Friday, April 29, 2011

Peyton Hillis and Dave Letterman help "Cleveland forget LeBron"

Peyton Hillis had a crazy week for sure, and presenting the Top Ten List on The Late Show with David Letterman was just one of the "perks" that came with being named the Madden 12 cover model.

In my opinion, he did pretty damn well.  Guess Dave made him stick to the script and not provide witness to his deep faith, but whatever!

Well isn't this a nice change?

Phil Taylor changes his tune and also gets 700% more followers in one day. 

See what good things Cleveland brings for you?

Trusting the Browns - and @PhilTaylor98 - tonight

Wow.  I'm not one to fall in line or in love with the talking heads on TV, Twitter, the web, or the radio about anything.  I was stuck away from the television when the Browns traded down their number six pick down 21 spots Thursday night, and was listening to the folks on WKNR tear it apart.

But like I've said before, I'm trusting the Holmgren-Heckert combination.  I know one wide receiver or cornerback isn't going to turn the franchise around.  It would have been nice to get Colt some weapons, of course, but the Browns' weaknesses run deeper than that.  And the treasure we plundered from the Falcons was definitely worth it.

So when the Browns later moved up to the 21 spot later and grabbed Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, I was okay with it.  Sure, the first thought I had was "who?"  And the second was "he had two sacks last year?  That's only two more than I had."  Yet I didn't hate it.  Because I take the fact that I didn't know about him as only a good thing.

Turns out not many Browns fans had actually heard of Phil Taylor.  Some were willing to wait and see..some were more judgemental.  The national media draft previews also were mixed.  But again, I am willing to trust the Browns' judgement.

Yet then I quickly found Taylor's twitter handle-- @philtaylor98 --and his bio.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Browns draft wish get it right

Is anyone really an expert on the NFL draft?  I mean, the so-called experts come out of the woodwork every year, of course.  And there are mock drafts after mock drafts leading up to that wonderful Saturday in April every year.  The Saturday where I normally check the draft from the golf course.  (Grabbing a hot dog at the turn at StoneWater GC was where I found out that Butch Davis traded up one pick for Kellen Winslow.  Junior, unfortunately, not senior.)

Regardless, everyone knows one thing--that nobody knows anything.  There is no sure thing.  Cam Newton might be amazing, or he might be another Ryan Leaf.  Most likely AJ Green and Julio Jones aren't BOTH going to be amazing hall of fame wide receivers.  Is that going to stop me from wanting something specific every year?  No.  My wishes in the past either didn't come true, or when they did, they sucked.  But here we go again.

In 1999, I desperately wanted no part of the Tim Couch v. Akili Smith debate.  I wanted Ricky Williams almost as bad as Mike Ditka did.  Damn shame.

Some Browns fan had a sign at the stadium in the 1999 season that read "Courtney Brown or trade down."  I loved it, and was my personal motto leading up to the draft.  Uggh, that

I was fine with the Gerard Warren pick.  How did that turn out.  The "never draft a player with 'money' in his nickname" is a good rule to live by. 

Those first few years make me cry a little bit. Litter in a bunch of undersized and/or lightly-regarded receivers in high rounds (Kevin Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, JaJuan Dawson, Andre Davis, Travis Wilson, Mohamed Massaquo).  Add a touch of underachieving quarterbacks.  And then a Michigan man.

And you have a recipe for disaster. 

Last year, however, appears to have a few delicious tidbits to whet Browns fans' appetites, with Haden, TJ Ward, McCoy, and Lauvao looking good, and of course Montario Hardesty hanging around, giving Browns fans dreams of a powerful two-headed backfield.

The thing is, the NFL draft is littered with spoiled picks, and the Browns are just one of many teams who have frustrated fan bases for years, especially with high-profile failures.

All I want now is to put my trust in Mike Holmgren and company, just like Colt McCoy did.

And maybe, just maybe, the Browns will agree with me this year and draft will draft Peterson, Jones, or Green, and I'll be happy as a clam.  We need offensive weapons, and Peterson is being sold as the best athlete in the draft, which would help the Browns who need some more athletes.

Or ignore those three players.  Whatever.  Just don't trade up one spot--if you do that, you're a sucker.  And don't draft another quarterback.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why the Browns aren't cursed by Peyton Hillis' Madden cover

Well, the people have spoken.  And they love Peyton Hillis--13 million votes later, and Peyton Hillis will be on the cover of Madden 2012.  That's it, right?  They love Hillis? Or maybe enough of them just hate Michael Vick?  Or maybe enough people want to see something positive happen to Cleveland?  Or perhaps it's just that everyone's grandpa was a Browns fan, and so it follows through the generations? Or maybe Browns fans are just really really passionate.

Or, of course, perhaps it's just an extension of the curse, and so of course it's a Cleveland player finally.  Which curse, you may ask?  It could be any number of curses when talking about Cleveland sports history, but in this case, of course, we're talking about the Madden Curse.  From Eddie George to Daunte Culpepper to Ray Lewis to Shaun Alexander to Vince Young to LaDanian Tomlinson to Troy Polamalu, injury and misfortune has affected many (but not all) video game cover models.

Peyton Hillis on the ESPN set with a mockup of a possible Madden cover.
But, of course, let's look at the reality--normally, stars on the cover are coming off several great years in a row, often with deep runs into the playoffs which made them famous.  Which means, in many cases, they had a lot of miles on them that could lead their production nearly only down.  Now, of course, Peyton hit a minor wall last year, but he's still on the upside of his career, as this was a fan-driven contest, and not a career appreciation award.

Amy Sancetta / Associated Press
So breathe easy, Browns fans.  It's not a curse, it's NFL career curves.  And Peyton Hillis is still on the right side of that curve.  Let's just hope the final cover is something cooler like him hurdling a defender or bowling over a linebacker on his way to the end zone. 

Just don't be ashamed to knock on wood a few times.  Like right now.  And every time you turn your Xbox on to play Madden this fall.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some TV thoughts: Game of Thrones and its HBO Fate, and Chicago Code

For the writers at Cleveland Sports Torture, every single waking moment is not consumed by only sports.  The writers possess a wide range of interests, from tv shows about sports, to movies featuring Cleveland, to torture art.  Well, not really, but we hope you excuse our occasional dalliance into the world of movies, television, tech, fashion and more.  And it won't all be about Cleveland.  Probably.

Lately it seems I've stumbled into the unfortunate scenario where I've allowed several television series to find their way into my DVR, ready and waiting to take parts of my life, one hour at a time.  Just when I finally stopped watching The Event, the NBC alien-slash-political drama, a bunch of new shows pop up to take its place.  I wanted to write a little bit about a couple promising shows--maybe it'll allow some of you to start watching and catch up.

It's better to be there...or so the Indians hope

The Indians are facing a two-fold test this week: The first is on the field as the Tribe opens a three-game series at Progressive Field against the equally surprising Kansas City Royals. The second and perhaps more important challenge will take place in the stands, where Cleveland currently ranks dead last in attendance with an average of 14,000-plus fans coming through the turnstiles over nine games.

Progressive Field's looking more like Municipal Stadium these days.

A small sample certainly, until you check the 2010 attendance numbers where the Tribe also finished in the cellar. There is a problem here, one that's reflective of a poor economy, a dwindling core population and a fanbase that views the Indians with cynicism and apathy.

If winning cures all ills, then this really is a critical week for the Tribe. A six-game home stand against two division rivals (Detroit comes in for the weekend) with seasonable temperatures in the forecast means Indians' brass may be straining their ears extra hard for those revenue-generating clicks at the gate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Potential Major Violations" puts Tressel under fire

"It was reported that Jim Tressel, head football coach, failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics and violated ethical-conduct legislation."
Fred Squillante - Columbus Dispatch
That is from the NCAA "notice of allegations."  And that, my friends,  is a smackdown of the highest order, parsed and tweaked by lawyers, for sure, but still communicating fully the NCAA's disgust and contempt for Coach Tressel.

Based on that notice and the NCAA's letter to The Ohio State University and  President Gee at The Ohio State University, this is not a good day for the university.  Especially the ominous use of the phrase "potential major violations" throughout.  The Columbus Dispatch analyzed the phone and email records they could get, and some of it is VERY damning.  Tressel reached out to several people, including an FBI agent father of an ex-player, but never to his very own compliance department.  And I'll bet this tidbit comes up later:  hours after Tressel was told about the tattoo parlor, he calls Ted Sarniak, the "businessman" from Terrell Pryor's hometown, has a very short conversation on his office phone, and two minutes later Sarniak calls Tressel back--but not back to Tressel's office phone, this time to his cell phone and they talk for 15 minutes.  To me this screams of someone who knew they were doing something wrong.  We'll see how Ohio State explains it.

But as Adam Rittenberg says in his analysis, the language in the finding and letter itself is telling--and encouraging.

The NCAA's notice doesn't include serious charges like "failure to monitor" or "loss of institutional control" that can bring the most damaging penalties for a school. This is definitely setting up for Ohio State to vacate games from the 2010 season in which the ineligible players participated, but I don't know how much further the punishment will go if nothing else surfaces. Probation is very likely and perhaps scholarship losses, but is a postseason ban warranted? 
Let's hope not.  But I'm sure that Coach Tressel is hanging from a thread right now, and the idiotic way President Gee stuck up for him in the earlier press conference has put the university in a tricky position.  Can you fire Jim Tressel, after supporting him so strongly?  Or do you have to absolutely fire him, based on the obvious dereliction of duty (at best) that has come out?

Unfortunately, the answer may be "both."  And so there is much anguish in Ohio today.

Great analysis from the Dispatch here and here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bros before dough / Browns get together for some spring sharpening

Well isn't everything coming up tulips in C-town these days.  Spring may not have sprung quite yet, but the Indians ended their horrendous one-game losing streak last night, and on top of that, the NFL actually has something for Browns fans to to smile about during this lockout.

Mohamed Massaquoi tipped his hand this morning as he was on his way to Austin to meet Colt McCoy and fellow receivers for a little non-sanctioned, unpaid, yet extremely allowed work.

Obviously, no practice is allowed for players at their teams' facilities, hence the name "lockout."  But the fact that the WR crew is meeting up with young Colt at HIS house shows a number of very positive things for the Browns.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ESPN's Keith Law: "I must be right"

(Note from Cleveland Sports Torture:  This post has been edited to take down some of the ESPN Insider column that is behind an ESPN firewall and was originally quoted at length.)

In a classic case of "things can't be happening this way because I didn't predict them,", Keith Law, in an ESPN Insider article so nicely titled "Don't Start Believing," explains why the Indians, Royals, and Nationals will plummet back to earth, and the Red Sox, Braves, and Twins will certainly rise to the top of the heaps.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a hot streak to start the season does not mean a team is as good as that streak, or that everyone at ESPN overvalued the Red Sox with way-off World Series predictions just because of a horrid April.  But it could.

Personally, and I'm really going out on a limb here, I think the combination of a pesky lineup and apparently underrated pitching seems to be something that may have had the Indians more than a bit undervalued.  How's that for careful parsing of words?  The Indians, a team of streaks so far, put up their fourth straight win last night in extra innings in Kansas City.  Nobody--especially my tortured self--is getting too excited on April 19th, but there is hope, if not outright joy, in Mudville these days.  Despite the rain pouring down from Keith Law.

The flavor of the week right now is Cleveland, fresh off a sweep of last week's flavor, Baltimore. I had Cleveland finishing in fourth this year at 67-95, and I still think the Indians are a lot closer to that than they are to a 90-win season.

One reason is obvious -- the schedule, which can dramatically skew team records and even player stats in tiny samples. Among Cleveland's 11 wins are three-game sweeps of two of the league's worst teams, Seattle and Baltimore. The Indians lost series to preseason divisional favorites Chicago and the Angels, two games to one in each, but also mixed in a sweep of the Red Sox, who were widely picked (including by me) to win the World Series this year thanks to a strong run-prevention scheme and solid offense. The Red Sox pitched well in that series, but Cleveland limited Boston to five runs in three games.

I think you can make a case that Cleveland's offense, currently third in the AL in runs scored, will remain above-average over the long ...Hafner and Asdrubal Cabrera come back to earth, Choo and Santana can pick up the slack, as could Grady Sizemore...

Where I doubt Cleveland most is on the run-prevention side of the ledger.... (edited)

The bullpen is headed for a similar regression. Closer Chris Perez has had career-long control issues, but in this year's tiny sample he hasn't missed bats. (remainder edited...)

I don't mean to pick on Cleveland specifically; I don't think the Royals are going to finish over .500, nor do I expect the Nationals to do the same...

(From CST:  If you want the entire column and more from Keith Law, please visit ESPN Insider.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Browns looking at Peterson?

ESPN's group of scouts has projected that the Browns will ignore their biggest areas of need in the draft, and go for Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson.

A perfect example is CB Patrick Peterson going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 6. Our AFC scout could have taken DE/OLB Robert Quinn or WR Julio Jones to fill significant needs but getting perhaps the best player on the board at No. 6 was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Probably no better package than someone who has "height, bulk, and top-end speed" for the position, no?

Here's some videos of who the Browns might pass over desperate need-areas for.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thanks for the Memories, Joe Tait

While reading through the paper this morning, it was hard not to think about all the great memories Joe Tait provided for Cavalier fans over the years.

One of my favorite memories is Game 6, 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.

Upon arriving at a friends going away party, I quickly learned that we wouldn't be able to watch the game on TV. Since he didn't have cable and the game wasn't being broadcast locally, we had no choice but to listen to the game on the radio. Once tip off came we grabbed chairs and cooler and settled in chairs on his deck, ready for game 6. We sat there for three plus hours listening to Joe call the game that would take the Cavs to their first NBA Finals. Before the game and even during the game I was a little bummed out of not being able to see the game. Looking back though, I'm glad I got to listen to Joe call the only game that would lead the Cavs to the NBA Finals. The way he set the scene, called the game, and described the victory, is something I'll never forget. At the time, it seemed it was just the beginning of the Cavs making their first of many title runs. Little did I know at the time, it would be the only time the Cavs would get to the NBA Finals with TGIM (That Guy in Miami).

There's just something about listening to Joe Tait on the radio that's different. In my mind the way he calls a game, he always made basketball easy to "watch" on the radio, if that makes sense. He is by far my favorite Cleveland sports announcer to listen to on the radio. Football is definitely made for TV, and baseball just doesn't have enough flow to get into the rhythm of the game by listening.

Basketball is different, not sure if it's just the sport, or the way Joe Tait called the game, but the two together were perfect.

Joe Tait, THE Voice of the Cavaliers, you will be missed.

Have any great Joe Tait memories, or complaints? Respond in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Drew Carey reps Cleveland on Monday Night Raw

Last night, while the rest of America was watching the worst basketball game ever played, the WWE apparently had some sort of Hall of Fame induction in what appears to be a huge arena.  Drew Carey was inducted to the celebrity wing of the hall of fame.

Again, apparently--as I don't watch wrestling and I was watching the NCAA game. 


I swear.

Regardless, during his speech Drew gave a shout out to fellow Clevelander 'The Miz', whom I also want to give another shout out to for his great "I hate LeBron James" speech.

A quick clip of Drew Carey's speech after the break.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Opening Day Memories

Well as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year. And it's not what the NFL tries to market as Kickoff Sunday Thursday or whatever they might say in the NBA, it's baseball. The only Opening Day that deserves capital letters. With the bunting along the mezzanine, the Presidents, the famous and the semi-famous throwing out the first pitches, and the sell-out crowds no matter what the prospects of the team on the field are for that year. Because of just what Indians manager Manny Acta said the other day.

"I expect to win."

That sums it up perfectly. Everybody expects their teams to win come the first Monday in April. Or, apparently, the last Thursday in March. (When, exactly did this happen? Did we vote and  I sleep through it?)  Of course, those dreams get dashed early for some, and late for others. But Opening Day gives every teams' fans hope, and that makes it a day not entirely unlike Christmas.

At one point, I had attended something like eight or ten Indians home openers in a row. Unfortunately I haven't been able to go to the opener for a couple years, and I really miss that magnet schedule. But a few Openers really stand out to me.

What we think will happen (It's baseball season--finally!)

MLB 2011

How will the Indians do?
Comments /
World Series Prediction

Third in AL Central
Indians continue to show flashes of real recovery, but given the competition in the AL and AL Central, and the lack of payroll, wins are at a real premium.

World Series: Rockies over Red Sox.   Because my picture was taken at Coors Field and lo and behold, all of my future in-laws are Rockies fans.  And every time an expansion team wins a championship before the Indians a little bit of my soul dies.

Fourth in AL Central
Hoping the 2011 season shows progress. Cleveland really needs a winner, but it won't be this year for the Indians.

World Series: Giants over Twins

Fourth in AL Central
Tribe brass is calling this a year for the team's young players to grow with an eye toward contention in 2012 or 2013. The Indians do have some talent, and I expect the team to hit better than last year, but the pitching staff is unproven and there's too many question marks dotting the roster. A rash of injuries and Cleveland could easily be looking at another 90-loss season.

World Series: Rockies over Boston

Fourth in AL Central
Like Manny Acta said, they're going to play "Wahoo Baseball.”

World Series: Phillies over Yankees

Fourth in AL Central
455 straight sellouts in the 90s, 1 sellout this year (Opening Day). I miss the good old days...Carlos, Sandy, Kenny, Albert, Omar, Manny, Thome, Nagy, Ogea, Assenmacher, Plunk, Orel, El Presidente, etc.

I miss Bill Selby, too.

World Series: Phillies over Yankees

Third in AL Central
So Manny Acta is bilingual, and easily establishes rapport with young ballplayers.  We get that.  But heads are gonna roll if we lose 90 games again.

World Series:  Phillies over Red Sox

Fourth in AL Central
Another Ho-Hum year, but attendance boosts thanks to new ticket discounts and the PBR at Dad's Beer stand.

World Series:  Phillies over Twins