Monday, April 30, 2012

Browns' Richardson shows his heart, takes 17-year-old leukemia survivor to prom

It's been a busy weekend for me, so haven't gotten to put down all my thoughts about the Browns draft (happy, confused, happy again, confounded, satisfied), but it's really good to see the heart of the Browns #3 pick, Trent Richardson.

Less than two weeks before the draft, Richardson brought a leukemia patient, 17-year-old Courtney Alvis of Hueytown, Alabama, to her senior prom. She had been too sick to attend her junior prom.  Trent's own mother is a cancer survivor, and this seemed to be something very close to his heart.

I know Trent Richardson will be remembered for how many times he hits the end zone, and how much postseason success he can help the Browns too. But it's nice to know he seems to a be a good guy, also.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Draft's first round kick-starts Browns' hearts

You wanted a sense of urgency from your front office, Browns fans? How about a nice pulse-frying shot of adrenalin delivered straight to the heart from a franchise that seemed dedicated to a glacially slow rebuild?

T-Rich and Old Man Weeden, together at last.
The Browns showed a boldness last night never before seen with this regime.  These are same guys who sat idly on the sidewalk for two straight free agency fire sales; the selfsame "process" pansies who used past drafts as a means to acquire more picks. Last night was about "winning now," and whether or not you agree with the moves, the attitude behind them was past due for the leadership of this team.

Giving up three "precious" mid-to-late-round picks for Trent Richardson was easy math. The Browns need quality over quantity, particularly on offense. Getting the best running back in the draft, an impact guy who won't even turn 21 until July, is more than worth a few picks who would likely serve as depth for their first year or two of service, should they pan out at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why the Browns should take Trent Richardson, and NFL Draft predictions you've surely seen all month

“Well, you can’t really go wrong with the #4 pick.”

Those were actual words spoken to me last week when discussing the Browns’ position in tonight’s draft. Naturally, the gentleman speaking those words was not a Browns fan, and apparently woefully ignorant of what it means to be a Cleveland fan.

The draft history of the “new Browns” was so bad that I started rooting for the team to trade their #1 picks - and the crushing failure they were destined to be - for a handful of #2s and #3s, knowing that their failure wouldn’t be as hurtful—and any upside that much sweeter. When Tim Couch was drafted, everyone knew he racked up yards in a dink- and dunk- offense. But that didn’t scare the team. Unfortunately. Some picks (Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren, in particular), did look good at the time. I distinctly remember a “Courtney Brown or Trade Down” sign in the stadium. And I agreed. William Green, Brady Quinn, Kellen Winslow, Craig Powell, Clifford Charlton, Mike Junkin. You don’t have to reach to find a disappointing Browns first round pick.

Then again, that’s not a problem unique to Cleveland. Perhaps the frequency of failed picks is noteworthy for the Brown and Orange, but the mere existence of failure is evident with every team. Drafting is an imprecise science, to say the least. If it were easy to do, Mel Kiper would be pulling down $20 million a year working for an actual team, instead of making predictions with no fear of failure. “Who the hell is Mel Kiper,” Colts GM Bill Tobin asked in 1994. Exactly. Although, to be fair, Kiper still has his job.

The debate about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III this year is exciting, fun, and oh so familiar. Pundits may point to 1998, with the decision between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, to draw a “coin flip” analogy to this year’s choice between Luck and Griffin. But there really was never a choice. This has been the #SuckForLuck era for OVER a year now, since before Luck decided to return for last season at Stanford. RGIII came from greater obscurity, and to be honest has excited at least some fans and pundits (including this one) more than a little bit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

State Farm wants you to be a specific, but dedicated, Cavs fan

A new State Farm ad stresses the importance of being specific when describing yourself as a Cavaliers fan.

Normally the word I'd use is "defensive" as in "No, I was a fan of the Cavs long before LeBron and I'm a fan after, so leave me alone you new-Miami fan-bandwagon-jumper-jackass." And that's just when someone asks me what time the next bus is coming.

I guess we can be glad this guy didn't say he was a Vikings, Lumberjack, or Jaguars fan. And I know State Farm is not putting an ad together for some stereotypical Native American themed team.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why do we love the NFL draft?

   The human chess match that is the NFL draft has hypnotized Cleveland fans into a state of goggle-eyed wonder. GM Tom Heckert certainly did his best Garry Kasparov impression in a Thursday press conference, avoiding specifics as nimbly as the world's best chess player moved his pieces around against that giant computer some years ago.

Who will the Browns take at No. 4? It seems like Trent Richardson's the man but Heckert isn't saying. If you believe Browns' brass, the team is interested in taking project QB Ryan Tannehill, too, perhaps nabbing my sainted mother with the 22nd selection. Who knows? All the answers are tucked behind Heckert's Vincent D'Onofrio-looking face.

The minutiae of Cleveland's draft plans are fascinating to some fans much as Kasparov vs. Deep Blue must have enthralled millions of chess enthusiasts. Personally, I don't find chess all that interesting. Still, I'd rather watch a monkey play checkers against a Commodore 64 than listen to another minute of this draft talk. What is now a ratings-grabbing, three-day spectacle bores me to death.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Damon a 'good enough' option for Tribe

Johhnny Damon full beard
Jesus, thank God Damon shaved.
It was good to see the Indians' slumbering bats awaken with a bucket-of-icewater start last weekend against the Royals. Maybe the Tribe just needs to ink more aging outfielders if that's what it takes to rouse the offense. What's Cory Snyder doing these days?

The Johnny Damon signing is all but official according to most sources. It stands as a necessary if desperate move for a club seeking any kind of consistent pop from its power-deficient lineup, last weekend's sandblasting of the Royals' pitching staff notwithstanding.

In baseball terms, Damon's nearing AARP card holder status. Still, he's a solid clubhouse presence, a career .286 hitter who smacked 16 home runs last year, and someone whose boyish, beardless good looks gives the Tribe a puncher's chance at cracking someone's "MLB's Sexiest Lineups" list. (Come on, you know I'm right.)

And to think some fans are worried about Damon taking away at-bats from Shelley Duncan. Is that how far our "small market" expectations have fallen? While the journeyman hitter has done an admirable job in left, currently leading the team this young season in both batting average and slugging percentage, he's a prototypical "4-A" guy who's great as a fourth outfielder, not as an everyday starter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Indians stumble through weekend, but all signs aren't bad

The Indians started off the season quite differently than expected. Sure, the offense wasn't expected to be a powerhouse (and it's not, placing 29th in team batting average at a blistering .153 pace). But the surprise took place beyond the outfield, in the sanctuary (literally and figuratively) that Tribe fans though would be the calming influence on the team all year--the bullpen.

Cleveland led all three games over the weekend, yet only won one versus the Blue Jays. Thursday's Opening Day loss was executed in spectacular fashion, with Chris Perez blowing a three run lead in the ninth, and the Indians then going into a seven inning slumber and the bullpen finally succumbing in sixteen innings. Saturday the team had a two run lead, that given up by Ubaldo Jimenez in the seventh, and the bullpen proved unable to hold on and ending up losing in extras, with Tony Sipp imploding in the top of the twelfth.

Chris Perez righted his ship to complete Carlos Santana's birthday win.
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Tribe offense is nothing if not predictable, scoring exactly four runs in each game this year, which puts the team more or less in the middle of the pack. (To compare, the underwhelming Indians averaged 4.35 runs per game last year.) And in reality, that has been plenty for the 2012 starting pitchers to work with, as Masterson, Jimenez, and Lowe have all put together very nice starts. The issue is twofold--the utter anemia of the core offensive stats (29th in the league in BA, 25th in OPS) to score more than they have, and the inability of the bullpen to hold leads in two of the three games.) If it weren't for Carlos Santana's birthday, the view would be much worse.

In my opinion, it's not panic time. I would hope that would be obvious, but by the showers of boos and social media vitriol rained down on Chris Perez on Thursday, panic time had fully arrived roughly three hours into the 2012 campaign. The bullpen should be a strong point for the Indians this season--a position of strength even when the trading deadline approaches. (Let's consider the 2005 Yankees. Mariano Rivera blew two saves in the first three games, and the New York media pronounced the "era of Rivera" over.) The offense will continue to be a soft spot, but can not conceivably be this poor throughout the entire season. Not every pitching start will be as good as the first three this season. But if the pitching ship can be righted, from beginning to end of the games, the Indians should be a respectable position once one of the Tigers' overweight hitters goes down to injury all season.

Three down. One hundred fifty nine to go. That's a long yellow brick road the Indians still have to walk.

Friday, April 6, 2012

RICO case lands on Bullpen Mafia, Indians offense goes into hiding

The Indians opened up Thursday on a gorgeous, if not a bit chilly (compared to the balmy month prior) afternoon against the Blue Jays.  The day opened up like a dream, with blue skies overhead and a record-setting crowd oozing with eternal optimism.  Justin Masterson, the Indians' Opening Day Starter, came out dealing, and by the time he left the game after eight innings (and about 2 hours 15 minutes), the Indians were up 4-1 on the back of Opening Day stud Jack Hannahan's 3-run homer in the second inning. Masterson looked like the ace the Indians want him to be, giving up only two hits and a walk against ten strikeouts.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli"/ Getty images
Unfortunately, that's where the bulk of this writer's words are going to take a dramatic turn for the worst, into the cesspool of puns and bad metaphors. The 'Bullpen Mafia' moniker has been dropped on the Tribe's fun-loving, very successful bullpen staff. Unfortunately, the godfather himself, Chris Perez, forgot protocol and sat with his back to the restaurant, exposing his significant flank. Perez came in for the ninth, replacing Masterson after 99 pitches with a three run lead. (I'll let that managerial decision sink in.)

And it was ugly. It was obvious to all that Perez did not have "it" yesterday. "It" being a fastball more than 92 miles per hour. When your closer comes in and throws 23 fastballs in between 8 sliders, they better have some heat, or some movement, and Perez had neither.  Single, single, sac fly, walk, and a double later, the game was tied. And soon Perez was headed to the showers. Not before the record Opening Day crowd of 43,190 let him know exactly what they thought of his performance, every one of them booing him off the field.

Vinny Pestano, who is widely seen to be most likely to take over the job at some point (soon), came in and put the fire out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What we think will happen with the Indians this season

Major League Baseball

2012 Season


Indians: 81-81

2nd in Central
Defense might win championships in some sports, but baseball ain't one of them. But the Tribe will need solid infield D to corral the plethora of ground balls the Indians' pitchers are sure to produce.

The Bullpen Mafia should be strong again, and entertaining on Twitter, but any lead they will be holding will be small, as the Indians offense looks to be mediocre at best. I'm thinking the Tribe will be respectable, but also discouraging as no moves were made to dramatically upgrade the offensive lineup. The .500 prediction could be +/- 8 wins, unfortunately.
World Series:

over Giants

Indians: 76-86

3rd in the Central
There are a lot of "if's" coming this season from the Indians, not just their new marketing slogan What If?, but also from the front office. "The questions will always be 'Will they be healthy? Will they play up to their expectations? If they do, we have every reason to expect this team will compete and possibly to compete into October.” according to Paul Dolan of the Indians. To many if's for my taste, it feels like a built in excuse should things not go well this year. 

I really hope the Indians stay healthy and compete, but ultimately there are to many holes in the outfield, and in the lineup to see them making a run into September let alone October.
World Series:


Indians: 80-82

2nd in Central
The Indians went into the off-season desperately needing a right-handed stick to bolster the lineup. For whatever reason, be it the Dolans' shallow pockets or a wrong-headed assumption that the roster was fine as is, that need was not met.

The Indians should be competitive in a fairly thin division, but having "Quadruple-A" players at key positions will not get you the cigar at the end of October.
World Series:

Angels over Giants

Indians: 86-76

2nd in Central
There seems to be an allergy to free agency in Cleveland these days. Granted, the Indians at least showed some "effort" to add players, but in the end it just won't be enough.

Making the post season as a wildcard isn't out of the realm of possibility, but that is the ceiling for the Tribe this year.
World Series:

Tigers over Phillies
Indians: 86-76

3rd in Central
For those fans still hanging their proverbial Tribe hats on the number 455, Paul Dolan is the antichrist. The owner will never eclipse their memories of the 90s, the size of our payroll, and the trades involving CC, Lee and a tearful Victor. Still, by default, the Indians remain Cleveland's preeminent franchise while the Browns flounder and the Cavs sell you the draft lottery.

So I'll ask you: What if we hadn't invested over $100 million in Hafner, Carmona, and Westbrook? What if LaPorta didn't have a hole in his bat? What if Antonetti had actually scouted Ubaldo?...
World Series:

Rangers over Giants

Indians: 85-77

2nd in Central
The Tribe needs Ubaldo Jiminez to be closer to his 2010 self in order to win the division, unfortunately I think what we saw in 2011 is what we may get in 2012.

I look for Choo and Santana to bounce back from their disappointing 2011 and help keep the Tribe in contention for most of the season. The starting pitching has a chance to be solid, just not spectacular. The offense is still missing a right handed power bat which will hurt.

The Bullpen Mafia needs to great again which I think they will. In the end Detroit just has too much and the Tribe misses out on October for the 5th straight year.
World Series:

Tigers over Giants

Indians: 82-80

3rd in Central
Here we go, Opening Day, when all fans have optimism even after the Indians posted the worst spring record in the league.

I will bite on the optimism, and hope for the best with an 82-80 record. But really, who cares...heading to The Jake on opening day I think of old Moonlight Graham telling Ray "This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind nevers blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child." Go Tribe!
World Series:

Phillies over

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jared Sullinger joining the Association

Ohio State has announced a press conference for 2:15 eastern today, where Jared Sullinger will reportedly announce that he is leaving Ohio State to join the NBA.

UPDATESullinger is entering draft

It's been a fun two years. Just fell short. (No pun intended, as Jared is certainly seen as a 'tweener' at the pro level.) Jared promised two years, and gave two years. Best wishes Sully.