09 starter: 5%

Nobody really knows what Eric Mangini and George Kokinis are thinking. Their goal has been to keep the media, fans, and most importantly, other organizations, totally in the dark. They've succeeded. The good news is that when the dust settles from the first two rounds of the draft this evening, we'll know the dynamic duo's plans for the quarterback position. Let's hope they've put as much thought into the decision itself as they obviously have into their propaganda campaign.

Friday, April 24

Big games tonight

I've got a race tomorrow so I'm not going out tonight. Live-blog both the Cavs and Tribe games? Sure, why not.

6:55: Tribe
Rick Manning keeps saying how the Indians' objective should be to win 2 out of 3 and move on to the next series. I hate to split hairs, but shouldn't they maybe try to win all three games? Wouldn't that be, like, one game better? Winning a series is an admirable goal, but let's dare to dream big.

7:00
My goodness it's hot outside. Did I miss Spring? How long have I been asleep? Since it's clearly July, did the Cavs win the NBA yet? Has Rafael Perez recorded an out?

7:05: Cavs
Austin Carr absolutely could not look happier to be alive and watching Cavalier basketball. I know about 60% of the FCF articles (at least those by Nick and I) praise AC, but the amount by which he increases my enjoyment of watching basketball is considerable.

7:10: Cavs
It's game time for Los Caballeros. Let's sweep these turkeys. They were barely .500 at home for the season - let's drop that down a little bit during the final two games the Palace will see in '09.

7:13: Tribe
Carmona is making a spot start for the FCF fantasy team tonight, so we've got quite a bit invested in Mr. Fausto's performance this evening.

7:15
1-0 Twins, 8-0 Pistons. Cabrera might be hurt. Ugh.
Hey, at least Fausto didn't walk anyone. Wedge should make him do push-ups every time he walks a guy, like how Lou Brown made Willie Mays Hayes give him 20 for every pop-up. For that matter, the more Eric Wedge does like Lou Brown, the better.

7:24: Cavs
After roughly the 93rd foul committed on LeBron, one is actually called, and everyone boos, including Rasheed Wallace.

7:129: Tribe
News flash: Victor Martinez is good at batting. Getting back to the FCF fantasy team: Mark DeRosa and Jhonny Peralta are serious deadweight on our climb out of the Cleveland Sports Blog Sports League cellar. We're getting nothing out of these guys.

7:31
Gibson hits one "Deep...in the Palace." AC is like the Cavs and their fans now - playing it cool, handling business, expecting to win. Save the excitement for late, if necessary.

7:35: Cavs
Cavs and Pistons tied up at 18 after a quarter in which the Caballeros committed approximately 34 turnovers. I hope the Pistons enjoyed that lead they had. Unrelated to this game: wow, did the Bulls ever play horribly last night. Wow, after such strong efforts in Boston, coming home to a raucous Chicago crowd, and just giving nothing. I was stunned.


7:47: Tribe
Give me 20, Fausto.


7:50: Tribe
Or 3 outs in 3 pitches, either way.


7:53
A sweet 3-point play by Varejao gives the Cavs their first lead of the night at 30-29; solid work without LeBron on the floor. The Indians, for their part, continue to follow yesterday's approach of making outs a quickly as possible in the early innings of the game.

7:55: Tribe
Everything I write is quickly disproven tonight: the Indians almost instantly collect their first run via a Cabrera double and Sizemore RBI single...and DeRosa takes offense to my criticism of his fantasy performance with a base hit. Underwood now claims that 13 of Sizemore's RBIs on the year are in his last 11 games. So? How is that a stat of any value?

8:01: Cavs
'Sheed collects a pointless technical a couple minutes after going to the bench. Classy guy. In related news, we're suddenly up nine, 40-31, meaning we've ripped off a 40-23 run since the 8-0 Piston start.

8:05: Cavs
Get that weak stuff outta here! Nice work, Z. More importantly, Varejao is superb at the show on the pick and roll. No matter what route the Piston guard takes, he runs into a Brazilian Brick Wall.

8:07: Tribe
Maybe 20 isn't a fearsome enough punishment. 50? 100? Throw strikes, Fausto.

8:11: Cavs
Z's fast break is easily the best moment of the game so far. That was magnificent. That was nothing less than the basketball equivalent of a Shaun-Rogers-style defensive lineman chugging the other way with an interception. Z's last-second attempt came a fraction of a second too late, but the Cavs still will take a solid seven-point advantage into the locker room.

8:14: Tribe
Meanwhile, Carmona continues to torch the Tribe game as well as the FCF fantasy club, though DeRosa's throwing error directly caused one of the Twins' two runs in the frame.

8:29
If I was drinking tonight, I definitely would have stepped it up over those last 15 minutes.

8:33: Cavs
Technical difficulties have pushed me over to ESPN for my coverage of the second half. Sure, I'm losing AC, but the picture is clearer and we've got Hubie Brown, who I think is more knowledgable about basketball than anyone else. If Hubie told me that two-point baskets were more valuable than three-pointers, I'd believe him.

8:37: Cavs
Maybe I'm exercising selective memory, but when I was a younger basketball fan, I don't remember quite so many of these fouls where defenders make no play on the ball whatsoever, instead just grabbing the offensive player and sort-of throwing them down, as if they were a hammer.

8:41
Cavs only up by one now, probably because we haven't made a shot in like an hour, we have all of two points from the West/Williams backcourt, and we're gunning for the league turnover record. The Tribe continues to be a buzzkill, trailing 3-1 and looking hopeless at the plate.

8:49
8:30 into the 3rd and the Cavs have scored...wait for it...two points. A wild Mo Williams J doubles the Cavs' total for the quarter, but we're still down one. Kwame Brown's dumb-play execution remains superb. The Indians, over on STO, are continuing their out-making clinic.

9:05
Another cheap run for the Twinkies and the Cavs are tied after 3 quarters. I'm getting a bit salty here. I really don't like these teams

9:10
Cavs back up 5, some degree of order restored to the universe. Tribe, meanwhile, digging themselves a deeper hole, now down 5-1. There's really nothing they've done well tonight - so-so pitching, awful defense, lousy hitting. I've admired the Indians clubs in recent years for playing hard and being competitive even in defeat, but this year's edition is extra-uninspiring. Um...go Cavs.

9:14: Cavs
Wow, Joe Smith is bringing it tonight for the Cavaliers. On a night where they don't have the same swagger they showed in the two easy home wins, Smith is giving them a spark with defense and rebounding and is raining jumpers on the Pistons. It almost excuses him naming his rap alter ego "Joe Beast." Before long, I'm sure LeBron will contribute his own outburst and we'll be in business.

9:17: Cavs
I can't think of one nice thing to say about Detroit coach Michael Curry's suit. Let's move along.

9:19: Cavs
Up 69-60 with 6 minutes left. Looking solid. LeBron has put up a 20/10/7 rather quietly. If a guard can make an actual shot, we're looking at a triple-double.

9:23: Tribe
Unrelated to the Indians' continued struggles, I decide to go for a beer. My screwed-up knee will decide how I do tomorrow, not whether I do a little alternative carb loading.

9:23: Cavs
AND THEN YOU LET KING JAMES THROW THE HAMMER DOWN IN THE PALACE!
We're up 13, this is over. Don't even play Game 4. I wonder how Philly-Orlando is coming along?

9:27: Cavs
Z for 3! One of the Cavs' special moments caps off a 13-0 Cleveland run as Ilgauskas drops one from deep in the corner and AC goes nuts. I have officially erased my memory of any baseball I may have seen this evening.

9:36: Cavs
79-68. Now that's some defense. A few postgame numbers of note:

- 25/11/9 for LeBron to go along with a +13
- 38% shooting for the Pistons
- Cavs attempt 30 foul shots to just 12 for Detroit
- 19/10 for Joe Beast and a +12. Give him your player of the game award (LeBron already has a bunch)
- 'Sheed: 5 points, 7 boards, -10. No effort.
- Cavaliers 4-22 on three-pointers. That's terrible. Bron, Mo, and Red combined 0-14 from beyond the arc.
- Boobie with 9 points and a game-high +17 rating.
- Detroit is toast.

9:54: Tribe
Joe Nathan and the Twins formally euthanize the Indians for the evening. Better luck to the Tribe tomorrow, with Nick and Andy representing FCF in the Progressive Field bleachers!

Thursday, April 23

Now that's the Royals I remember

Yes, I'm going to ruin the ending for you, but the Tribe took their first series win of 2009. The Royals came into this series with a 7-5 record and are leaving with a 8-7 mark. Overall, there wasn't too much to get excited about, but winning a series is a step in the right direction and we've seen a few of those this last week, so let's hope a little warmer weather helps the Tribe out this weekend.

Tuesday's game one of the series was the scene of an offensive outburst (outburst) by the Tribe in in the bottom of the fourth, with the Indians posting a four-spot on KC pitcher Sidney "I've never won a game against Cleveland" Ponson. Those four runs that inning put the Tribe up 1-6, at which time I wandered away from the radio (computer, really). However, the bullpen did their best to try to spoil Aaron Laffey's seven innings of one-run ball. Laffey did allow seven hits and three walks, but he got like 15 double plays. If you've ever heard of a someone pitching out a of a jam, well that's what Laffey was doing all night, seeing as how you have to have someone on base with one or fewer (zero I guess) outs for a double play and all. Anyway, back to the bullpen's attempt to make this game more exciting. Joe Smith worked 0.0 innings and allowed three earned runs, while Kobayashi logged 0.0 innings and yielded one earned run. So somehow I make it back to the game and it's a one-run affair, which took me time to comprehend. No worries - that catcher of ours is a good hitter and hits a two run home run and this thing is back to being a three-run game in the ninth. The good news is Kerry Wood picked up the save, the bad news is he gave up a two run home run. Either way, the Indians take game one with Peralta, Sizemore (3), and Martinez (2) accounting for all the Indians RBI. Tribe (5-9) win 7-8.

Cliff Lee started the second game of the series and while he went a team season-high eight innings he got no run support. No really, we were shut out. The freshly called-up Royals pitching prospect that is Brian Bannister shut the Indians down, going six innings and allowing only four hits. Journeymen Jamey Wright, he of the eight innings pitched and zero ERA, continued the scoreless parade by keeping the Tribe hitless for two innings. Finally, KC closer Joakim Soria finished us off (and not in a sexual way either) in the ninth. Lee pitched well enough to only allow two runs on nine hits, but not a good game for the Indians. Tribe (5-10) lose 2-0.

Today's rubber match saw the Indians up early, the Royals tie then advance by a run, only for the Indians to comeback and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Anthony Reyes took the mound for his third start - talk about another Indians pitcher getting out of a few tough situations. At one point Reyes had the bases loaded with no one out. The first out came as a shallow fly ball to Crowe in right who made a good throw and the runner didn't even try to score. The second out was a big strike out and the third was a fly out to Ben Francisco in right. Reyes went six and surrendered two runs on four hits. Jensen Lewis came in and pitched two scoreless innings, which allowed the Indians to come back from a 2-1 deficit. Gil Meche pitched well through seven, but then put a few guys on and the Royals went to the pen, at which point Grady hit his sixth home run of the year and collected RBI's 15, 16, and 17. I wonder if teams will at some point stop throwing to our leadoff man? Kerry Wood gets his third save, which I hear are all against the Royals. Tribe (6-10) win 2-5.

I don't want to get into the "Grady shouldn't be leading off" argument, but something has to be said about a leadoff hitter tied for fourth in the majors in RBI. That thing to be said is our 7th, 8th, and 9th hitters have been getting on base. Asdrubal, our guy in the nine hole, has a .431 OBP so I'm happy with that. In other Indians offensive highlights, Victor is hitting .394 and a 1.120 OPS. Speaking of our captain Castrovince had this little insight:

Hitting coach Derek Shelton said he took issue with the way Victor Martinez was criticized for a lack of power in the first half last season. "We knew he was hurt, and he knew he was hurt, but he didn't say anything," Shelton said. So the rest of us didn't know, which is why Martinez's power drought came up in so much conversation.

Seriously, if I don't know the whole story because you're not telling it to me then I can't be criticized for being well, critical. Unfortunately situations like this just spawn the "maybe he's hurt and we don't know it" conversation every time an Indians player is underperforming. What was served by not telling anyone?

The good news is the Indians won a series. We're still 5-5 over the last 10, so don't get too excited. A good series against the Twins this weekend would go a long way to getting some real confidence back in this team. A sobering fact is that a sweep of the Twins does not yet get us to .500.

Game 1: Nick Blackburn, RHP (0-1, 5.71) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (1-2, 7.88)
Game 2: Kevin Slowey, RHP (2-0, 5.89) vs. Carl Pavano, RHP (0-2, 9.69)
Game 3: To be announced vs. Aaron Laffey, LHP (1-0, 2.19)

Let's play a game I like to call, Cleveland Indians best-case scenario. Game one is a no brainer: Carmona has a win Blackburn doesn't, Tribe win. Game two is counter-intuitive to my game one argument. Carl Pavano was lights-out last game and Slowey is a a funny last name, Tribe win again. I don't know who to be announced thinks he is but Laffey's got this one, Tribe sweep the Twins. For all you readers who are anywhere near Ohio right now Sunday's game is on everyone's favorite NBC affiliate WKYC Channel 3.

Go Tribe!
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Wednesday, April 22

I hope the Pistons enjoyed their visit to Cleveland...

Because they're not coming back to play any more games at the Q this season.

The Cavs took a 2-0 advantage in their opening-round matchup with Detroit via a solid 94-82 win last night at the Q. This was a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated - the Cavs had a commanding 77-50 lead after three quarters until the reserves let the Pistons cut it to just seven, before LeBron James and the rest of the starters re-entered the game to finish off the Pistons for good.

I was fortunate enough to attend both games 1 and 2 at the Q, and the crowd was every bit as loud and festive last night as it was for the opener. A special mention goes out the the hilarious guy behind me; every single time the Pistons fired up a shot, he yelled "You ain't no good!" and every single time it cracked me up. I also enjoyed his demands that the referees return to their homes in Detroit. That fellow deserves to see his club win a title this year. So do I, for that matter.

To be perfectly honest, I was never concerned with the outcome of this game. Cleveland scored the first basket of the game, at which point I jokingly pronounced it "over." They quickly extended that lead to 12-2; I made the same statement but kinda meant it at that point. Some people seemed nervous after Detroit's spirited 27-5 fourth-quarter run got them back in it, but I wasn't worried. A few accounts of the game make it seem like it might have been in jeopardy, but I don't see it that way. Nevertheless, NBA Coach of the Year (congrats!) Mike Brown made the right call by putting the starters back in. No point in taking any chances.

Reading the box score is fairly misleading because of how the fourth quarter played out with our bench brigade - I wish I had a through-three-quarters box. For the game, the Cavs outshot the Pistons 42.4% to 39.5%; Detroit's figure was probably even lower before they began pounding our reserves. The Cavaliers played excellent defense in this game - Detroit was absolutely not getting any good looks near the basket and everything outside was contested. This defensive effort underscores the key feature of the Cavaliers: even though LeBron's prodigious offensive skills draw the attention, it is the team defense played by him and the rest of the club that truly make them so good. They force teams to shoot a low percentage, they rebound the ball (a 43-34 advantage last night), and they win playoff games. It's that simple. Ask Hubie Brown if you don't believe me.

The Cavs' ability to get to the basket served them very well in this game, as they attempted 43 free throws to just 16 for the Pistons. You're not going to lose a lot of games at home with such a disparity.

I absolutely cannot believe that Asian lady at halftime riding the unicycle one-legged and kicking five cereal bowls onto her head at once with the other leg. I'm just at a loss for words.

Even with the fourth-quarter skewing, the +/- numbers are fascinating. The Pistons' starting five went an incredible combined -99, led by Richard Hamilton's unspeakably bad -30. Their bench squad put up a respectable +39, led by a +18 from the energetic Walter Herrmann and despite a -15 from Kwame Brown. The Cavs' numbers, not surprisingly, were the inverse of that: the starters clocked in at +74, led by LeBron's +21. The King put in 29 points on a minimalist 14 shots, adding 13 boards and 6 assists just for fun. The Cavalier bench registered a disappointing -14; at the risk of pointing fingers, so did Darnell Jackson.

It's fun watching the sun set on the career of Detroit's Mr. Personality, Rasheed Wallace. Eight points and four boards, no blocks, steals, or assists, in 26 invisible minutes for the artist formerly known as 'Sheed. He barely even yelled at any refs.

The pre-game betting line was Cavs -11.5; they won by 12. I'm sure some gamblers were sweating out that late Detroit charge.

Up Next: Friday night, Game three, Cavaliers at Pistons, 7:00
Wake me up when we get to the second round.

Monday, April 20

Settling for the split

I thought I'd pick up the slack for the in-transit JHH and write a few notes about the Indians' 7-3 "loss" to the Yankees yesterday, which gave the two teams a split for the four-game set and dropped the Tribe's mark to 4-9.

The most encouraging part of the game was the performance of Indians starter Carl Pavano, who allowed just one run in six innings and generally looked in command of the game throughout. The most exciting moment was Pavano's final pitch, the bases-loaded punchout of Nick Swisher to end the sixth. That left the score at 3-1, the Indians having taken a 3-0 lead earlier with the benefit of just three hits. Shin-Soo Choo got the Tribe on the board with a solo shot in the second, then walked and scored on Ryan Garko's two-run home run in the fourth. New York cracked the scoreboard on Mark Teixeira's RBI single in the bottom half of the inning.

Innings 5-9 weren't nearly as fun. For one, the Tribe failed to record a hit in frames 5-8, managing only Kelly Shoppach's single in the 9th the rest of the game. Not good. Worse yet was when Cleveland loaded the bases on three walks in their half of the 7th with one out, but were retired on consecutive weak choppers by Mark DeRosa and Victor Martinez. You can't let opportunities like that slip by.

After that, the bullpen once again failed the Tribe in spectacular fashion, 2008-style. Rafael Perez came on to face lefties Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui and quickly allowed a double and single to shrink the lead to 3-2 before being pulled. One might describe that as "ineffective." After Cody Ransom gave the Wahoos a free out courtesy of a botched sacrific bunt, Jorge Posada hit a drive deep to right field that would change the game. Indians right fielder Trevor Crowe went back to the fence and had his glove clearly interfered with by a fan. The ball ended up back on the field - nevertheless, the umpires initially called it a home run and subsequently used video replay to uphold the call, even though it was quite obviously the wrong one. The Yankees went ahead 4-3 with this pair of dirty runs. I'm surprised there's less local media outrage about just how wrong this call was - at least the Indians' TV crew expressed their strong disagreement. This was simply a wrong call that could easily have been made correctly that probably cost the Indians a game.

Eric Wedge was typically stoic about it, because if the umpires watched it over and over again in slow motion and ruled against you, what's there to say? I guess you could remind them that fans can't grab players' gloves in the field of play, but that rule appears not to apply in Yankee Stadium. Man do I ever hate the Yankees. We also get this enlightening quote from Yankee skipper Joe Girardi:

I thought it was a home run, I did. I know it was very close and a lot of times you could be wrong with the naked eye. I actually thought it was a home run.

Wow, I'm so glad to know that a totally biased observer with a terrible angle sitting hundreds of feet away thought it was a home run. I feel much better now.

The Yankees tacked on three more via a bases-clearing bloop double to provide the final margin of 7-3, raising Ransom's OPS on the year to all of .465. It looked like Choo gave up on the ball as he approached it - I'm still not certain what happened there - but it's not like the deflated Indians were going to touch Mariano Rivera for a run anyway.

Probably the most frustrating game of the young season. Hopefully we can come home and have some success against KC, Minny, and Boston. The Tribe is off Monday - here are the matchups for the three-game set with the first-place Royals starting Tuesday evening:

Game 1: Aaron Laffey, RHP (0-0, 3.38) vs. Sidney Ponson, RHP (0-1, 4.50)

Game 2: Cliff Lee, LHP (1-2, 6.75) vs. Horacio Ramirez, LHP (0-1, 11.12)

Game 3: Anthony Reyes, RHP (1-0, 5.73) vs. Gil Meche, RHP (1-0, 2.25)

Go Tribe!

Saturday, April 18

Cavs start playoffs with convincing win

It wasn't very flashy, and it wasn't filled with tons of SportCenter-type highlights, but the Cavs took care of the Pistons on Saturday afternoon in businesslike fashion. In fact, considering the playoff history that these two clubs share, the game felt surprisingly vanilla. The absence of Chauncey Billups has sapped the Pistons of much of their former potency, and perhaps equally important, much of their swagger.

But the Pistons deserve some credit for hanging with the Cavs for over three quarters. Even if they never really gave the Cavs reason to worry, they were always within striking distance, and always a 10-point run away from tying the game or taking a slight lead.

Both teams came out of the gates shooting uncharacteristcally high percentages through the first half, although those numbers came back down to earth in the second half. But that's the difference between this incarnation of the Cavaliers and those of years past; while the playoff Cavaliers of the last three seasons had to win almost entirely with defense, the 2009 Cavs are good enough on offense to outscore most teams, too. So although they had what could be called on off-night defensively (Detroit shot 46-percent from the floor), the Cavs' improved jump shooting, solid depth, and the addition of a bona fide second scorer in Mo Williams provided the difference.

Final: Cleveland 102, Detroit 84
Box score


Quick Hits

It's good to be the King
For the first time during LeBron James' tenure in Cleveland, the Cavs are probably good enough to make the playoffs without him. That doesn't change the fact that this team is still fueled by number 23, and LeBron set the tone early with 10 quick points in the first quarter. James dropped 22 points in the first half, including an impressive 40-foot buzzer-beater to the end the second quarter, and he finished the game with 38 points.

This guy's clearly on a mission, and as he's mentioned, anything less than a title will be a disappointment. As many have noted, the Olympics last summer probably played a huge role in re-focusing LeBron, in addition to guys like Kobe Bryant (as if his focus needed improvement) and Dwyane Wade. Tasting victory probably didn't hurt LeBron, either.

Just one game, or reason to worry?
The Cavs are as good as any team in the NBA when it comes to perimeter defense, but they're a little softer inside. Zydrunas Ilgauskas will block some shots, but is a much better rebounder than he is a defender. Anderson Varejao is a terrific rebounder, but is better at filling the lane and team defense than he is individually. Off the bench, Joe Smith is average defensively and Ben Wallace is without question the team's best defender in the post.

The Pistons obviously had studied some tape, because they were working hard to pound the paint early, and it was fairly effective. Part of that strategy probably stems from the fact that the Pistons traded away their most consistent three-point threat, Chauncey Billups, but they probably also noticed that the Cavs are a little softer inside. This game plan was a big reason why the Pistons shot 46-percent, significantly higher than the 41-percent the Cavs typically yield at The Q. We'll see how the Cavs adjust for game two. Having LeBron James guard the four more often might not be a bad place to start.

The wily vet.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the longest-tenured Cavalier by a full five seasons. The next guy in terms of length of service is LeBron James, who's been in C-Town since '03-'04. Ilgauskas has taken the floor with some really bad teams, including the 17-win team of '02-'03 that netted us The Ping Pong Ball. Nobody on this team has more appreciation for how far they've come, or how much LeBron James alone improved them. Considering that he'll likely only play one more season, it'd be great to see Z win a ring.

Big Ben's back in business.
Apparently that sprained tendon in his left knee wasn't too serious, because Wallace was back less than a week after he sustained the injury last Sunday against the Celtics. In just under 12 minutes, Wallace did his best to be a statistical non-factor, taking no shots and posting just 1 rebound and 1 assist. Still, it's good to know that Wallace is ready to go for the playoffs, as he could be a crucial role player in the later rounds, when the Cavs could face teams like the Magic and Lakers, who have dominant post players that Wallace may be charged with defending.

Boobie watching.
Daniel Gibson came off the bench and immediately knocked down a jumper. Gibson only played 14:10, and was very selective, only taking three shots, and making two. This team has improved to the point where they don't need Gibson to be a volume scorer anymore. Instead of going out with the mindset of scoring 15 or 20 points, Gibson can be selective and wait for an open look, and if he can shoot his jumper in the mid-40s, percentage-wise, he'll have done his job. Yes, three shots is an extremely small sample size, but it was still good to see Gibson start these playoffs on the right foot.

Have I mentioned that I really like Joe Smith?
Joe Smith is the prototypical first or second guy off the bench. He's a veteran, fundamentally-sound player who can hit the mid-range jumper, rebound, and finish around the rim. Smith has shot nearly 50-percent since returning to the Cavs in early March, and he contributed a rock solid 13 points off the bench (including a three-pointer!), second on the team behind LeBron. Smith did most of his scoring early in the second quarter to help the Cavs maintain their lead and eventually stretch it out to 12 points by halftime.

The re-aquisition of Smith hasn't received much attention nationally, or even locally for that matter, and it's probably because Smith was on the team last season, too. With the exception of the Salmons/Miller to Chicago deal, you could argue that no move has been as important down the stretch, particularly when you consider how thin the Cavs were up front when Ben Wallace was on the shelf.

On a side note, the Joe Smith jersey is now one of the best values in Cleveland, as you can buy a Cavs or Tribe "Joe Smith" jersey and wear it to both games. Sure, basketball Joe and baseball Joe wear different numbers (32 and 38, respectively), but I think we can let that slide. You get extra points for buying two jerseys, splitting them down the middle, and sewing them together.

Another great value: the "LeBron, 23" custom Browns jersey. With the Cavs' success and the trading of one (and possibly two, depending on whether or not Braylon Edwards is moved) of the Browns fans' most-worn jerseys in Kellen Winslow, I've got a feeling we'll see scads of those LeBron jerseys at CBS next season. State Farm may have unwittingly become the biggest force for Browns jersey sales since the drafting of Brayden Tyler Quinn.

Playoff rotation revealed!
Mike Brown gave playing time to 12 guys, but Darnell Jackson, Tarence Kinsey, and Sasha Pavlovic all played less than 2 minutes. If the first game is any indicator, the bench players who are going to get the majority of the playing time are Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, and Ben Wallace. That shouldn't come as a surprise, as those four, with the exception of Gibson, have all been very consistent this season. There wasn't a goofy playoff surprise like Mike Brown mysteriously banishing Devin Brown to the bench in second round last year.

If the Cavs continue to win by wide margins, I'd like to see some of the guys on the bench take a few more minutes to keep the starters as rested as possible. That's reason enough to keep pouring it on as the series continues.

Detroit's only chance.
Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy made a good point about the Pistons' defense -- they were actually playing LeBron James too tight on the perimeter. If they were to give James a little more of a buffer and an open look at the hoop, it might encourage James to take a few more jumpers, which has to be your goal if you're trying to slow down LBJ.

I'll take that a step farther: opposing teams should sag off LeBron outside the arc, and be ready to double-team him inside, basically goading him into taking threes. Like most athletes, LeBron is a competitive guy, and if you are, in essence, daring him to beat you with his jump shot, he might just try it. As humble as LeBron seems, there's a big ego there, as there is with all athletes who are at the top of their respective games. It might not be a bad idea to try using that ego against LeBron, especially because double-team or no, you're not stopping that guy when he decides he's going to drive to the rack.

Mo for sho'.
Speaking of Jackson and Van Gundy, they were poking fun at the fact that Mo Williams listens to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" before every game to get pumped up. (That's right, Jeff Van Gundy: purveyor of cool.) Mike Breen was the only one who would stand up for "In the Air Tonight" as a pump up track.

Personally, I couldn't be happier that Williams listens to that particular tune before taking the floor, as it's the final track on my Race Day mix, and it helps me get in the right frame of mind for competition. It's almost meditative, and it slowly builds to the rollicking drum solo. I'm willing to bet that 95-percent of the population plays the air drums for the solo at the 3:40 mark (check the YouTube link), and I'm also willing to bet that you don't want to associate yourself with the the 5-percent. Keep on rockin' it, Mo.

Up Next: 4/21, Game two, Pistons at Cavaliers, Quicken Loans Arena, 8:00, ESPN
The only chance the Pistons have is to win all three of their home games and steal a game at The Q. It's not going to happen. Part two of the four part beat down tips off Tuesday night. Be there or be square.

Tribe take two of three of four

If anyone was actually paying attention to my last series post, you would have noticed that I only posted the probable pitchers for three of four pitching matchups of this four-game series in the Bronx against the Yankees. The interesting thing here is that tomorrow I will be flying to Miami, so I'll be a little busy to write up the series wrapup. So I'm taking this chance to write up the first three games and properly preview the Pavano-Burnett duel I know you're all excited about.

Thursday's game one represented the first game at the Yankees' new Yankee Stadium. It also represented Cliff Lee's first win this year, the first grand slam at the new stadium by Grady Sizemore and the first of many, many embarrassing losses by the overpriced, overhyped, and underperforming Yankees. Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, the last two American League Cy Young winners, was the pitching matchup, which isn't too shabby. CC held the Tribe to only one run in five and two thirds innings of work, but the Indians made CC work for it. CC threw 122 pitches, walking five and striking out four while surrendering five hits for that lone Indians run. Not to be outdone, Lee posted a similar line of one earned run on six innings while walking three and striking out four. The lone Yankees run off Lee was a Jorge Posada solo shot in the bottom of the fifth. Cliff Lee's performance was a real improvement over his first two starts. Offensively the Tribe opened up a can on the Yankees in the top of the seventh, scoring nine runs, four of them from the previously mentioned Sizemore grand slam. The Rafaels finished the game out, as Perez worked two innings and Betancourt pitched the ninth. Tribe (3-7) win 10-2. Perez's two innings of work in a blowout could be questioned, but with an ERA of 14.14 (after Thursday's work) Perez hasn't yet been his usual lights-out self. As Perez worked he seemed to find his slider a little more so hopefully he's on the road back to the setup man we need.

Friday's game two saw Anthony Reyes on the mound for the Tribe. Reyes was a pseudo-savior in his previous start, and he did OK Friday as well. After five innings of work, Reyes had given up three solo home runs and allowed only those three runs - hey, maybe new Yankee Stadium is a hitter's park. Reyes gets the no decision and the likes of Jackson, Smith, Chulk, and Jensen Lewis were asked to hold the line. Jackson and Smith pitched the sixth, with Jackson giving up a run. Chulk picked up his first blown save of the season, thanks to an unearned run in the seventh courtesy of his own error. Lewis gets the loss, giving up the decisive run in the eighth on a Derek Jeter home run. Offensively, this was a rather quiet game for the Tribe, as they only scored five runs. Joba "No Decision" Chamberlain only lasted four and two thirds after giving up five runs. Mark DeRosa hit his second home run in as many days - this park can't hold a baseball! Poor bullpen work gets the real blame on this one. Sure, there was some controversy with two men on in the ninth and DeRosa called out on questionable strikes. Tribe (3-8) lose 5-6.

Today was a long day, mainly because the Indians took 37 minutes to bat in the top of the second. The final tally was 14 runs, an outburst that started with a check-swing 60-ft single by Travis Hafner to the left side of the shifted infield. After that we were treated to:

- Single by Peralta
- Choo homerun, Peralta and Hafner score (Score: 3-2)
- Garko pops out
- Francisco doubles
- Asdrubal single scoring Francisco (Score: 4-2)
- Sizemore doubles, Asbrubal to third
- DeRosa doubles scoring Asdrubal and Sizemore (Score: 6-2)
- Victor singles, DeRosa scores thanks to a wild pitch (Score: 7-2)
- Pitching change Wang out Claggett in
- Hafner doubles, Victor to third
- Peralta doubles, Victor and Hafner score (Score: 9-2)
- Choo walks
- Garko singles no one scores bases loaded
- Francisco strikes out
- Cabrera grand slam everyone scores! (Score: 13-2)
- Grady homers (Score: 14-2)
- DeRosa strikes out inning finally over

I'm going to just skip ahead to the end and give you the gaudy offensive numbers. There were seven doubles and six home runs by the Indians alone. In seven at bats, DeRosa had seven runs batted in. All of Cabrera's five runs batted in came in the second. Of the starters, the only one without multiple hits was Choo, who walked twice on top of his home run. The Indians scored 22 runs on 25 hits. Wang, who started for the Yankees, now has a ERA of 34.50 in three starts spanning all of five and two thirds innings. Have I mentioned this new stadium could see a few home runs this year? Pitching-wise, Carmona went six innings and accounted for all four of the Yankee runs. Six innings for this staff is as close to a complete game as we've had this season. Indians (4-8) win 22-4, as Eric Wedge wins number 500.

In the first three games new Yankee Stadium has seen 17 home runs. Yeah that's a few. At this point you have to feel bad that Kerry Wood has been called on just once for a save in these first twelve games. Overall you have to be happy with the Tribe's offense in this series so far.

Game 4: Carl Pavano, RHP (0-2, 16.71) vs. A.J. Burnett, RHP (2-0, 2.70)

The return to the Bronx of the much-hated Pavano going up against the best pitcher the Yankees have right now. Before the series started, and I still thought it was a three-game series, I thought the Indians had a good shot at taking the series. Burnett is going to be a tough one for these Indians, and having Pavano toe the rubber isn't making me feel any better. Luckily the Indians have an off day Monday before heading home to face the . . . Royals, again.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

A great day for Cleveland sports

I've been a Cleveland sports fan for some 23 years now, and have attended dozens of games featuring my favorite clubs, but up until today, I'd never been to a postseason game. I ended that particular streak by going to the very first game of the Cavs' 2009 playoff drive, and Los Caballeros did not disappoint, thrashing the Pistons 102-84 in a game that was never, ever, seriously in doubt. The Cavs are a much, much better team than Detroit, and they won easily. Yep, sometimes it works out that way.

Not only did Cleveland claim a serious victory, and not only did I get a free t-shirt, AND a free towel, but I'm now in line for a free chalupa as well.

My favorite part is reflecting upon pre-series comments made by Pistons coach Michael Curry, who said that if the Pistons shoot over 45%, they have a chance to win the series. The Pistons shot 53.8% today and lost by 18. Good call, coach!


During the game, I also got a few updates regarding the progress of the Cleveland Indians, who are likewise facing a rival, having traveled to New York to help open up new Yankee Stadium. My friend's sister attended the game, and I learned that the Tribe trailed 2-0 early. Quite a bit later, I received this text from FCF's own John Hawkins:

Go Tribe! 14-2 in the second

Shortley thereafter, I got confirmation from both JHH and the Q-Tube: the Indians had indeed shelled Yankees pitching to the tune of 14 runs in the second inning. That's a beautiful thing. I'm watching at home now - it's now 20-2 in favor of the Tribe, and Yankee Stadium could hardly be quieter. Tim McCarver is impressed that Jeter and Damon are still on the bench rather than haveing gone home - less impressive is the Indians' assault on New York's "pitching."

The other good news: the spanks' first two meaningless runs came courtesy of a two-run job by Mark Teixiera, who just happens to have a starting spot on the FCF fantasy team. Boo-ya!

It's now 20-4, so the Tribe might have to do a little work to ensure that both Cleveland teams beat their rivals by 18. Considering the sort of meat New York trots out of that bullpen with theirs, this looks quite reachable.

And, not to exclude one of the major Cleveland teams, the Browns did not blow anything up today.

Friday, April 17

NBA Playoffs Quasi-Analysis: First Round

Welcome back everyone, to my annual NBA Playoff preview series, where I put about five minutes' worth of thought and effort into a handy guide on what to expect during each round of the NBA Playoffs. The Western Conference (cumulative point differential: -5.7) didn't do me any favors by letting its seedings go down to the wire, but I handled it. Frankly, I liked the way things were going to end up prior to Wednesday's games - these newer West matchups aren't as good.

I go round-by-round so as to predict actual matchups instead of projected ones; as much as I expect a Cavs-Lakers showdown in the Finals, it'd look silly for me to have spent the time analyzing the series if it doesn't come to pass. Cavs in seven.


Eastern Conference First Round

(1)CaVs vs. (8)Pistons

When I left, I was but a learner...now, I am the master.

You know, it really wasn't alll that long ago that the Pistons were a real force in the East. They have, after all, been to the Conference Finals six straight years and did win 59 games a year ago. I even picked them to win the title last year, and they might have if they'd bothered to show up against the Celtics. Three years ago, the upstart Cavs pushed Detroit to a surprising 7 games before falling, but you always got the sense they were living on borrowed time, a feeling confirmed by Game 7. Cleveland's victory over Detroit in 2007 to earn a trip to the Finals still seems rather fortunate to me - play that series five times and the Pistons advance at least four.

But this is 2009, and things are different. The midseason trade of Chauncey Billips for Allen Iverson has backfired in epic fashion, Detroit's veterans have aged without getting much in the way of reinforcements, and Darko Milicic somehow turned out to not be as good as Dwayne Wade. The once-mighty purveyors of Deee-troit Basketball are lugging a -0.5 point differential and 39-43 record into the playoffs against a historically good Cavalier squad sitting at 66-16 and +8.9. Think about that: assuming a sort of league-wide transitive effect, the Cavs on average outperform the Pistons by 9.4 ppg. And so it will go in this series, as LeBron and company will easily dispatch the Pistons and await their second-round opponent, whom they will also easily dispatch.
CaVs in 5


(2)Celtics vs (7)Bulls
For some reason, I've never been totally sold on the Celtics all season long. I know they won it all last year and I know they play good defense, but I'm just not feeling it. A major factor in this year's playoff run will be just how healthy Kevin Garnett is when he returns; hearing Doc Rivers talk today, it sounds like this could be not at all, which is terrific news for Cavs and Magic supporters.

It's also good news for the Chicago Bulls. I'm still picking the C's to win this opening-round series, but I think the streaking Bulls will push the Celtics hard behind Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose and John Salmons. The Bulls won't play nearly enough defense to win the series, though - Chicago allowed more ppg than any other playoff squad, 4.5 more than the next-highest east team and a staggering 11.1 more than the Cavaliers. Fun team with some surprises in it, but not fully ready for these playoffs.
Celtics in 6


(3)Magic vs. (6)76ers
I don't want to be scared of the Orlando Magic, I really don't. But I kinda am. How the hell do you stop these guys? Dwight Howard is virtually unstoppable if he gets the ball within 10 feet of the basket, and Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and company make teams pay from behind the arc. When I watch NBA games, I find myself sort of subconsciously following and creating defensive strategies - the Magic tie up my mind in knots. This doesn't seem to be a national consensus opinion, but we'll see.

Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for Philly fans, the Cavs won't be seeing them for a while. This is a tough draw for a 76er team that struggled mightily to beat the Cavalier JV's on Wednesday night. Some people think a team might expose Orlando in the first round (and that they were lucky to dodge the Bulls), but a totally healthy 59-win team with a +6.7 differential is not going to be seriously challenged by a .500 club.
Magic in 5


(4)Cavaliers vs. (5)Wizards
Just kidding. It's going to be weird not taking these guys down in the 1st round, though, right? I'm not sure what I'm going to do without their ridiculous gold uniforms, dirty fouls, logo that in no way resembles a Wizard, and loony bin of players like Agent Zero and Souljah Boy. Ah, the good old days.


(4)Hawks vs. (5)Heat
This is really an intriguing matchup, as the 4-5 opening-round series so often are. The teams are similar overall; both are pretty good home teams and lousy road teams, though Atlanta finished with four more wins.

There are two storylines that I focus on in this series: the Hawks' strong home court advantage and the superstar calls that Dwayne Wade has been known to get in the playoffs. I think Wade is going to shoot about eleventy thousand free throws in this series, but Philips Arena will make the difference as the home team takes all seven games here. Unlike last year versus the Celtics, holding serve works out this time to Atlanta's benefit.
Hawks in 7


Western Conference First Round

1)Lakers vs (8)Jazz

Yawn.

On paper, I feel like the Jazz should be better than they are; Deron Williams gives them 20 points and 11 assists every night, Carlos Boozer improves his Unlikability Index virtually every game, and the club gets contributions from AK-47, Paul Milsap, Memhet Okur, and Ronnie Brewer. Actually, the Jazz are no slouch; their +2.6 on the season would make them 4th in the East, and they posted a sparkling 33-8 home mark.

However, Kobe, Odom, Gasol, Bynum, and whoever else is on the Lakers are simply too good for the Jazz. The Lakers will kick them around in LA (as they did Tuesday), steal one in Utah, and move on.
Lakers in 5


(2)Nuggets vs (7)Hornets
This might just be the toughest call on the board. For whatever reason, I can really see myself getting on the Nuggets bandwagon, but at the same time it makes me nervous. What a silly team - Chauncey Billups running the point, crazy Chris Andersen blocking shots, JR Smith giving good production off the bench, and Nene inexplicably being referred to as "Nene Hilario" now. Good times for Furious George Karl's bunch.

In the tightly-bunched West, these two clubs are separated by five seeds but just five games in the standings (for comparison, Boston is 21 up on Chicago), so it's not the mismatch the seeds might indicate. This one is ripe for upset, and if the Nuggets had drawn the Rockets or Trail Blazers I might have picked one, but I think they'll get past a somewhat disappointing Hornet team despite the heroics of Chris Paul, the game's best point guard.
Nuggets in 7


(3)Spurs vs (6)Mavericks
Does anyone else miss Avery Johnson's squeaky-voiced coaching? I sure do. Still, whether behind Avery or Rick Carlisle, I don't really see this year's Mavericks as a playoff threat.

I wanted to pick against the grizzled veterans of San Antonio in Round 1, I really did, but not against this Dallas club. With Tim Duncan at less than 100% and Manu Ginobili at 0%, these aren't your father's Spurs, but Popovich's San Antonio club is still too good to drop this opening-round affair.
Spurs in 6


(4)Trail Blazers vs (5)Rockets
Now this is a hell of a series, as the young guns of Oregon go up against a veteran New Galveston Rockets squad. The two teams are nearly identical in the standings - Portland ended up with home-court via a season-ending six-game win streak that put them one up on Houston, but the clubs' overall numbers are very similar.

This will go down as the series where the Blazers officially introduce a new star to NBA fans from coast to coast: Joel Przybilla. I'm sorry, I meant to type Brandon Roy there - everyone already knows JP. Przybilla, along with Greg Oden, will rebound, block shots, foul Yao Ming, and look awkward, while Roy and his excellently-named supporting cast (LaMarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw) will work to punch holes in a solid Rocket defense.

Houston's defense really impressed me the times I've seen them, and they're getting consistent production from Yao Ming and an almost unfathomable 17 ppg from Ron Artest. Really? Plus, they have the hugely annoying Luis Scola and the improbably named Von Wafer. Read that again: Von Wafer. I really want the Blazers to take this, but I think they're a year away.
Rockets in 6

ESPN's Friday Night Schedule

I'm not the biggest hockey fan in the world, but I tend to be interested in the playoffs, especially when the Penguins or Sabres are in it to support the local teams. I feel my overall lack of interest is the fact that I don't have a team to follow. If Cleveland had a hockey team, maybe I would be more into it. But I digress. The point of this post is to question ESPN's decision to get rid of the NHL playoffs a few years back. You might be thinking, "Well, ESPN is a network genius, they must have some quality programming on instead." So, what's going on in the wide world of sports that's so interesting it bumps the playoffs on ice? MLS, Netcar, an NBA playoff preview, and an NFL draft special. Really? I think I'd rather watch ice skating. Is this D.C. United/English Revolution game really going to get better ratings than Penguins/Flyers? Come on, ESPN.

Thursday, April 16

Home field disadvantage


The New York Yankees now hold the all-time record for worst winning percentage in their home stadium! Their mark in "Yankee Stadium" is 0-1, giving them a robust .000 all-time record. After today's 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians, the Yankees have now lost every single game they have played in the stadium, by an average score of 10-2.

Pathetic.

Wednesday, April 15

Tribe wasting no time, breaking hearts of fans early

Economically, what the Indians are doing is commendable from a fan standpoint. With the Indians looking like a team destined to finish in the bottom of the not-exactly-loaded American League Central, their fans can hope to find other outlets for their expendable income this summer. However this doesn't look good financially for the Indians. The front office has pretty much used up all their salary room this year on acquiring former Cubs Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood, so an empty Progressive Field combined with an extended playoff run by the Cavs looks to really hurt the Indians in the pocketbook. Well, enough doom and gloom the Indians took the finale of another series running their total number of wins to: two. Hey did you know the only wins the Rangers have are the three from that opening series sweep? Interesting, no?

Game one saw Fausto Carmona on the mound for his second start. While you can place a lot of blame for this poor start on the Indians' starters, the offense has done an amazing job of not being able to move runners in scoring position. This game saw a lot of that. Carmona did, however, pitch five innings, allowing only five hits. Unfortunately those hits weren't scattered. The Royals jumped on Fausto for three runs in the first. The other run surrendered by Fausto was in the bottom of the fourth, and that's pretty much it. I know what you're thinking. Four runs? That's it? The mighty Tribe offense with a rejuvenated Hafner can top four runs, especially against the lowly Royals. Well, I would have thought that before this season started too. However, Zach Greinke should be given a lot of credit for pitching five innings while striking out nine and holding his ERA at a solid ZERO. Long story short, the Tribe (1-6) leave 12 on base and lose 2-4. Wait actually the Indians scored only two runs on 10 hits, while the Royals mustered four runs off just five hits. Now I'm done.

Game two was the return of the one-inning wonder that is Carl Pavano on the mound for the Tribe. I have to say Pavano pitched better. Of course he had nowhere to go but up from his last performance of nine runs in one inning. However his six innings of work for four runs wasn't good enough for these Indians. The real blame for the Indians' seventh loss (sorry I gave the ending away) is Rafael Perez, who turned in one and two thirds innings and gave up four earned runs. Vinnie Chulk didn't help matters in relief of Perez, but still. So no, this Indians offense can't overcome eight runs allowed. The good news of this game? The Indians only left seven on base, a series low. Tribe (1-7) lose 3-9.

Game three saw Aaron Laffey taking the role of whipping boy. With Scott Lewis on the DL the Tribe responded by calling up Chulk to help out a depleted (and still depleted) bullpen. However Chulk doesn't have any options so once called up he is here for good or needs to be DFA'ed. So calling up Laffey today meant someone was getting a ticket to Columbus. Tony Graffanino was called up to replace Jamey Carroll but it was Josh Barfield sent down for Laffey to make an appearance in Kansas City. While Laffey didn't blow me away with his performance, he did only give up two runs, which is no small feat from this rotation. However, going only five and a third innings continues to give the bullpen a workout. Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, Betancourt, and Wood make up the relief crew for this, the Indians' second win. Unfortunately for Laffey, Lewis gave up two runs in his one and two thirds innings to get the coveted blown save and win. Otherwise the bullpen did not give up so much as a hit. Offensively the Tribe didn't do anything spectacular but did only strike out six times, a series low. Doubles were the order of the day and the Tribe hit five, two from everyone's favorite DH Travis Hafner. Indians (2-7) win 4-5.

This series Indians hitters struck out 28 times and left 28 on base. With runners in scoring position the were 12 of 39 (.308). Unfortunately this wasn't enough to do much to improve my outlook of this team. You do have to wonder what will become of Laffey. Will he be kept, or sent down with the return of Scott Lewis? I would keep Laffey and let Scott Lewis make a start in AAA to make sure things are cool again. The good news of this continued poor play is that you may get to see the members of the Indians farm system earlier than you thought. However that's not what I want. I want our starting rotation to settle down. I expect the offense to improve - Sizemore won't hit .211 for the season and DeRosa's .171 has nowhere to go but up. For the most part Lee and Carmona are bigger question marks at this point than anything the Indians have yet to deal with. If Lee and Carmona were clicking I would be cool with trotting out Pavano every fifth or sixth day, but struggles at the top of the rotation really put pressure on the rest of the starters to be at the top of their game. I'm not sure that's the kind of environment Pavano can excel at. Not to be overlooked, Kerry Wood picked up his first save as an Indian. Here's to many many more.

The Indians now travel to New York to open The Palace and face former team ace CC Sabathia, in case ESPN hasn't mentioned it a million times yet.

Game 1: Cliff Lee, LHP (0-2, 9.90) vs. CC Sabathia, LHP (1-1, 4.50)
Game 2: Anthony Reyes, RHP (1-0, 6.00) vs. Joba Chamberlain, RHP (0-0, 1.50)
Game 3: Fausto Carmona, RHP (0-2, 9.00) vs. Chien-Ming Wang, RHP (0-2, 28.93)

Realistically I will be shocked if the Indians win game one. However these are still the Yankees and if anything near Cliff Lee 2008 shows up I will be overjoyed. I'll take Reyes over no-decision Joba. Finally we face a starting pitcher with a worse ERA than Pavano. Tribe can take this series, I know they can. But there is a gap between what this team can do and what they have done so far.

Go Tribe!
(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Tuesday, April 14

2009 Browns schedule released! Results included!

Today marks the release of the 2009 NFL regular season schedule, an important day for any football fan, but especially for we masochists who call ourselves Browns fans. The Browns’ 2009 schedule lacks the sex appeal of its 2008 counterpart, but if it nets us a few more wins, or at least saves us the embarrassment of trotting out Bruce Gradkowksi or Ken Dorsey as our starting quarterbacks, we can probably live with a little less national exposure. Last year’s schedule was one of the toughest in football, and featured five nationally televised night games. This time around, the Browns are faced with the eighth weakest schedule in the league and two nationally televised night games (I’m just as shocked as you are). Let’s take a look at this year’s competition, week by week, along with a little analysis and some arbitrarily predicted outcomes for which I do not intend to be held accountable.


Sunday, 9/13, Browns vs. Vikings, FOX, 1:00
Adrian Peterson and the Vikes will be a tough matchup for a Browns team that has done little to upgrade its porous run defense. The good news is that if the Browns can bolster the linebacking corps in the draft and keep the defensive line healthy, they might have a shot at containing Peterson. If you can do that, you force either Sagemary Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson (whoever Brad Childress chooses from that gem of a competition) to beat you. The fact that picking up Rosenfels is considered better than a lateral move gives you an idea of how lousy Jackson has been. It just made too much sense for this team to give away draft picks for a Matt Cassel or a Jay Cutler, as a solid starting quarterback might have made them a sexy pick for the Super Bowl. The Browns will hang with these guys at home, but in the end they just can’t overcome Brad Childress’ mustache.
Final: The ‘Sota 24, Browns 20

Sunday, 9/20, Browns at Broncos, CBS, 4:15
No team has been the subject of more offseason controversy than the Broncos, who were forced to ship quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears after his feelings were hurt when they tried to trade him for the aforementioned Matt Cassel. Denver is left with two first round picks for the next two seasons and Kyle Orton at quarterback, and they’re constantly mentioned as a potential suitor for Brady Quinn. My money’s on Quinn staying put, but who knows whether or not the Broncos will add a quarterback in the draft. So much of that team’s plan was predicated on having Cutler, and the defense is still mediocre on their best day. With that in mind, I’ll take our Belichick protégé over Denver’s.
Final: Browns 20, Donks 16

Sunday, 9/27, Browns at Ravens, CBS, 1:00
The Ravens aren’t without holes, but they still have a solid defense even with the departures of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott, and Joe Flacco looks like a keeper. This will be the first game of the season when the Browns aren’t very competitive.
Final: Ratbirds 27, Browns 10

Sunday, 10/4, Browns vs. Bengals, CBS, 1:00
The Browns would be the most mismanaged team in most divisions, but not in the AFC North. No, that undesirable title falls to the hapless Bengals, who are one of the few teams fortunate enough to have a bona fide franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, they have little else. The Bengals recently signed Tank Johnson, apparently continuing their mission to collect every single convict in the league. This franchise has officially entered The Tyson Zone. At least we know that Plaxico Burress will land on his feet.
Final: Browns 28, The ‘Nati 17

Sunday, 10/11, Browns at Bills, CBS, 1:00
The Bills seem like they’ve been stuck in neutral for about a decade now. What can save them? A past-his-prime Terrell Owens! The Browns and Bills have actually played two very close games the last couple of seasons, including the Snow Game in 2007, and Brady Quinn’s first (and um, only) professional victory last year in Buffalo. We should have another competitive game this year, but I think the Browns will get the better of their fellow residents of Lake Erie for the third consecutive season.
Final: Browns 20, Buffaloes 17

Sunday, 10/18, Browns at Steelers, CBS, 1:00
Don’t look now, but the Browns are 3-2, and some of us are even whispering about the playoffs. Staring down the barrel of schedule’s toughest stretch, the rest of us encourage the whisperers to put down their crack pipes. The Steelers will take care of the Browns with relative ease, bringing the team and the expectations back down to earth. We’ll have to deal with television close ups of large, hair-lipped women, and larger, toothless men who haven’t showered since the Reagan administration. To make matters worse, they’ll all be waving little yellow handkerchiefs in a display of vintage Appalachian stupidity. Talk about adding insult (and possibly retinal damage) to injury. Is it a stereotype if it’s true?
Final: Toothlessbergers 34, Browns 13

Sunday, 10/25, Browns vs. Packers, FOX, 1:00
If you’re as big a fan of Football Outsiders as I am, you know that the Packers were much better than their 6-10 record might indicate. The Pack will compete for the NFC North in Aaron Rodgers’ second season at the helm, and this will be a tough matchup for the home team. If the Packers draft Beanie Wells, watch out.
Final: Cheeseheads 27, Browns 16

Sunday, 11/1, Browns at Bears, CBS, 1:00
We’re looking at another solid NFC North team here, and they’ll be looking to build on their 9-7 record with the addition of franchise signal-caller Jay Cutler. Rookie running back Matt Forte propelled many a fantasy team to glory last season, and he’ll be aiming for another 1500-plus total yards this season. If Chicago’s offense gels with their new quarterback early, then they could be very good.
Final: Da Bears 24, Da Browns 17

Week 9: Bye
The Browns head into the bye week at 3-5, with a chance to lick their wounds after three straight losses. As it is early November by this point, Cleveland is preparing for the NBA Champion Cavaliers to begin their title defense.

Monday, 11/16, Browns vs. Ravens, ESPN, 8:30
After such a disappointing season which featured three Monday night appearances, it’s surprising that the Browns were granted even this lone Monday nighter. The Ravens will be well on their way to another playoff berth, and although the Browns will put up a good fight, it won’t be enough. Ray Lewis will celebrate by enjoying a nice murder.
Final: Stolen Franchise 23, Browns 20

Sunday, 11/22, Browns at Lions, CBS, 1:00
Facing yet another Belichick disciple (Jim Schwartz), the Browns will break their four-game losing streak while venting some frustration on the still woeful Lions. After General Motors files for bankruptcy, Detroit and the surrounding area look more like a demilitarized zone than an American city. Shaun Rogers breaks Matthew Staffords left tibia during a third quarter sack.
Final: Browns 31, Team That’s Not Even Good Enough For a Goofy Nickname 9

Sunday, 11/29, Browns at Bengals, CBS, 1:00
With the Browns at 4-6 and still mathematically in the playoff hunt, a visit to Paul Brown Stadium is just what the doctor ordered. By this point in the season, 20 Bengals are on Injured Reserve; 12 due to injury and 8 due to incarceration. The Browns climb within one game of .500 with a comfortable victory.
Final: Browns 30, Bungles 17

Sunday, 12/6, Browns vs. Chargers, CBS, 4:05
For the second straight season, the Chargers will win the AFC West almost by default. Philip Rivers quietly matched Drew Brees’ NFL-leading 34 touchdowns last season, and Rivers was the owner of the league’s best quarterback rating. Home field advantage and weather will come up big for the Browns here, and they almost pull of the upset. Despite a valiant effort, a late Rivers drive sets up a Nate Kaeding field goal to sink the Browns, dousing their slim playoff hopes.
Final: Bolts 17, Browns 16

Thursday, 12/10, Browns vs. Steelers, NFL Network, 8:20
Do we really have to play these jerks on a short week, and on national TV? Ugh. The Browns will beat the spread but lose the game. Three Steelers fans will be hospitalized after pushing a handful of Browns fans too far in the Muni Lot. Hundreds of Terrible Towels will lose their lives during the pre-game festivities.
Final: Inbred 23, Browns 17

Sunday, 12/20, Browns at Chiefs, CBS, 1:00
With Scott Pioli running the show and Matt Cassel in tow, the Chiefs will be one of the league’s pleasant surprises, and they’ll have an outside shot at a Wild Card berth. Things are looking up in Kansas City, and it’s hard to believe that they parted with draft picks for Herm Edwards just a few years back. Don’t sleep on this offense if they select Eugene Monroe with the third overall pick. Those of us watching on television will once again collectively think about how stupid it was to steal Florida State’s tomahawk chop. “Arrowhead Stadium” remains one of the coolest stadium names in the NFL, and these guys are much tougher to rip without Herm Edwards running the show. YOU PLAY…TO WIN…THE GAME… but the Browns fall short on the road.
Final: Chefs 24, Browns 14

Sunday, 12/27, Browns vs. Raiders, CBS, 1:00
JaMarcus Russell showed some flashes during the final three games last season, but was that a sign of things to come, or simply an aberration? If the Raiders can get Russell a weapon other than tight end Zach Miller, Russell could move into the upper half of the league’s quarterbacks, and they might find that guy in the form of Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtree. I’m still not excited about a run defense that gave up almost 160 yards per game, or a West Coast team playing on the North Shore in late December. The only certainty for the Raiders is that Al Davis will sink farther into the abyss of senility.
Final: Orange & Brown 28, Silver & Black 17

Sunday, 1/3, Browns vs. Jaguars, CBS, 1:00
The health of their offensive line (or lack thereof) is what shafted the Jaguars in ’08, but the defense also gave up about four more points per game. Is David Garrard the efficient field general we saw in 2007, or the mediocre quarterback we saw last season? Can Maurice Jones-Drew survive the pounding of a full season as the featured back? Will the NFL ever just admit their mistake and move this team to Los Angeles? The Browns ride Jamal Lewis to victory in what will prove to be his final game wearing burnt orange and seal brown.
Final: Browns 20, Jags 17


So that about wraps it up. I’m predicting a 7-9 season for our heroes, which should keep the Browns outside of serious playoff contention all season, but also gives them some momentum to build on for the following season. See you all at the 2010 TCF Mother of All Draft Parties, at which point the Browns will use the 12th overall pick to select Florida’s Brandon Spikes to pair with D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker.