Thursday, April 15

The Downtown Report from far-off lands

Greetings from downtown...of a city in Norway! Yep, I'm on another trip away from the Forest City, but I still thought it would be appropriate to pen one of these since I still technically live in Downtown Cleveland, though after two five-day voyages to Europe in two weeks, I don't remember the place all that well.

As I write this, I'm putting into place an ambitious plan that I have for beating jet lag that is almost certain to fail. I got myself pretty much right on Western Europe Daylight Time (WEDT?) when I got here, but the return seems a bit trickier. I'm hoping to sleep almost not at all tonight, zonk out for most of the transatlantic, and wake up about an hour for the US. It'll be roughly 11 am EDT then, and I'll just have woken up, so I can hit the ground running. Of course, this is contingent on staying up late tonight and not passing out before I leave Copenhagen, but a guy can dream, right?

Helping out will be the imminent start of tonight's Tribe game, airing on MLB radio at 1 am where I'm at. If I can stay up for most of this game, I'll have come a long way towards executing my plan. In the meantime, let's talk Cleveland sports.

It's worth taking a moment here to recap just how successful the '09-10 campaign has been for the Caballeros. They became just the 6th team to post consecutive 60-win regular seasons, and in the process locked up the NBA's top overall seed, meaning that they get to play in the Midwest Regional and face the winner of the play-in game, or something like that. Don't forget how much time they've played without key guys; a month without Z, at least 2 months without Shaq, a month without Mo, most of the year without Jamison because he wasn't, in fact, a Cav, significant time without Varejao and Delonte, and so on. Yet the Cavs are so deep and have a superstar of such magnitude that they've weathered it all en route to a 61-20 mark heading into a meaningless season finale with Atlanta.

I think I left someone out of the games missed section in the previous paragraph: one LeBron James. The King, as you all know, has purposely missed the final four games of the season just resting up for the playoffs, letting some bumps and bruises heal during games that are completetly unimportant to the Cavs' standing as he and the club get healthy and prepare for a long playoff push. Dude's been playing a lot of ball, between the Cavs' long playoff excursions these past few years and his work on Team USA, and his style is such that he gets knocked around quite a bit, strong as he may be. I don't see any problem with sitting LBJ for a while - you always do what's best for your team's championship prospects when you have a legit chance, and this is no exception.

Nevertheless, LeBron's vacation has raised a few eyebrows across the league and with a hack named Tim Povtak, who insanely sugegests that LeBron owes Cleveland fans a refund for not playing. Wow, read this thing - what a hatchet job. This is probably the worst sports column I've read this year, featuring lines like: "Joe Hardhat, who paid a day's wage three months ago to buy two good seats so his son could see his first Cavs game Sunday, deserves better treatment than this."

Joe Hardhat? I may line-by-line this rubbish later, we'll see. The quickest counter-argument is that Joe Hardhat and every single Cavalier fan wants the same thing: an NBA title. If this gives us a better chance at an NBA title, then he sits and everyone's happy, no matter how much Tim Povhack may try to manufacture outrage. Maybe he shoulda asked a Cavalier fan what he or she thought, or at least tried to consider the pros of the team's decision.

Whatever. It's almost playoff time, and the Cavs are looking good. As far as I'm concerned, no one in the East poses a credible threat to them except for Orlando, a team I couldn't possibly despise more at this point. Just thinking about them makes me bristle. Even then, I think the Cavs will dispatch them this year if necessary. The West clubs bother me a bit; not just the Lakers (who I actually think the Cavs can and will take down), but Denver (who always play the Cavs tough and are a nightmare to play on the road) and Dallas as well. Hell, anyone from the West - they play good ball out there. I still like us to win the NBA, but they certainly won't waltz to the title. Check back Friday for my first-round NBA preview. Go Cavs!

Wow, another series of bullpen meltdowns, what a shock. I'm really, really trying to keep my spirits buoyed for this year's Tribe, but that devastating loss to the Tigers is still sticking with me, as is the club's inability so far to hit the ball with any consistency and the pitching staff's absolute refusal to stop walking guys. I'm not going to go all hater McPeek-style on the Wahoos after seven games, but it's too bad they haven't been able to capitalize on their strong opening series win over the White Socks.

But there is good news: I'm going to go to a game this weekend! After eating four Opening Day tickets that I bought before my voyage to Nordic Country was set in motion, I'm more than ready to make the 10-minute walk down to Progressive Field for some Tribe. I would like to now point out that the Weather Gods hate me. It was warm and sunny all last week when I was in Europe and got really cold by the time I returned. It's 70 and sunny as I type in the Buckeye State, but we're looking at 46 and rainy on Saturday. Fuck you, Weather Gods.

Of course, my game attendance will depend as much on the NBA Playoff Schedule as the skies above; I won't be missing any Cavaliers first-round action, that's for sure. The Tribe plays at 4 (how come they never play weekend day games during the season when there's no basketball and I want to go outside? I know, higher revenue from ticket sales during night games, but it's inconvenient), so maybe I can watch the Cavs at Pacer's and stroll over to the ballpark when we're up 20 on the Bulls in the 4th. Now that's a nice afternoon!

There's good news on the field among the early disappointment, too, mostly in the form of the two fellows who would anchor the Indians' starting staff; Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona, who have turned in some really strong efforts. The starting staff has actually been quite good as a unit, other than Jake's rough Opening Day start and some early jitters from Talbot. It's the bullpen and the invisible bats that have been the problem after one week, in a reversal from what one might have expected from the Tribe. These things will even out; the Indians have given up more than 8 runs only once, and it just so happened to be the one time they scored 8, and that sort of thing evens out over the course of a long season. Go Tribe!

I'm a notorious critic of the NFL Draft, and my chief complaint is usually that all of the hype and analysis is in the moment, rather than evaluating a class after they have some time to actually, you know, play in the NFL. Thus, I now evaluate the past two Browns draft classes. Nick, perhaps you'd like to go back a couple more years for us sometime?

1st Round: Alex Mack
Mack struggled early, but the guy started and finished every single game at center and grew to be a very good lineman as the Browns turned into one of the league's top rushing units over the last month of the season. A solid pick if not a home run.

2nd Round: Brian Robiskie
7 receptions. Not good enough. In his defense, they never played him, and the Browns didn't attempt a forward pass after Veteran's Day. Still, not a good pick when you consider how good Rey Maualuga would look in an orange helmet without black stripes.

2nd Round: Mohamed Massaquoi
34 catches and 3 TD is certainly better than what Robo posted, but over half of them came in just three games. Maybe if he shows up for all 16 we'll have a stronger passing attack in 2010, but this so far isn't anything to get too excited about.

2nd Round: David Veikune
What is it ya'd say...ya do here?

4th Round: Kaluka Maiava
Darn, drafted the wrong USC linebacker. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he actually made some contributions later in the year.

6th Round: Don Carey

6th Round: Coye Francies
Seemed after the preseason like he might be able to help out a thin secondary, but didn't progress much during the year. Maybe if he spelled his last name correctly.

6th Round: James Davis
Check back with me next year on Mr. Davis. Another reason why draft analysis should ideally be done a few years out. Hey, I got anxious.

Scanning through this season on Wikipedia to find our draft picks, I saw the comical text "Crennel named Coach of the Week." Ha!

The Browns did not have a selection in the first three rounds
Wow, I'd forgotten the extent that Phil Savage mortgaged the team's future in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to save his job. Three rounds?

4th Round: Beau Bell
Next. Can a player named "Beau" ever be great?

4th Round: Martin Rucker
We played like 15 tight ends last year, and I can't remember seeing this fellow out there a whole lot. I know you're not going to have a high success rate in late rounds, but do we ever hit one one of these?

6th Round: Ahtyba Rubin
Apparently, yes! Rubin provided excellent 6th-round value, filling in admirably for Shaun Rogers and anchoring the Browns' 3-4 during their four-game season-ending win streak. Now, if only we could hit on a first-round choice...

6th Round: Paul Hubbard
I'm not going to pretend like I've heard of this fellow.

7th Round: Alex Hall
Nice knowing you, Alex. At least we got something back for him.

So what do I want to Browns to do in the 2010 NFL Draft? Pick good players! I don't care who, I refuse to get into specifics, I don't want to make an effort to speculate, and I won't provide immediate analysis after we grab some guys. Just draft good players and make this team better! Do it! Go Browns!

Go Pens!

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