Friday, August 24, 2007

5 Questions

With the Browns third pre-season game looming this weekend these are the 5 questions I have rattling around in my brain, no offense to the riveting Jerome Harrison/Chris Barclay 3rd RB battle…

5. Can the Browns make it out healthy?
Eric Steinbach, Andra Davis, Willie McGinest, Orpheous Roye, Lawrence Vickers and Mason Unck are all on the shelf for the Denver Game to name a few. Matt Stewart is already on IR for the year. Gary Baxter and LeCharles Bentley look headed there or to the PUP List. Injuries have plagued the Browns since their return in 1999. They have added depth and talent but not enough to overcome a rash of injuries. Steinbach, Davis, Roye and Vickers should be back for Week 1 versus Pittspuke. The Browns need to minimize that list to have any chance of winning that game.

4. Who will start at ILB?
Andra Davis is resting up so Leon Williams will get extended PT and that excites me. Andra Davis drags people down 5 yards down field. D’Qwell Jackson has good instinct but is still undersized. Leon Williams attacks the line of scrimmage and the ball carrier. And he’s so damn fast despite his size it’s exhilarating. How the Browns use the ILB during the season will be interesting.

3. Can any of the receivers catch?
At the 2007 Browns Training Camp, the receivers have been paying tribute to fallen comrade Dennis Northcutt by dropping everything thrown their way. Braylon Edwards has looked (and sounded) more mature but he still has the knack for not pulling in a catchable pass. Travis Wilson, Tim Carter and Josh Cribbs have done nothing to separate themselves from each other for the 3rd receiver spot. Question 3A… Where the hell is Joe Jurevicius? No passes thrown his way all pre-season. It was the same at the start of last year. Joe isn’t Steve Largent but he is a valuable weapon that the Browns will need to use if they want to win. Can any of these guys step up to give the QB someone other that Kellen Winslow to throw to?

2. Can we stop the run?
Based on the Lions game, not yet. Roye is injured so Shaun Smith and Simon Fraser have seen extended time. The Browns looked OK against the Chiefs (without LJ) but T. J. Duckett and Tatum Bell ran all over them last week. The Broncos fabled zone run blocking scheme should be a good barometer of the defense’s improvement (or lack of) over lack year.

1. Who can QB?
Is their any bigger question? I have lost faith in Derek Anderson. He has all the tools but can’t put them together and looks very bad. Like “cut list” bad. Charlie Frye has a lot more talent that people think but his brain doesn’t seem to process obvious information very well or function for 60 consecutive minutes. I am actually thinking that Ken Dorsey might be the safest option right now so I may be going insane. Brady Quinn will QB this team at some point this season, but not from Game 1. He still needs to learn the O and work on some reads. The best thing about his performance versus Detroit is that he commanded a huddle of 10 hodge-podge guys (who will probably be cut) looked poised, didn’t panic and made all the right reads. All things any NFL quarterback should be able to do, but something no Browns QB has done since Tim Couch. Yes, Tim Couch haters, he could at least run a huddle. Neither Frye nor Anderson could do that with the first or second teams. Quinn will give the Browns the best chance to win at some point this season, it just won’t be Week 1, be patient his time will come. And it will be sooner than later, just not as soon as some crazies want.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Signs of Life?

The Indians managed to take 2 of 3 from the Detroit Tigers and, in the process, push their lead in the AL Central to 2 1/2 games, the largest lead they have had since they led by 3 games on July 3rd. The Indians have won 5 0f 7 games while the Tigers have lost 6 of their last 8.

I think the more important thing is that after the debacle on Tuesday night, they showed some signs of life on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday, after taking a 1-0 lead after the top of the 1st, the Paul Byrd and the Tribe managed to turn it into a 3-1 deficit and in seemed as if the plot of the Indians August story was going to continue.

But then something happened. The Indians actually battled back, with two outs no less. Asdrubal Cabrera continued to contribute since taking over for Josh Barfield. Casey Blake and Grady Sizemore followed that up with hits to turn that 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead. Frankie Gutierrez followed with a 3 run jack in the next inning that makes many Indians fans wonder why Trot Nixon continues to get significant playing time. The Tribe even got insurance runs courtesy of slumping Travis Hafner and Kelly Shoppach to seal the deal.

Thursday after another stellar outing by Jake Westbrook and brilliant bullpen work by Raffy Betancourt and Raffy Perez the Tribe managed to poke out 3 runs in the 10th, thanks to RBI machines Kenny Lofton and Chris Gomez, to break a scoreless tie and eventually win 3-1. Once again, the game seemed like a broken record this August: incredible pitching, no clutch hitting, letting a team hang around but this time it ended in a victory. It was one of those games that the Indians have lost, very painfully throughout August, but they managed to win today.

By no means are they out of the woods. Their schedule in September is brutal. Very few home games, two West Coast Trips, the Seattle Snow Day make-ups and a ton of games against the AL Central foes who would love to spoil the Indians season. Despite scoring 11 runs on Wednesday they still left 23 men on base. The looked completely inept versus Jair Jurrgens, who hasn't pitched above AA Ball this year and lost to the Akron Aeros... twice. Travis Hafner still hasn't gotten in gear and Victor Martinez has not found his second wind.

The Tribe heads to Kansas City for 3 with the lowly Royals while the Tigers greet the red hot Yankees in Detroit. I hear a heartbeat, whether or not the Indians can get the blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing over the last 36 games is yet to be seen.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Not Enough

Two out of three from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is not enough. Especially with your ace on the mound, primed for a sweep, and a chance to put the Tigers another game back. The theme of the Indians season is their failure to capitalize on the current situation and put distance between themselves and their closet competitors.

They still fail to hit when it counts and it has cost C. C. Sabathia dearly. He has allowed 2 earned runs or less in his last 6 starts and the Indians have won 1 of them. Let me repeat that, C. C. Sabathia has allowed 2 earned runs or less in his last 6 starts and the Indians have won 1 of them. That is how putrid their offense has been. After logging 8 runs on 15 hits last night they followed it up today with 4 runs today on 9 hits, with the customary 10 runners left on base. The Tribe offense single handedly costing Big C. C. a shot at a 20 win season.

Also a concern is the bullpen as Iron Joe Borowski, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez have all had a shaky outing or outings lately. Iron Joe blew his fifth save today and was unable to work effectively in a tie game against Detroit. This is especially concerning as there will come a time when the Tribe will need him to actually work a crucial game down the stretch that they just need him keep tied. He has shown no ability to do that this year.

The Indians have made some moves to try and improve. The demotion of Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers. The acquisition of Kenny Lofton. The release of Roberto Hernandez, Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera. Recently, the demotion of Mike Rouse and the benching of Josh Barfield. The insertion of Grady Sizemore into the 3rd spot in the line-up. Whether these moves have an effect will be known in a month.

The Tribe gets to go head-to-head with the Tigers in Detroit this week followed by a trip to Kansas City. The Tigers get to battle the Yankees again during the same time. The Indians have yet another chance to put some distance between them and the Tigers again. It is an opportunity they have failed to capitalize on time and time again in 2007.