Wednesday, August 31

Buckeye Season Preview Part II

It’s hard to believe the Buckeyes will kickoff the season in just a mere 72 hours. Before I get into the defense, there have been a few developments on the offensive side of the ball since my last post. As expected, Joe Bauserman has been named the starting QB for this weekend’s game vs. Akron. Coach Luke Fickell said that the competition is still open and expect to see a lot of Braxton Miller against the Zips as well. I called that one. Also, Jaamal Berry tweaked a hamstring and will be held out of the opener. This is not good news for a unit already missing Boom Herron, but it doesn’t sound too serious and Berry should be ready by Week 2. Jordan Hall-Carlos Hyde-Rod Smith will be the RB rotation this weekend. Lastly, redshirt freshman Verlon Reed will get the surprise nod at the starting receiver spot opposite Corey Brown, who we’re apparently calling “Philly” this season to avoid confusion with Corey Brown the defensive back. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get on with the preview.

The Defense
The 2010 Ohio St defense ranked first in the Big Ten and in the top ten in the NCAA in the following categories: points, rushing yards, passing yards, total yards, turnovers. They were pretty good. Unfortunately, starters Cameron Heyward, Dexter Larimore, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, Chimdi Chekwa, Devon Torrence, and Jermale Hines are all no longer with us. Each year it seems I’m talking about the talent OSU lost on defense and how it seems an impossible task to not have a huge dropoff in production, but each year there seems to be a new group of emerging stars that keep this unit near the top in the country. As the saying goes in Columbus, they don’t rebuild, they reload. Let’s look at the players the Buckeyes will be reloading with this season.

Cameron Heyward was a beast, and will certainly be missed, but the defensive line will be the strength of the defense and should be one of the best units in the conference. Leading the way will be returning starters and All-Big Ten hopefuls Nathan Williams and John Simon. DE Williams led the team in sacks last season, and should be poised for a monster senior season. Simon can create matchup problems with his ability to line up at end or tackle, but should see most of his snaps in the middle. Alongside Simon will be sophomore Jonathan Hankins, who played some last year but struggled with his weight, which hovered around 350 lbs. He’s now down to a slim 325. Garrett Goebel looks to be the front-runner to replace Heyward at end, with Adam Bellamy and Melvin Fellows pushing him. If these guys don’t impress in the first few weeks, Solomon Thomas will get a shot when he returns from his five-game suspension.

Ohio St rolls out All-American caliber linebackers year after year, so even though this group doesn’t have a ton of experience, I’m confident they can be very effective. Also, they have the coolest names of any position on the team. Andrew Sweat is the lone returning starter, and will be the leader of the unit. He started mostly on the strong side last year, but should move to the weak side this season to be more in space. Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein will take over the other two starting roles, with Sabino most likely in the middle and Klein on the strong side, although they could switch. Sabino was a special teamer extraordinaire and saw limited action at linebacker in ‘09 before being redshirted last season. He broke his hand this off-season but will be ready for the opener, playing with a cast on. Klein was beaten out by Sweat for a starting gig last year, but seems primed to be a tackling machine opposite Sweat this year. The ‘backers will be a little thin with Jonathan Newsome transferring and Dorian Bell being suspended for the whole year. With those two no longer in the mix, Jordan Whiting and Tony Jackson will be the top reserves. Tyler Moeller will attempt to make another comeback, and should play safety, but may see some time at LB if he is needed.

The secondary is certainly filled with the most question marks on the team. Chekwa, Hines and Torrence made up one of the best defensive backfields in the nation last year, and will be borderline impossible to replace. The good news is there is a lot of promise in the current secondary, but there are also some injury concerns. Travis Howard and Dominic Clarke will take over the corner spots. Howard showed positive signs at the beginning of last season, but spent the majority of the year on the bench with a shoulder injury. He expects to be back at full strength, and looks to be the playmaker of the DBs. Clarke played well on special teams as a freshman in ’10, and comes into this season as the top cover corner. Dionte Allen and Corey Brown will be the first to get in in nickel and dime situations.

Orhian Johnson will return to start at safety and has the most talent of the group, but must stay healthy and come up with more big plays. The most interesting story line of the secondary revolves around Tyler Moeller. Moeller played at linebacker back in 2008, then missed all of the 2009 season after being violently jumped in the offseason and suffering a serious head injury, one that doctors said may prevent him from ever playing football again. Against the odds, Moeller was ready to play the following season and was moved to safety, where he was incredible in the first four games before suffering a torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Finally catching a break, Moeller was granted a sixth year of eligibility for this season and the starting strong safety spot should be his, provided he can stay healthy. If he cannot, Johnson would most likely switch to strong and C.J. Barnett, who is returning from an injury himself, would take over at free safety. Barnett beat out Johnson for the starting FS spot last season but injured his knee in game one and missed the entire season.

The Buckeye special teams offer two completely opposite ends of the spectrum when they are kicking and when they are receiving. When OSU is on the receiving end, look out. Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry averaged 27.9 and 25.4 yards per kick return, respectively, last season. Hall also averaged a respectable 9.9 yards per punt return. Hall should get the majority of the work, but both he and Berry can break off a big one at any given time.

On the other hand, I could not be more worried about the kicking game. Super-reliable Devin Barclay is gone, with Drew Basil taking over placekicking duties. Basil has a massive leg, but needs to prove he can connect on mid-range field goals on a consistent basis. Don’t even get me started on punter Ben Buchanan. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a Buckeye more, except for maybe Jon Thoma, the punter he replaced. Then of course there’s the issue of covering kicks. Ohio St gave up two scores on kick returns and one on a punt, while allowing a miserable 10.5 yards per punt return. This needs to be fixed.


The Schedule
Ohio St opens the season welcoming two Ohio schools to The Shoe to get obliterated. Akron comes first (three more days!) followed by Toledo. September 17 provides the Bucks with their first test, at Miami. The Hurricanes are in the midst of a scandal of their own, and three of their players will be suspended for this contest. QB Jacory Harris and four others will have served their one-game suspensions. Going to Miami without Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, and Mike Adams has me slightly worried, but Ohio St should still be able to pull this one out. Colorado then comes to Columbus to close out non-conference play. Don’t let the fact the Buffaloes are in the Big 12 scare you - Toledo is a much more formidable opponent.

Big Ten play begins with two of the year’s toughest tests. Michigan St visits Ohio Stadium on October 1 in the final game of suspensions for the “Tat 5.” The Spartans return QB Kirk Cousins and RBs Edwin Baker and Le’Von Bell to form one of the conference’s best offenses. The Buckeyes will welcome back Herron, Posey and Adams the following week. Their coming-home gift? A trip to Memorial Stadium, home to an ongoing record of 311 consecutive sellouts and #10 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. The returning players will have no time to adjust and be asked to carry this team to an upset victory in a hostile environment.

A visit to Illinois is up next. Nathan Scheelhaase is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but the Illini don’t have much else. October 29 will be another tough game at home against Wisconsin. RBs Montee Ball and James White could each be All-Americans if they played on separate teams, making up the nation’s best backfield. The Badgers have a tough schedule coming into this contest including games against Oregon St, Nebraska, and at Michigan St, but could be undefeated when they visit The Shoe, providing a chance for the Buckeyes to pay them back for last season.

Ohio St should be able to breathe easy the next two weeks, facing Indiana at home and going to Purdue. Penn St comes to Columbus November 19 before Ohio St closes out the regular season in michigan. New head man Brady Hoke seems to have people in Ann Arbor thinking they are back, but I’m not sold yet. Can’t-Tie was in the absolute perfect situation in a Rich Rodriguez offense, and he still couldn’t be successful. I’m supposed to believe he’s going to be All-Big Ten in a dropback-style offense? Pass. (Which, along with tying his shoes, is something else Can‘t-Tie can’t do.) If the Buckeyes can take the conference’s Leaders Division (Wisconsin being the only real threat with Penn St having an outside chance), they will most likely have a rematch with Nebraska to determine the Big Ten Champ.


The Outlook
With the conference’s addition of Nebraska, the suspensions to star players, and the graduation of most of a devastating defense, this will certainly be the toughest of the past seven seasons for the Buckeyes to grab another Big Ten title. While this does look like a down year for the program, a down year at Ohio St is a hell of a year for most schools. Looking at the schedule, I definitely don’t see any more than four losses there. Realistically, I could see the Bucks posting a 4-1 mark during the suspensions, splitting with Nebraska and Wisconsin, winning the rest of their games and finishing 10-2 with a possible shot at a conference championship game.

I think I’ve said all I could possibly say about this team without even seeing them on the field yet. All we can do now is put our faith in Luke Fickell and cheer our asses of for another season of Buckeye football (and make as many michigan jokes as possible).


GET EM

Saturday, August 27

Wolverine's

I thought Id break up Figg's article's on the Buckeye's to show reader's this fine piece of sport's apparel designed for fan's of the michigan wolverine's. Lets go indeed! Its one of the more excellent um t-shirt's I've seen in some time, even besting those super-awesome "big house" thing's some of your cooler michigan fan's ware.

Of course, if you actually bought this t-shirt, the missing apostrophe should be the least of your concerns, especially because none of your co-fans will likely have the acumen to call you out on it. The fact that you actually like michigan "football" is a far more serious and systematic problem that you need to address, probably sooner rather than later.

But until then, by all means, enjoy the shirt, and Beat Ohio! Because we know the state of Ohio only has one FBS football program. OK, fine, it actually has eight. But only the Buckeyes have beaten you guys in recent seasons.

Except that one other team in 2008.

Wednesday, August 24

Buckeye Season Preview Part I

At the beginning of the calendar year, Ohio St was celebrating a thrilling victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. In just about nine short months, the landscape of the Buckeye football program has changed drastically. Amidst a scandal regarding several high-profile Buckeye football players "allegedly" receiving improper benefits throughout their tenures in Columbus, legendary coach Jim Tressel has stepped down and superstar quarterback Terrelle Pryor has left the team. It is no secret that this once-proud and storied program is in the middle of a total shit-storm (NCAA sanctions still pending), and new head coach Luke Fickell is being called on to be the man to bring them back to where they belong - in the top echelon of collegiate football. Let’s take a look at how he plans to do that, and whether or not he can be successful so soon after the mess that was this off-season.


Last Season
Ohio St came into the 2010 football season ranked #2, with expectations where they typically are in C-Bus - National Championship or bust. If it were not for the first two-and-half quarters on an October Saturday night in Madison, WI, it just may have been the former, but let’s start from the beginning.

OSU cruised through their opener against Marshall leading into their showdown with Miami. The Bucks prevailed in The Shoe, 36-24, but some bone-headed Buckeye mistakes made this game look closer than it was. Another couple of drubbings against far inferior Ohio and Eastern Michigan teams put Ohio St at 4-0 heading into conference play.

In another game that was closer than it should have been, OSU beat Illinois 24-13 in the Big Ten opener. The Bucks stomped Indiana before that forgetful night against the Badgers. Ohio St’s defense seemed invincible all season long, save for this one performance, where Wisconsin running backs John Clay and James White bitch slapped them for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. OSU dug themselves a hole early, trailing at 21-3 at halftime. They provided a bit of a comeback in the final two quarters, but the deficit was too much to overcome and the #1 ranked Buckeyes fell 31-18.

Ohio St came back with a vengeance, outscoring their next three opponents (Purdue, Minnesota, Penn St) by a combined 139-24. OSU then toppled Iowa 20-17, in the regular season’s most exciting game. In the regular season finale, the Buckeyes dropped a close one to michig...oh wait, this is a post from this decade, meaning Ohio St easily disposed of its rival, like always, 37-7. OSU finished the season tied for first in the Big Ten, claiming themselves at least a share of a sixth straight conference title. The Sugar Bowl was an exhilarating one, with Ohio St getting a big lead early only to blow it in the second half before finally prevailing on a last-minute interception of Ryan Mallet in the red zone to beat Arkansas 31-26.


The Offense
With the departure of Jim Tressel and, to a lesser extent, Terrelle Pryor, Ohio St will usher in a new era of Buckeye football. So who will be under center to lead this new era? Well, as I write this we are nine days away from kickoff, and the answer to this question is still unclear. OSU came into spring camp with a wide open, four-man race. Let’s take a look at our candidates, shall we?

Joe Bauserman, Sr. - The only one with any experience, and it isn’t much. In mop-up action last season, Bowser completed 16 of 22 passes for 174 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. Remember Todd Boeckman? Well, picture him, with a weaker arm and without that one year of All-Conference play. Probably the front-runner to start early on in the season.

Kenny Guiton, So. - The dual-threat sophomore has thrown all of two career passes. He showed some flashes with a great Spring Game last year, but couldn’t unseat Bauserman as the backup in ‘10, so that pretty much tells you all you need to know.

Braxton Miller, Fr. - Surely the most talented of the group, and definitely the fan favorite to win the gig. The drawback, as it goes with any true freshman, is the lack of experience and leadership. I see very few scenarios that don’t play out with this guy leading the team by mid-season, but he even has a shot to take over from Week 1.

Taylor Graham, Fr. - The redshirt freshman is son of former OSU standout Kent Graham. He definitely has the best arm of the group but also is the least mobile. His only chance to see the field this year is if the others all really struggle, particularly in the downfield passing attack.

With practices all but over and the season ready to begin, I’m sure Fickell and the coaching staff have a plan in place for the QB position - they just haven’t filled me in yet. My guess is that Bauserman will start opening day, but will be pulled early in the season in favor of Miller.

So with a new quarterback, Ohio St will be relying heavily on their workhorse running back and play-making receiver...starting in Week 6. This is the case because Dan Herron and DeVier Posey were two of the players in the aforementioned scandal, resulting in their suspensions from the first five games of the season.

Boom Herron is a stud - he proved that time and time again last year - but the outlook at RB isn’t all that bleak even with his suspension, as the Buckeyes have a stable of guys ready to carry the load. Jordan Hall will most likely be the “primary” back, although this will by all means be a running back-by-committee. Hall’s 37 carries were tops last year among returning Buckeyes, and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him an attractive option, considering a new QB may need his check-down guy often.

The most explosive runner on the team is sophomore Jaamal Berry, who averaged a stupid 8.3 yards per carry in limited time last season. I predicted 2010 to be a breakout year for the youngster from Miami, FL, but with Herron being said stud and the since-departed Brandon Saine getting his touches, carries were hard to come by last season. Herron’s suspension just might be the catalyst in Berry becoming a household name. Big man Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith will also see some action. If one or two of these guys show some promise early on, expect them to split carries with Herron once he returns, forming one of the best ground attacks in the NCAA. Don’t forget about fullback Zach Boren, one of the best lead blockers in the nation.

While the Ohio St running game should be fine sans Boom for a few weeks, the case is much different in the receiving corps without go-to man DeVier Posey. The OSU wides were very thin last year, so the suspension to Posey paired with the graduation of Dane Sanzenbacher leaves the Bucks in dire straits. The only players with a single catch to their resume are sophomores Chris Fields and Corey Brown, who have combined for a whopping 11 career grabs. They appear to be set as the starters in the season’s first five games, and will certainly need help in the form of immediate contributions from true freshmen Devin Smith and Evan Spencer. Redshirt freshmen Verlon Reed and T.Y. Williams may also find their way into the mix. This is not good news for a new starting QB, so tight ends Jake Stoneburner and Reid Fragel will have huge tasks to be the go-to-guys early on to try and steady their signal-caller, whomever that may be. Week 6 cannot come soon enough.

The offensive line will have some new faces, but this unit should once again be the strength of the Buckeye offense, thanks mostly in part to All-Big Ten center and team captain Mike Brewster. Fellow senior J.B. Shugarts is solid and will be back to man the right tackle position, as long as he can shake off a few nagging injuries. The third member of the trio of would-be returning starters, Mike Adams, is - you guessed it - suspended for the first five games.

Sophomore Andrew Norwell looks to have the first shot at replacing Adams, but other young players, including four true freshman, may get their opportunities should he falter. With Justin Boren and Bryant Browning graduated, there is open competition for the two guard spots. Marcus Hall, who seemed to be in Jim Tressel’s doghouse much of last season, should have one spot, as sophomores Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, and Ivan Blackman vie for the other. When Adams, another All-Conference performer, returns, this should be one of the better O-lines in the country.


Check back in next week to read my thoughts on the defense, how the schedule shapes up, and overall what we can expect the Buckeyes to accomplish this season.

GET EM

Forecasting the Browns' season

With our resident Browns expert Nick apparently still sidelined with ten broken fingers, I thought I'd take a look ahead at what awaits the Cleveland Browns in the almost-here 2011 season. While I do that, I want to simultaneously undercut my entire analysis by evaluating the volatility of the NFL season year-on-year.

You see, there's a certain temptation to look up and down the Browns schedule, evaluate the opponent, and mark prospective W's and L's depending on how that team performed last year. Cincinnati: W. Indianapolis: L. Dolphins: W. And so on. There are two major problems with this.

1) The Browns, even though they haven't been anything resembling good of late, always manage to defeat at least one team that no one gives them a chance against, one of those "guaranteed" L's on the slate. What did you think when you scanned ahead and saw dates at New Orleans and vs New England awaiting a team sporting a 1-5 record and a -37 point differential, starting a rookie third-string QB? Exactly. But look back, we do it every year: 2007 (Seahawks), 2008 (Giants), 2009 (Steelers, hell yes), 2010 (Saints and Patriots). There is a team somewhere on Cleveland's 2011 schedule that you're not giving them a chance to beat that they will neverthelesstake down. [The opposite will unfortunately happen too - 2010 (Buffalo), 2009 (Detroit), 2008 (Bengals) and 2007 (Bengals, thanks DA).]

2) The NFL has a lot of turnover each year in terms of which teams are good and bad. Frankly, I don't know how true this is, though I know I and others take it as an article of faith. If that's true, how come the stupid steelers are never bad? Granted, there are always a couple of surprise teams, but on average how much movement is there in the standings for a given year? I think it's time to see how much turnover there really is, and I'm just the guy to do it.

The Browns' 2011 opponents posted a .492 overall winning percentage in 2010, buoyed in no small part by the 12 wins posted by both Pittsburgh and Baltimore and the fact that we have to play both of those horrible franchises twice, as usual. Take out those AFC North behemoths, and the rest of our schedule is a paltry .406. All right!

Now the question: how much volatility is there really in the NFL for a given season? How useful are that .406 and .492 marks I calculated? I looked at the 2009-10 seasons, because why would I pick another one? It's possible, I suppose, that 2010 wasn't representative, but it didn't feel not representative, and I don't feel like evaluating multiple years' win-loss deltas.

In 2010, the average NFL team experienced a change in wins of 3.3, and moved up or down in their division 1.25 spots, the latter being rather significant because of the small four-team groupings in the current NFL. Fun fact: only two teams posted identical records in '09 and '10; the Miami Dolphins and YOUR Cleveland Browns.

In my view, that average number of 3.3 supports the conventional wisdom that success or failure in the NFL is highly variable year-over-year. Fifteen teams, just a shade under half of the entire league, won at least four more or fewer contests in 2010 than they did in 2009, a swing of an entire quarter of a season from one column to the other! So when you inspect, for example, the Browns' schedule and see a date with Jacksonville on November 20, you can note that the Jags went 8-8 in 2010 but also need to bear in mind that they're just as likely as not to post four or fewer (or 12 or greater) wins in 2011 as they are to remain in the 5 to 11 wins band, which is itself pretty wide. So armed with this knowledge, why on Earth would I try to forecast the Browns' season?

Ha, I talked myself out of it.

But it's still interesting to look at the groups of should-wins and should-loses and consider that they're virtually certain to buck public opinion on (at least) one from each list.

Should-wins (6 or fewer wins in 2010): Bengals (2x), Titans, 49ers, Cardinals

Should-loses (10 or more wins in 2011): steelers (2x), ravens (2x), Colts...and those are the only 2010 10-win clubs we play, thanks to it being our turn to play the NFC West this year.

I suppose the take-home message here is: expect the unexpected. That's good news for Browns fans, since pretty much everyone expects us to be awful this year.

Monday, August 22

That sucked

What a weekend :(

Coming off of three straight series wins against AL Central foes, including grabbing 2/3 from division-leading Detroit at Progressive Field and 2/3 from third-place Chicago on the road, the Indians pulled within 1.5 games of first heading into Detroit for a three-day showdown with the Tigers. And then...played one of their worst series on the season, failing epically in basically every phase of the game and marooning themselves deep in second place.

Josh Tomlin started the opener on Friday night, and actually pitched a decent ballgame, though he was victimized by three home runs (including Jhonny Peralta continuing his inexplicable, irksome monster season) that translated into Detroit's four runs on the evening. The Indians, unfortunately, were facing five-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, and dropped a listless affair 4-1.

Back in the majors after some roster mathematics sent him down to Columbus despite three sparkling starts for the Tribe (20 2/3 IP, 1 ER) David Huff (happy birthday today!) started Saturday's ballgame, and a problem was immediately apparent: the Indians accidentally called up 2010 David Huff! You know, that guy who doesn't throw strikes, gives up walks, falls behind in counts, and gives up 5 ER in 2 1/3 IP. Boy does the Indians Front Office feel silly today! Hopefully they'll get the correct version of Huff for his next turn in the rotation. The Indians' bats contributed their customary token run in what eventually was an embarrassing 10-1 drubbing.

You've likely noticed that this article is a little more sarcastic and biting than usual - some of that is because of how annoying the games were, but part is because of my infuration with MLB's stupid "warn both benches" policy. I'm not saying Ubaldo Jimenez' horrific 3 1/3 IP, 8 ER outing was entirely because of the warning he was issued in the top of the third for not having done anything wrong at all, but taking away his inability to pitch inside because of something the other team's pitcher did certainly didn't help.

Let's review. In the top of the 3rd, Asdrubal Cabrera cranked one far down the right field line against Tiger pitcher/world-class douchebag Rick Porcello. Cabrera stood at the plate with his bat, knowing it had the distance but quite aware that it was hooking foul, despite all the wishful body english Cabrera could muster. Upset with this...foul ball, Porcello immediately threw the next pitch at/behind Cabrera, which is a straight-up dick move. Completely uncalled-for. Cabrera wasn't "showing him up" (not that I recognize that as a legitimate reason to throw a baseball 90 MPH at a guy anyway), just lamenting the inevitable foulness of his drive.

So of course, the umpires take the pathetic, brainless MLB-sanctioned action of "warning both benches," wherein if either pitcher plunks a hitter from then out, they're ejected. This policy could not be stupider. For one, hit batsmen are a part of the game, and it does happen acidentally. I know they're trying to prevent Jimenez from retaliating, but it's preposterous to essentially make him walk a tightrope every time he wants to come inside with a pitch just because Porcello is a moron. How about warning, I don't know, the guy who threw the purpose pitch? Why wouldn't a team just, every game, throw one behind an opposing batter early in the contest? Especially if you're facing a superior pitcher - just throw one at the other team's guy, and MLB's brilliant rules mean if your opponent's ace pitcher accidentally plunks a guy, you've knocked him out of the box.

The Indians eventually woke up after spotting the Tigers seven runs in the 3rd, scoring just enough to still lose an 8-7 game on a game-ending flyout/throw out at home after about 100 chances to tie the game, to complete the sweep. Damnit.

Thursday, August 18

Inflation

We received a notice from baseball-reference.com the other day regarding Forest City Fanatics' sponsorship of one Matthew Vincent LaPorta's page on their site, a page which, by the way, is an unbelievably useful tool. In case you didn't know, we plunked down $25 last year to attach our name to LaPorta's career stats, an investment which, as far as I can tell, has yet to net us a single reader. Such is life.

But apparently, the Matt LaPorta market is hot, despite Mister X having clevery nicknamed him Matt "Hey, Matt LaPorta, You Suck" LaPorta the night he hit that three-run walkoff against the Royals. Check out our invoice:

This e-mail regards your sponsorship of page on Baseball-Reference.com.
"sponsorship of page"

Thank you for supporting Baseball-Reference.com. We are writing to let you know that your sponsorship of the following page will expire in 21 days. Clicking the link will take you directly to the renewal page.
At this point, I'm thinking, eh, maybe I'll renew - I probably got $25 of use from B-R last year anyway, right? All those ERA+ and OPS+ I scatter about my unread articles come from B-R. Then:

Matt LaPorta ($95 to renew for 1 year)
$95?????
Really?
This represents a 280% price increase from last year for the privilege of sponsoring the page of a dude with a sparkling 2011 WAR of 0.2. How did this inflation come about? Has B-R's demand been that explosive? Curious, I poked around a bit at the available Tribe pages (Steve Buffum of the B-List snapped up Lou Marson). The fact that over half of our roster is up for grabs makes me wonder about B-R's pricing scheme.

Travis Hafner is $180 (the most expensive Indian, even in cyberspace)
Grady Sizemore for $230 (I stand corrected!)
Kosuke Fukudome is an almost impossible-to-believe $195. Read that number again.
Justin Masterson is $150 (try getting Verlander for that price. Sabathia is $680 for a year. Pujols is the Boardwalk of MLB'ers at $1795 - the only one I've seen over $1k. I sense a party game...)
Josh Tomlin $105 (starting pitching is so hard to find)
Carlos Carrasco is $85
Carlos Santana is $115 (this seems fairly accurate to me)
Jack "The Zookeeper" Hannahan is a preposterous $85

Young'uns can be had on the cheap:
The Chiz is $55
Cord Phelps is $50
Zeke Carrera $30
David Huff $25
"The Baseball Index" snapped up Jason Kipnis, damnit.

The bullpen is amazingly cheap:
Raffy Perez is $25
Vinnie Pestano is $30
Joe Smith $25

The 2011 Indians' team page is only $510, as it turns out. You could buy the Tribe three and a half times for what it takes to nab Pujols' page. Prince Albert must get some serious traffic.

If you're looking for a good bargain buy for FCF, and I am, I feel like Vinnie Pestano is my best choice. Come on, same birthday as JHH, career ERA+ of 133, sprints from the bullpen, allows me to use a hilarious Italian accent every time he comes in. Definitely worth the < 1/3 of the fee I'd have to fork over to B-R for LaPorta. Don't delay! supplies are limited! I could also listen to arguments for the Chiz, or maybe Huff.

On the "Don't Buy" ledger, Fukudome has to be the worst value on the board. Hannahan plays a wonderful 3B, but $85?

If you have decided to no longer sponsor this page, thank you for your prior support, and we hope you will continue to visit Baseball-Reference.com.
I'm going to visit the living shit out of your site, like always, and might even throw a few bucks your way for Vinnie.

If you have any questions or comments, please reply to this e-mail, and we will take care of your request.
I'm much more comfortable replying via blog post.

Sincerely,
[Redacted]

Thanks for the heads-up.

Wednesday, August 17

Super-comment metapocalypse

So...I read David Schoenfeld's article about the Indians winning Game 1 of the Tigers series, and for some reason, found myself drifting down into the comments, which I never do, what with them being a cesspool of idiocy and all. But I found myself entranced with many of the comments, so here you go:

jim_cash1021

when i saw schlereth throwing 90% 78mph curve balls, i had a gut feeling we were going to squeeze. I told my wife the right before he threw the wild miss by brantley that Acta was going to squeeze. Brantley hadnt done jack at the plate and the pitcher threw slow. 7/10 times that play works in that scenario.

90%? 7/10? I don't know what's more entertaining, this guy's random number generation or his seer-like powers of prediction.


Sacfly69
I can't believe I watched that terrible game last night. Neither of those teams deserved to win that. They should have just given away the win to KC.

Great plan. Are you sure you thought that one through, Sacfly69? They don't typically award wins to non-participating teams in American baseball. And the Indians did in fact deserve to win, by virtue of having scored more runs than Detroit. And could a game that went 14 innings with zero errors really have been so poorly-played?

Here we've got a goofy series of comments:

PilotAn-225
"Psychologically, the Indians entered the game with a 54-54 record."
-It was a 56-56 record, actually, but close enough, Mr. Schoenfield

IndianaAce
Yeah, well this is a major sports company. All they do is sports. I don't care if this was written at 2 AM or not. Get the darn record right. All that aside, the Indians should be favorites to win this division next year, with the experience from this year and a healthy Choo posting normal numbers to help the lineup. He's been missed.

Gothica639
Can you people possibly cry a bit harder? Or are your lives so miserable that you have to nitpick and whine about every little thing?

Thanks for the haranguing and life perspective there, guy who's commenting about someone else commenting about a story written about a baseball game! Granted, I'm doing a meta-comment piece myself, but I'm not accusing people of having miserable lives because they pointed out a fairly indefensible error in a story by the Worldwide Leader. This is a weird thing done by Internet elitists everywhere, from LeBron to Gothica639, going all ad hoc on someone and assuming that their entire life is sad based on a piece of sports criticism.

andrewjbates
i'm a huge indians fan and as much as i hate everything about the state of michigan (detroit, the tigers, the university of michigan and so on)

By the way, great start from AJ. I already like this kid.

neither team is gonna be winning the world series this year. until a firm salary cap is placed in baseball teams like detroit and cleveland will be fighting for division titles and not much else.

Says who? One of them is going to get in, and we've seen countless times what a free-for-all the MLB playoffs are. The Cardinals won all of 83 games in '06 and took the title.

detroit is a HOCKEY town for christ's sake. not baseball, not football.... hockey. i do like the red wings though.

Wow, should have stopped after that first clause - this comment just got worse and worse. Why does a city have to be a "____" town? Can't a city have devoted fans of more than one sports franchise?

Ihatebandwagons
Hold up... It's not like these teams have always been in trouble. Tigers WS run in 2006... Indians were hands down the second best team in the league and was one game away from the WS in 2007. There was no cap then. The system works fine... What baseball needs to try and do is curb bandwagon fans. Support the teams you live by don't just buy Gonzo red sox jerseys and sit around and never go to a game.

"Hands down the second best team" is a weird phrase. They won 99 games that year, most in the majors. Though I share this fellow's distaste for fair-weather fans, I'm not clear on how he wants to implement this Bandwagon Blockade.

johngrove09
This comment [Ed: andrewjbates'] is just factually incorrect. Teams with lower payrolls (including the Indians as well as the Rays, Rockies, Marlins, Rangers and others) have made serious runs at World Series titles just in the last few years. Beyond that, Detroit spends a lot of money - top 10 in payroll. If the Tigers are somehow disqualified from the WS because they don't spend enough, then you're basically saying that only NY, Bos, or Philly could win a title, which is clearly not true.

Paul Cousineau at the DiaTribe has covered this topic far more in-depth than me, but suffice it to say Mr Grove isn't making the right argument here, though he does effectively shoot down Bates' position that the Tribe or Tigers couldn't get out of the first round.

Unfortunately, he puts a lot of words in other people's mouths, and the fact that low-payroll teams occasionally seize on their windows of opportunity doesn't mean that baseball's payroll imbalance is a good thing or that the game is fair. Grove's comment here has some truth, but it's buried in some misconceptions about baseball's competitiveness and some weird quasi-logic.

It's no wonder these comment threads become such dungeons of inanity - who could possibly police all this madness?

Monday, August 15

When in doubt...michigan sucks

Anyone even peipherally associated with or interested in this sports weblog, or "blog," knows that Ohio State University's football team has absolutely dominated the unit representing the university of michigan over the past decade. Ohio State's legal troubles notwithstanding, it remains a fact that the wolverines (which I recently discovered are a member of the weasel family) haven't toppled the Buckeyes in The Game since 2003. That's seven straight for those of you from michigan. In fact, the yearly contest has become something of a formality, with OSU posting easy wins in each of the past three seasons.

I certainly don't think the final outcome is going to change this year, but the departure of Jim Tressel from Columbus and arrival of Brady Hoke in ann arbor may level the playing field a bit. As much as I enjoyed watching the hapless LLLLoyd Carr and ├╝ber-douche Rich Rodriguez tarnish the wolverine legacy, the game will likely become more interesting with a more legitimate guy in charge of the yellow and blue. Much as Jim Tressel immediately put the focus of his tenure on beating the school up north (and delivering 9 wins in 10 tries), Hoke is trying to put his stamp on college football's greatest rivalry as well.

Of course, being from michigan, he's going about it in a dim-bulb fashion. Look at one of the signs posted around um's campus:



Hoke's concept is to not acknowledge the "THE," "State," "University," or "Buckeyes" part of OSU's name - I guess he's trying to go for something like how we call them the "school up north"? It's totally lame though, inasmuch as we actually have an Ohio University. Are we to believe that Hoke has his sights set on the mighty Bobcats?



I kid, I kid. I know Hoke is gunning for the archrival Buckeyes, and I also know he's new to this, so I'm going to go ahead and help him out with sign design.



Much better.

Friday, August 12

Believeland

A few years ago, a friend of mine had the idea to spin "Cleveland" into "Believeland," a portmanteau expressing the support and confidence Northeast Ohio has for its teams. He had plans to market it and everything. Of course, that slogan had already been coined, and he was a steelers fan who turned out to be a weird dude, so...that's not a particularly good intro. Forget I even wrote it. Move along.

Nevertheless, I believe that the Cleveland Indians can win the American League Central in 2011, even if B-Pro has downgraded us to just an 8% probability of doing so. Regardless of the 1/12 shot B-Pro gives us ("never tell me the odds"), I'm not basing my analysis on "faith" or "hope" - as usual, occasionally to the annoyance of those around me, I'm basing it as much as possible on logic.

Consider first the Wahoos' remaining schedule. Pronounce it "shed-ule" if you like. We have 47 games remaining in which to make up two games on the Detroit Tigers and stave off the third-place Chicago White Socks, who sit just one back. Some facts about those remaining games:

- 25 are at home, 22 are on the road.
- Only 12 of the 47 are against teams with winning records
- The average win percentage of our remaining opponents, weighted by how many times we will face them, is just .476.
- We have nine more shots at Detroit and eleven against the White Socks. Our destiny is entirely in our own hands.

Schedule-wise, you couldn't set up a better seven-week closing stretch for the Tribe. Minnesota, for example, comes into town this week with three starters dragging 4.50+ ERA's into their starts, in the personages of Pavano, Duensing, and Slowey. Winnable much?

That's fine, but what about the Indians themselves, a team who is just 28-42 (.400) over their past 70 games? I've argued all season that the Indians have been a well-balanced team, despite the odd "conventional wisdom" that pitching has carried them, and we still currently sport a 100 OPS+ and a 97 ERA+, backing my view. We sit just below the "LgAvg" entry when you sort the AL in both categories, scoring 4.31 a game (LgAvg = 4.36) and posting an ERA of 3.97 (LgAvg = 3.95). Balance is the key to this team - as maligned as their lineup has been, more AL teams plate fewer runs a game than the Tribe (7), than plate more (6).

Some new arrivals, most notably Ubaldo Jimenez, may change that balance in favor of the pitching staff. The strength of the mound unit all year has been the Bullpen Mafia - recent road trip notwithstanding, Smith, the Perezes, Pestano, and Sipp have all been excellent this season. The starters have been less impressive - only Justin Masterson (ERA+ = 142) has been above-average, and dramatically so. But think about how the rotation can slot now, given some recent acquisitions and promotions:

Masterson
Jimenez
Tomlin
Carmona
Carrasco
Huff

You only need five from that group to perform for the rest of the season, and frankly I see Carrasco as the odd man out. Huff appears to have really figured things out, not just based on his two stellar outings with the Tribe but on the numbers and reports from Columbus as well. Tomlin seems extremely likely to be his same consistently good self ("a quality, classy pitcher") and Carmona has shown flashes (like his final four innings last night) that maybe having the pressure of being a #1 might help him relax and get people out.

We shouldn't expect a huge upswing in runs, though having Choo back should provide a lift. If he and Brantley can return at close to their normal levels, we can slot the lineup as:

Brantley LF
Kipnis 2B (how about this kid?)
Cabrera SS
Hafner DH
Choo RF
Santana 1B
Fukudome CF
Chiz 3B
Marson C

I'll take my chances with that lineup, not least because it puts Ezequiel Carrera in a role as 4th OF where he belongs so I don't have to see him every day.

Look, we're not going to breeze to a division title, and I know there were a few "ifs" both explicit and implicit in my forecast. But the schedule, heavy on home games, weak sisters, and the teams we need to oust, is right where it needs to be. The rotation got a big shot in the arm by the addition of Ubaldo (last start: 8 IP, 0 ER). The bullpen has been strong all year. And the lineup looks like it might all be coming together at the perfect time.

GET EM.

Thursday, August 11

Welcome to Progressive Field

May I help you?

Monday, August 8

Andy's Favorite Teams

Figgs got the ball rolling nicely for us with his list of his favorite sports team-seasons, and since I was involved in the bar discussion that sparked it, I thought I'd chime in as well. I started with a list of 19, so we'll give out some honorable mentions and get to the Top 10.

Just for Fun
'95 Steelers
'10 Steelers
Ha! I've never been so proud to be fake fans of the Packers and Cowboys. OK, enough fooling around, let's focus.

Nope, still making jokes
'10-'11 Miami Heat
HA! OK, OK, I'll stop. Whew, good times. Go Mavs!

Honorable Mention
'99-00 Penguins
'05 Alkaline Drives
'87 Indians
'10-11 Bucks B-ball
'01 Indians

I'll talk more about my relationship to the Penguins around the turn of the millennium and the role they played in my larger interest in sports, but this '99-'00 club opened up hockey to me and gave me a great playoff run. I went to my first of many games at the Mellon the previous year (I just now discovered the actual date of 2/9/99, thanks to the magic of the Interwebs), a fantastic 3-2 win over Les Habs where Jaromir Jagr netted the game-tying goal late in the 3rd and the Pens won in OT. The '99-'00 team entered as the 7 seed and promptly dumped the 2nd-seeded Capitals because the Pens always beat the Capitals, then stormed to a 2-1 lead over top-seeded Philly. They dropped Game 4 in a heartbreaking FIVE OT game, a contest during which my buddies and I drove to the arena after the second OT but were denied entry. After Keith Primeau finally ended the game at 2 am, I didn't know what I should do next, and the Pens never recovered either.

The '05 Alkaline Drives was my summer league softball team, the one that finally broke through and took the title. Despite almost never getting more than 9 players on the field for a game, we breezed to a 14-1 regular-season mark (our one loss was an absolute wake-up-call mercy rule pummeling by a mediocre team that I still don't understand) and won three straight to take the league title. We dispatched our two top rivals (Heinz School of Public Policy and Management and the dreaded Chemical Engineers) to claim the cup. All of my softball theories on where to hide weak defenders and how to construct a lineup worked out perfectly, and I played at an unbelievably high level, crushing home runs, dominating left field, and pretty much never making outs. Pretty fantastic season.

The '87 Indians were the first team I ever really, really was into, though I'd gotten into the major sports the year before via the Mets' World Series win. I went to my first game that year at Municipal Stadium, a pasting of the Indians courtesy of the juggernaut Athletics highlighted by a home run from Reggie Jackson, and I still have the souvenir towel. I watched the games, read the box scores, and loved the Tribe. They won: 61 games.

This past year's Buckeye Basketball squad was my favorite since the one that cracked the Top 10, maybe because they had a good mix of new cats and veteran leadership. I dunno, the Finals team from a few years ago seemed a bit mercenary, but I loved the way this club played. Their defeat in the NCAA's to Kentucky still stings a bit.

The 2001 Tribe was the last of our Star Destroyer clubs, the last time we really had the wherewithal to field a high-dollar team and bring in free agents like Juan Gonzalez (who OPS'd .960 and drove in 140) and Roberto Alomar (.336/.415/.956 and a Gold Glove). That team memorably battled the Twins all season, trailing by five games in July before storming to the division title by six games. That was the season that featured The Impossible Return, the comical 15-14 win over Seattle (who won 116 games that year) after trailing 14-2 earlier. While I'm here, that was just one week after the Pirates were trailing the Astros 8-2 in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and nobody on base and still won. That's one of my favorite win probability graphs ever - Baseball Reference lists the Astros' win percentage after taking an 8-2 lead in the 9th as simply "100%." To me, that one might be the more amazing comeback, especially because that Pirate team was awful. The Indians nearly toppled the high-flying Mariners in the ALDS, taking a 1-0 series lead on a Bartolo Colon shutout and a 2-1 edge via a 17-2 clobbering of the M's before bowing out in 5.

Top 11
I know I said 10, but I didn't want to cut any of these clubs. You can have your money back if you'd like.

11) 1990-91 Bucks B-ball
This, and possibly its sequel, was the most exciting college basketball season I've ever followed, and that includes some of Ohio State's recent tournament runs and the remarkable past decade of Pittsburgh Panthers basketball. This team had a bona fide superstar in the person of Jimmy Jackson, plus a remarkably deep lineup of Treg Lee, Mark Baker, Perry Carter, and Chris Jent (Lawrence Funderburke arrived the following year). Side note: I don't remember Mark Baker being "LaMark." Are we sure about this? Randy Ayers' 1991-92 club was just a loaded squad, rolling to a 27-4 mark and the NCAA Regional Semis. What makes this team still resonate with me today were the battles they had with the Indiana Hoosiers, who were still a national power then. OSU won both from the archrival Hoosiers, who had joined Jordan and his Bulls as my favorite basketball villains. With apologies to the rivalry with the school up north, Indiana was a more significant hoops foe back then, at least until um started paying its players. That's the Buckeye team that really got me into college hoops, though I've since settled into a more casual fandom.


10) 08-09 Penguins
This team won the Stanley Cup.

That should be enough, but I think it's worth detailing their playoff run, one of the most impressive and satisying postseason runs I've ever seen in any sport. It was the hockey version of The Bride in Kill Bill making the Death List and just taking them out one by one. It's as if the Browns lost the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys, then came back the following season and dispatched the Broncos, Ravens, and Steelers in the AFC Playoffs before avenging the prevous year with a Super Bowl win over the Pokes.

The Pens entered the playoffs as the #4 seed and as the defending East Champions, having lost to the big-money Detroit Red Wings in the Cup Finals the previous spring. First up, the Philadelphia Flyers, who any self-respecting Penguins fan despises. 4-2, Pens. Next came the overhyped Washington Capitals and the obnoxious Alex Ovechkin; 4-3 Pens. Granted, the Carolina Hurricanes aren't a big rival, so the Pens wisely swept them before claiming the franchise's third Stanley Cup by defeating the heavily-favored Wings, in seven games, on Detroit's home ice. Nice work.


9) '97 Indians
I'm trying not to allow the single most disappointing end to a sporting season of a team that I like in my lifetime get in the way of the fact that my Cleveland Indians not only reached the World Series, but came within three outs of claiming their third World Championship. I mean, this team wasn't a juggernaut like the few before it - after a 100-44 campaign in '95 and 99 wins in '96, this club won a shaky AL Central with an 86-75 mark. They won the Central by six games - maybe "shaky" was too charitable.

In the ALDS, the Indians rallied from a 2-1 series deficit to take down the hated New York Yankees, thanks in part to Sandy Alomar's 8th-inning game-tying home run off of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. The Tribe then avenged the previous year's ousting at the hands of Baltimore by ousting the Orioles in 6. This set up the infamous '97 Series, about which I will only say was one crazy ride. Win or lose, I want to do that again.


8) 91-92 Cavs
The best Cavaliers team of the pre-#6 era, Lenny Wilkens' squad won 57 regular-season games, most in the first 37 years of the franchise, and reached the Conference Finals for just the second time in history (they've since been there twice more). More importantly for the purposes of this writing, this team featured some of my all-time favorite basketball players. I can still remember going to Richfield Coliseum and seeing these guys play, hearing "The Final Countdown" imploring them to one last fourth-quarter push. The names on the club are a who's-who of Cavalier basketball: Daugherty, Nance, Ehlo, Kerr, Ferry, Williams. (Former FCF contributor Doug once referred to this as "The Winston Bennett Era.") Oh, and an undersized point guard with deadly shooting accuracy from Georgia named Mark Price, still my all-time favorite basketball player. Damn was Price ever good. It's hard enough to shoot 90% on foul shots over a span of 10; try doing it in games, over 2362 attempts, after battling dudes way taller than you all game (btw, Price career playoffs: .944).

But this isn't a Mark Price article. This Cavs team breezed through the league with 57 wins, earning them the three seed (thanks to the NBA's dumb division seeding rules), including a 148-80 waxing of Miami that still stands as the biggest blowout in league history. (Suck it, Heat.) The Cavs easily dispatched the Nets 3-1 in the opening round before outlasting Boston in 7 to reach the East Finals. Am I the only one getting tired of ending these fond memories badly? As usual, the Bulls stood between the Cavs and a shot at the title, and as usual, that sucked.


7) 06 Bucks Football
Simply the most explosive offensive Buckeye team I've ever seen, the '06 Ohio State footballers steamrolled everyone they faced in the regular season, averaging a 36-10 victory each of the 12 times they took the field in a season that saw them face the #2 team in the land twice (once Texas, once michigan). Led by Heisman winner Troy Smith and speedster Ted Ginn Jr, there was just no way to get the Buckeye offense off the field that year.

Only one team had the notion to not even try that tactic, but instead to attempt to simply outscore Ohio State, that being the hated wolverines of michigan, who entered the season's final game every bit as unbeaten as the Buckeyes and yet far smellier. As you all know, OSU prevailed 42-39, in an epic game I was lucky enough to attend. The win earned the Buckeyes a shot at their second BCS Title Game, and then Ted Ginn scored a TD on the opening kick, and then hey, look, it's #5 on my list!


6) 02 Browns
Kind of amazing that only one Browns team cracked my entire list, but, well, we haven't been so great, and I was pretty young during the late '80's AFC Championship Game days, so those memories aren't as vivid. This was one fun, weird-ass year for the Brownies. You really couldn't make this stuff up. All of these things happened in 2002:

- Losing the season-opener 40-39 on Dwayne Rudd's infamous helmet toss.
- Rallying from 2 TDs down in the 4th to beat the Titans.
- Beating the Texans in my first-ever Browns game as a paying customer.
- Absorbing a lifeless, hideous 13-6 loss to the punchless Panthers.
- Suffering two annoying losses to Pittsburgh.
- Rallying from down 21-3 in New Jersey to the Jets, including Tim Couch's comical hook pass two-pointer.
- A hail-mary win (Quincy Morgan) against Jacksonville.
- A 90-yard TD drive in 1:30 with no timeouts against the then-vaunted Ravens defense in Baltimore to eke out a 14-13 win.
- "Run, William, Run" and the goal-line stand against the Falcons in the final game of the season.

Even with all those improbable wins, the Browns were lucky to squeak in at 9-7 (the Football Gods rectified that by denying the 10-win 2007 edition a postseason berth), and, well, I kinda wish they hadn't, 429 yards from Kelly Holcomb notwithstanding.


5) 06-07 Cavs
I find myself far more invested in teams that don't necessarily seem like they're among the elite, but nonetheless manage to punch above their weight in the postseason. You couldn't describe the 2006-07 Cavaliers any better. I'm still a little amazed at them reaching the NBA Finals that year, having lucked into the 4th seed with just 50 wins thanks a late-season Nets collapse against the hapless Bulls. I know we all hate LeBron now, and I'm no exception, but in retrospect, how the fuck did he get this team to the Finals? I think we were starting Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, #6, Drew Gooden, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a lineup that looks increasingly absurd.

The Cavs collected their customary win over the Washington Bullets with a 4-0 sweep over Antawn Jamison and whatever four guys he could find to pick up with that night before knocking out Jason Kidd and the Nets 4-2 in a series that really could have gone either way, setting up a rematch of the previous year's 7-game epic against the big, bad Detroit Pistons. The Cavs lost the first two in the Palace, each by a score of 79-76, before roaring back with a pair of home wins to even up the series. That set up LeBron's ridiculous Game 5 in Detroit, a 109-107 double-overtime instant classic that still ranks as easily the greatest individual performance I've ever seen in team sports. It's still kind of hard to believe that happened, #6 racking up 29 of Cleveland's final 30 points against the league's best defense. The Cavaliers blew the Pistons the hell out of the Q in Game 6, but not before the Pistons put on an all-time douchebag clinic. The ragtag Cavs eventually fell to an excellent Spur team in the Finals, but that was a thrilling spring of basketball.


4) 95 Indians
Can I interest you in another devastating postseason loss?

My early years of Tribe fandom finally paid some dividends in '95, just one year after the dumb-ass players strike cost the Wahoos a great shot at their first postseason slot of my lifetime (and the lifetimes of anyone fewer than 25 years my senior). Everything lined up that year, making that team probably the most dominant Cleveland squad in my fan career (yes, even the 66-win late '00's Cavaliers). The Tribe just beat the stuffing out of everyone, winning 100 games in a 144-game season and posting a run differential of...wait for it...233 runs. Do you know how many games they won the division by?

Thirty.

Not over the last-place team, mind you, over the second-place team. I'm serious, look it up. They narrowly edged the basement-dwelling Twins by FOURTY-FOUR games. They scored 5.83 runs a game (best in the AL), allowed 4.22 a game (um...best in the AL), and won roughly 84 games in their final at-bat. Every way you slice that team's numbers is fun. Belle, Thome, Ramirez, Murray, Sorrento, Lofton, Baerga - how could you even pitch to this team?

I normally eschew hyperbole, but you will never see another Indian Summer like '95 again. How Wayne Kirby managed 205 AB for this club is beyond me.

The good vibes continued into the postseason, as the Tribe swept the Red Socks (thanks to Tony Pena's 13th-inning game-winning HR in game 1) and beat the Mariners 4-2 in a crazy ALCS to reach their first World Series in 41 years. Then they lost. Game 6 (a 1-0 Series-deciding loss) was absolute torture. I hate this list.


3) 07 Indians
I don't know if I've ever followed a team as closely as this one, which is a bit ironic because I was living in upstate New York, deep in Yankee/Red Sock country. But I had my subscription to MLB Radio, and I used the hell out of it as the Indians surprised everyone and banged out a league-best 99 wins. Led by twin aces CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, an unstoppable Dual Rafael combination in the bullpen, a closer with no discernible pitching talent except for getting saves, and a lineup led by Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, and Grady Sizemore, this solidly-built, well-rounded club just refused to crack no matter what challenges it was presented.

Those challenges included an ALDS showdown with the mighty Yankees, a series the Indians promptly won 3-1 over the objections of the TBS broadcasting crew, the single most biased national announcing team you or I have ever seen. The Indians quickly went up 3-1 on the also-hated Boston Red Socks, but unfortunately this one was a seven-gamer, and the Tribe ran out of gas as my hatred for Boston's sporting organizations moved up another level.


2) '00-'01 Penguins
As I pointed out when we talked about this last weekend, if it's not for this team, Forest City Fanatics probably doesn't exist. I went through a down period in sports in 1997. The Indians had just lost a devastating world series (see #9), the Browns were on hiatus, the Cavaliers sucks, and I had other interests, having just arrived in college (in Pittsburgh, of all places, removing me from my Ohio sports base). I got back into real sports (as opposed to WWF, which I was way into from '98-'00) thanks almost entirely to this Pens team and the copious amounts of free time I had as a senior.

The Penguins started off OK, but the return of the legendary Mario Lemieux in December really kicked it up another gear. I don't think I missed a game from then on out. I bought a jersey, went to games, loved it. The success factor, the novelty of the game to me, the buzz around Lemieux's dominating comeback, the PBR...it was a heady mix. The sixth-seeded Pens dispatched the Capitals (of course they did) in six games behind upstart goalie Johan "The Moose" Hedberg, including a 2-1 win where I asked Glover roughly 1000 times to check the score remotely because I went to a Fugazi show for part of it. They closed the series on an OT game-winner from Martin Straka that I watched with JHH in West Lafayette along with the zero other hockey fans in Indiana.

That was just an appetizer for the seven-game deathmatch with the Buffalo Hockey Buffaloes, a series where games 5, 6, and 7 all went to overtime. The Pens faced elimination in Game 6, down 3-2 in the series and trailing by a goal in the game with less than a minute to go, but Lemieux tied it and Straka closed it out in the extra period. Pittsburgh won a memorable Game 7 with an goal by unlikely hero defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, about whom a teammate remarked, "he doesn't make that shot in practice." The Pens eventually ran out of gas against a superior New Jersey club (very much like the Cavs finally outlasting the Pistons only to be outclassed by the Spurs), but wow, what a run.


1) '02 Bucks Football
Come on, who else was I going to pick?

Thursday, August 4

Red Socks

Um...I don't like them. At all. Or their fans. You're not loveable underdogs anymore, sorry.

Tom Hamilton had some choice words for the socks last night:

"Much like the Yankees, the Red Sox are a ball club that never feels like they do anything wrong."

"The attitude in NY and Boston is that they should NEVER, EVER have the same strike zone as any other team that they face.”


h/t @letsgotribe

Monday, August 1

Favorite Teams

As Andy has frequently pointed out, he has really been carrying this blog as of late. [Editor's note: I've posted 27 of our last 30 articles; seems fair] So until [Editor's note: I had to insert the word "until" - see how hard-working I am?] he stops complaining [once Nick actually writes something], I thought I'd pitch in. There is an Ohio St preview in the works, but I'll wait until closer to the season for that. Instead, I'd like to elaborate on a brief discussion that took place during Tribe Weekend - your favorite all-time teams in a specific season. The things I took into consideration were obviously the success of the team and how much I liked the individual players, but also just how entertained I was by watching them throughout the year. This is what I came up with.

Honorable Mention:
1996 Cleveland Indians
1998 Cleveland Indians
1999 Cleveland Indians
1998 Ohio St Buckeyes (football)
1998-99 San Antonio Spurs
1998-99 Duke Blue Devils (basketball)
2007 Cleveland Browns
2006-07 Ohio St Buckeyes (basketball)

The Tribe in the 90's was just an incredible thing. These three squads didn't get as far in the postseason as the '95 and '97 ones - that's why they're bumped to honorable mention. The '98 Bucks finished #2 after defeating Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl. They were ranked #1 for most of the season, and if not for blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead to Michigan St, would have played Peyton Manning and Tennessee in the championship game. The two basketball choices may seem odd, but as you'll see in #8, when I was younger I would fall in love with one particular player then follow that team along with their Cleveland counterpart. David Robinson was that player in basketball. He was the best big man defender I have ever seen (yeah Dwight Howard/Hakeem Olajuwon, I said it). Then San An added Tim Duncan and dominated the strike-shortened '98-'99 season. As for Duke, my Dad and brother followed them so they were my inherited team as a youth. If not for their loss to Rip Hamilton and UConn in the title game (we'll unfortunately see them again later), this '98-'99 team would have gone down as one of the greatest NCAA teams ever. The '07 Browns were...well, the best of very limited Browns options. If the Colts don't sit Peyton Manning that Sunday night against the Titans they make the playoffs. Mike Conley, Greg Oden and Daequan Cook made up one of the most talented freshman classes in NCAA history and led the '06-'07 Bucks to the title game, only to lose to Florida. Now on to the Top 15. (I realize the normal thing to do would be a Top 10, but these first five teams were too beloved to be honorable mention.)

15) 2009-10 Ohio St Buckeyes (basketball)
Evan Turner is my favorite college basketball player ever, and Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty, and Jon Diebler are all high on that list as well, so it's easy to see why I regard them so highly. Their season was cut short by Tennessee in the Sweet 16 when J.P. Prince blocked ET's buzzer-beater attempt.

14) 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers
There is a drastic drop-off from how much I love the Buckeyes/Browns/Indians to the Cavs, so this is the lone NBA team on the list. This team may not have been as good as the 60+ win teams of '08 and '09, but are at the top because of their epic series with Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. After dropping the first two, very winnable, games at The Palace, Cleveland took the next four to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Game 5 saw one of the greatest individual performances in league history, when LeBron James scored 48 points, including the team's final 25, in a double overtime thriller. Daniel Gibson's 31 led the way for the clincher in Game 6. The Cavs were overmatched in the Finals and swept by the Spurs.

13) 2001 Cleveland Indians
Two moments really stand out about the Tribe's 2001 campaign, and they both came at the expense of the Seattle Mariners. On August 5, Cleveland completed The Impossible Return, erasing a 12-run deficit to beat the Mariners. I was in attendance for Game 3 of the Divisional Playoff Series when the Tribe put a 17-2 beatdown on the M's. Seattle got the last laugh, however, winning the series and knocking Cleveland from the postseason.

12) 1998-99 Ohio St Buckeyes (basketball)
As I mentioned earlier, I was more of a fan of Duke when I was younger, but I was really into this OSU team. Led by Scoonie Penn, Michael Redd, and Ken Johnson, the Bucks made it to the Final Four but lost to eventual champs UConn. Due to recruiting violations by then-coach Jim O'Brien, the NCAA would later vacate all of this team's wins.

11) 2002 Cleveland Browns
From 'The Helmet Toss' in the opener to the playoff-clinching goal line stand against Atlanta in Week 17, the Browns' 2002 campaign kept fans on the edge of their seats. It was such an entertaining year, only to end in heartbreaking fashion when the Browns let a 24-7 second half lead slip away against the Steelers in the playoffs.

10) 2007 Ohio St Buckeyes (football)
I already wrote a recap of this squad for the Buckeyes through the 2000s article, so I'll just recycle that.

Todd Boeckman stepped in at the quarterback position, attempting to fill the shoes of departed signal-caller and Heisman trophy-winner Troy Smith. He did an admirable job, earning a spot on the All-Conference team and bringing his team to the National Title game. Beanie Wells was the feature of the offense, and was named team MVP for the first of what would be two consecutive years. Brians Robiskie and Hartline had big seasons before becoming afterthoughts as seniors. The defense was devastating, with DE Vernon Gholston breaking Mike Vrabel's single-season sack record, and linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman and corner Malcolm Jenkins becoming household names.

OSU won the first 10 games of the season, but suffered what appeared to be a season-ruining defeat at home against Illinois. After disposing of michigan (again), the college football gods were wearing scarlet and gray, as every team ahead of the Bucks lost in the final weeks of the season and the one-loss Buckeyes found themselves in the National Championship. This turned out to be a bad thing, as they were stomped by LSU.


9) 1994 Cleveland Browns
I was only seven years old during the Browns' '94 campaign, so I don't remember a whole lot of details from this season, but it's the first team I really remember watching and getting into. I absolutely loved Eric Metcalf, and that defense was something special with Pro Bowlers Michael Dean Perry, Eric Turner, and Pepper Johnson. They finished the season 11-5 and won their Wild Card Playoff game with the Patriots, but as it goes with Cleveland sports, the season ended in bitter defeat as Pittsburgh beat the Browns for the third time that season in the Divisional Playoff round.

8) 1998 Minnesota Vikings
This being a Cleveland sports blog, this probably looks like a curious choice. Like I said previously, when I was younger I would attach to a certain player and cheer for his team. In football, that was Cris Carter. Hands down, he had the greatest hands I've ever seen (unintentional pun). If he would have played with Joe Montana and Steve Young his whole career he would have had Jerry Rice numbers. So when Art Modell moved the Browns in 1996, I became a full-fledged Viking fan for a few years. In '98, the Vikes drafted Randy Moss to play with Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith, and Randall Cunningham and created one of the greatest offenses the NFL has ever seen. But of course, their 15-1 season ended in Cleveland-like fashion after blowing a late lead and losing in overtime to an inferior Atlanta team in the NFC Championship.

7) 2006 Ohio St Buckeyes (football)
Again, taken from the 2000s post:

This was the most talented team of the 2000's. Troy Smith won the Heisman trophy, Ted Ginn was, well, Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez was as good of a #2 receiver as you will ever see, RB Antonio Pittman had a stellar season sharing carries with freshman Chris Wells, Quinn Pitcock was an All-American defensive tackle, and sophomores Vernon Gholston, Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, and Marcus Freeman burst onto the defensive scene.

Ohio St ran the table in the regular season, going 12-0. The highlights came in Austin, Texas as the Bucks avenged the previous year's loss against the Longhorns by routing them 24-7, and in The Shoe when Ohio St edged michigan in what was being called "The Game of the Century." OSU and scUM entered the game as the top two ranked teams in the nation, and Ohio St's late interception sealed a 42-39 Ohio St victory.

Much controversy surrounded who the Buckeyes' opponent would be in the title game, as OSU was the only unbeaten team in the power conferences. Should we be forced to beat michigan again? Give undefeated, untested Boise St a shot? The BCS decided that Florida was the most deserving, and Ohio St went in as heavy favorites. The Buckeyes started the game the best way possible, as the human-highlight reel Ted Ginn took back the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Everything went downhill from there, hard and fast. Ginn was injured during the touchdown's celebration, and spent the conclusion of his college career on crutches. Florida went on a 41-7 run, embarrassing Ohio St and the Big Ten, and marking the beginning of my unbelievable hatred for Tim Tebow, which has grown every single day since.


6) 1995 Cleveland Indians
This is where the list became difficult for me, because all six of these top teams were something special. The '95 Wahoos were just stacked with bats, including an absurd Albert Belle/Manny Ramirez/Jim Thome heart of the order. Alas, the Tribe were defeated by the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

5) 1995 Ohio St Buckeyes (football)
Two words can sum up why I ranked this squad so high - EDD-IE! EDD-IE! Eddie George is my all-time favorite athlete, and in 1995 he ran his way to the Heisman Trophy. The team also featured Biletnikoff winner Terry Glenn, Bobby Hoying, Orlando Pace, Mike Vrabel, and Shawn Springs. Talented enough to win the title, the '95 Bucks were the epitome of the John Cooper era, winning their first 11 games before losing to michigan and then Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl. Interesting side note - Luke Fickell was apparently on this team.

4) 2007 Cleveland Indians
The '07 Indians weren't as talented as the '90s versions, but because I was older I feel I was able to appreciate them more. Another reason I ranked them higher than the '95 team was because their ALDS series against the Yankees was my second favorite victory of any of my teams (we'll get to the first soon enough, but I think you already have an idea). But continuing with the trend, they met the same fate as all the others on this list when they were beaten by the Red Sox after holding a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS.

3) 1996 Ohio St Buckeyes (football)
In 1996, the Buckeyes outscored their opponents 455-131. Let that sink in for a second. OSU was the best team in college football that year, but didn't win a National Title because of another Cooper loss to that school up north in the season's final week. But the loss wasn't all bad, as it set up one of the most thrilling wins in the Buckeyes' history, the 1997 Rose Bowl. After Jake Plummer led Arizona St to what appeared to be yet another comeback victory, Joe Germaine hit David Boston for a game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to play.

2) 1997 Cleveland Indians
The decision to rank the '97 team as my top Indians squad was not an easy one. Ultimately I chose them because I liked their pitching better. I was a big fan of Bartolo Colon and Jaret Wright. The Tribe won an exciting five-game series with the heavily favored Yankees in the ALDS, thanks in part to a brilliant performance from the rookie Wright in game 5, then disposed of the Orioles in six game in the ALCS. I'll stop typing there.

1) 2002 Ohio St Buckeyes (football)
This one was a no-brainer for me. You could not make up a more thrilling season than the one had by the '02 Buckeyes. There were so many games coming down to the wire, fantastic finishes, unbelievable plays, unlikely heroes, and of course the epic upset of Miami in the BCS title game. Hopefully I have many great Cleveland/Ohio St seasons ahead of me, but it is going to be tough for anyone to unseat this team at the top of the list.