Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sizemore injury bad business for Tribe

Grady Sizemore is hurt again. This time it's his back, which Sizemore will likely be rehabbing through Opening Day on April 5 against Toronto. The setback should not be a surprise considering Sizemore's recent ouchie-plagued history with the Indians. The bigger problem is how our erstwhile center fielder's pains reflect the Tribe's backwards business philosophy.

On some teams, Sizemore, who signed a 1-year, $5 million deal with the Indians in November, would be a depth player from whom you'd hope to squeeze some production. If he catches fire, bully for you, but if he struggles or gets hurt it won't harm your club's  hopes for contention, because you already have your lineup's true big guns locked and loaded.

The situation is vastly different for the Tribe. Sizemore essentially was their big free agent acquisition of the off-season. Injury history or not, they were counting on him, if not as an everyday starter, then as someone Manny Acta could pencil into the lineup perhaps 100-120 times this year.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Regrets...does LeBron have a few?

Nike's "The LeBrons" commercials have shown us all the focus-group tested sides of LeBron James's corporate-manufactured personality: There's Wise LeBron, Business LeBron, Athlete LeBron and Kid LeBron. A new character seems to be emerging for James's third post-Decision appearance in Cleveland -  Contrite LeBron.

"I think it would be great, it would be fun to play in front of these fans," Contrite LeBron said Thursday when asked about suiting up for the Cavs again some day should the opportunity arise. "I had a lot of fun times here. You can't predict the future. If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me."
James not unexpectedly qualified this statement by saying he's happy in Miami. The conversation was strictly of the blue sky variety anyway, as he's not eligible for free agency for another two seasons and has an option for two more after that.

Our ex-lover had a more interesting response when asked if he would play for Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert, what with the niggling little matter hanging between them of James embarrassing Gilbert on national TV followed by an...impassioned response from that worthy, which included a capitalized, bold-faced guarantee that the Cavs would win a championship "BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE."

LeBron has not spoken to Gilbert since the July 2010 free agency period, but claims he doesn't hold a grudge against his former boss.
"He said what he said out of anger," James said. "He probably would want to take that back, but I made a mistake, too. There's some things I'd want to take back as well. You learn from your mistakes and move on."
Cup your ears and get out your shoe-phone decoder, folks, and you may hear an actual apology in there somewhere. James similarly danced around an apology to Cleveland fans a couple of months back during an interview with ESPN.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Andy Varejao decision a hairy one for Cavs

Most of the focus on last year's Cavaliers was on the one player who wasn't with the team anymore. Understandably so, as the "Cavs without LeBron" storyline had a 2+2=4 simplicity that was easy for the national media to digest.
The loss of Anderson Varejao to a season-ending ankle injury was not quite as sexy, but in hindsight that injury had a huge impact on a season in purgatory. If That Guy in Miami (TGiM) was the Cavs' body, Varejao was the heart that kept its blood pumping.

This year's surprising team, now a year past its LeBron hangover, is infused with the fresh talents of an electrifying rookie, improved play from the bench and a coach who seems to be squeezing every last drop of ability out of an on-paper middling roster. What hasn't changed is the importance of having the mop-haired Brazilian on the floor every night.
Varejao is the crazy-straw that stirs the Cavs' drink, a walking bottle of Jolt Cola, the kind of guy you love if he's on your team but hate if he were dressed in an opposing uniform
His numbers this year - about 11 points and 12 rebounds per - are both career highs, while his intangible energy mirrors a squad that makes up in hustle for what it lacks in talent.

Varejao's trade value, meanwhile, has probably never been higher. He's 29 and comes with a reasonably friendly contract (at about $7.7 million this year), meaning the Cavs wouldn't have to take a fat deal in return. It's unknown exactly what kind of assets Varejao would accrue, although a first round pick and/or a young player would probably be the best the Cavs could get.
The point seems to be moot at the moment. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Varejao's recent play has made him virtually untouchable. This puts the Cavs in an interesting dilemma. Thinking with your head and not your heart,  you have to wonder if Varejao is the type of guy who can maintain this level of on-court ferocity in three years, when, if everything else goes perfectly, the Cavs may once again be serious playoff contenders.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From Akron to the Super Bowl to Ohio and Back

At one particular point during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl this past Sunday, Tom Brady found himself in deep trouble. The Patriots were still leading 17-15 but the pocket was collapsing and he was under pressure. Yet somehow he escaped, if only for a split second. But then did something fuly understandable on paper but really hard to believe if you were watching live.

Brady stepped up and chucked a wild, too-high throw way down the field. Not exaggerating, the second he threw it up I yelled "interception!" The thing was a floater. Of course at that point I didn't realize he was throwing to Rob Gronkowski, otherwise known as Superman. And that Gronkowski was covered by a gigantic middle linebacker. 50 yards downfield.
But it didn't matter. That ball was too hgh. Might as well have been a punt. and that middle linebacker made the interception--avoiding what could have been a game-sealing touchdown drive by New England. But the story behind that middle linebacker--Chase Blackburn--is awesome. From Marysville, OH (just like my dearly departed Honda Accord), Blackburn was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Akron, who earned a Super Bowl ring four years ago with the Giants against these very same Patriots. He was never a starter, and looked like his career was winding down.
But things changed in 2011. And what a story it became, as Gregg Doyel writes on CBS Sportsline.
But do you know how Blackburn got here? What he was doing in late November? He wasn't playing football, I can tell you that. He was working out, hoping against hope, but as far as he knew his career was over. After spending six seasons with the Giants, most in a reserve role, Blackburn and his wife sold their house after he was released before the 2011 season. They moved to Ohio, where he's from, to raise their two young kids. Blackburn was working out whenever he could, sometimes after dark because there are days when that's the only time a father of two babies finds to himself, but he was about to become a substitute math teacher. Why? Because his family needed the money. And because his NFL career was over.
And then, it wasn't. Two linebackers for the Giants, Michael Boley and Mark Herzlich, were injured Nov. 28 against New Orleans. The next day the Giants called Chase Blackburn in Ohio and asked, "Are you in shape?"
Yes, as a matter of fact, he was. Five days later he was starting at middle linebacker against Green Bay, even intercepting a pass from eventual NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
Good on 'ya, Chase.  That substitute teaching career can wait a little bit longer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cavs simply the best. (Well, better than "all the rest")

The newest NBA Power Rankings are out from ESPN's Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine on Twitter.) The widely perceived to be yearlong doormat Cleveland Cavaliers are definitely gaining a little bit of respect in the NBA. I use both "little bit" and "respect" literally, since they are still flying under the radar, but seems like begrudgingly moving their way into the ranks of legitimate NBA teams in the eyes of the national media.

Of course, the young Cavaliers are led by the shockingly awesome Kyrie Irving. I gotta admit I was torn on whether drafting a point guard with only a dozen more college games than I have played in would be the best cornerstone for the franchise going forward. That being said, doubts have been erased--with epic flourish--after less than six weeks of the season. Doesn't Irving have more game winners for the Cavs than That Guy in Miami already? Seems like it, that's for sure. And what else can be said about Anderson Varajao, who is having a dream stretch of games right now.

The Cavs rank above 13 teams. And since they hadn't beaten a team above .500 before this weekend, that seems about right. Teams like Detroit, Phoenix, Charlotte, New York and New Jersey rank below them. Teams that Cleveland is pretty solidly better than. Teams like Chicago, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Los Angeles (x2) and South Beach rank above them. Teams that more often that not will come out on top of the wine-and-gold. The Cavs do have victories over a few of those higher teams, notably Dallas this past weekend, but growing pains show up once in a while when going against the best of the best.

Who cares about MIA's middle finger?

Seriously...the story about how ex-gigantically-pregnant rapper/singer MIA flipped off America is a lead story on Yahoo Sports right now. Like anyone cares. If this had been before the advent of social media, it would have barely gotten a mention. I bet 99% of people didn't even see it.
Who cares. If your kid didn't know what that very useful gesture meant, then they wouldn't have noticed a thing. If they did, then it didn't affect them one way or another. Or certainly less than the violent movie ads interspersed throughout the entire Super Bowl would affect them.
And don't try and pretend you didn't flip off Bill Belichick a few times anyway. Not to mention Tom Brady and Mario Manningham. If you weren't, then your kids weren't getting the right message at home anyway.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What time does the Super Bowl start?

I love how some SEO-tricksters use clever headlines to steer search traffic to their site? Like "Who's perfoming at halftime in the Superbowl?" Will there be a wardrobe malfunction? Or like the Huffington Post did last year, "What time does the superbowl start?"

I mean (A) How desperate for search traffic do you have to be? and (B) Who gives a sh*t, the Browns aren't playing. Again.

(Ok I admit, I care. And I guess it's good to have another year to save up for the eventual multi-thousand-dollar ticket I'll be paying for one of these years to watch the men in brown-and-orange take the field.)


Capital City Protesters Become All-Stars?

(Jamie is guest writing for CST. Hailing from Cleveland, he now cheers from two hours south, where the Ohio NHL representative doesn't let him forget his roots.)

In case you aren't following the happenings with Ohio's lone representative in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets are having their worst season in the 12 year history of the franchise. Going into the All Star Break this past weekend, the Blue Jackets are dead last in the NHL. 23 points out of a playoff spot. 32 points out of fourth place in their division. Adding to the insult, the Blue Jackets have one of the highest payrolls in the league. This is not a good hockey team and the problems start at the top.

This past Saturday saw an estimated 250 Blue Jackets fans stage a protest at Nationwide Arena. Fans gathered to console each other and call for change, hoping their voices would be heard by majority owner John P. McConnell. Pleas to mercifully remove GM Scott Howson and President Mike Priest from their positions were both spoken and written on signs. The Columbus Dispatch did an admirable job of covering the protest, which you can read about on their website.

I first heard about this protest last Wednesday. I admit that I thought it was a waste of time by a lot of self-proclaimed internet heroes. To my surprise, less than a week later, their impact is already being felt.
Less than 2 days after the first plans were being bandied about, majority owner John P. McConnell did an interview with Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline. Whether this was a preemptive strike or not, McConnell showed that he respects the fan base by acknowledging their protest and agreeing that things need to change. He also said that he would make sure that “hot liquids” would be there for the rag tag group of protesters on the cold January afternoon.

My first instinct was that this was a PR move, complete with attempts at humor. Then, less than a few hours after the interview was published on the Puck Rakers Blog, Mr. McConnell sent a letter to the season ticket holders. I was hoping that it would be written in Comic Sans, but apparently that is reserved for a different type of frustration. McConnell's letter detailed his disappointment, but it also didn’t indicate any solutions. He said changes would be coming in the next few weeks and months, but they could not be shared at this time. This sympathetic PR machine was in full force and it wouldn’t be doing so if the movement wasn’t happening. Regardless of the sincerity of the letter and interview, the protest plans were gaining momentum.